Indian Catholic School Bans Turban and Excludes Sikh Students

Baramulla, Jammu and Kashmir, India: A 107 year old Catholic school in Jammu and Kashmir banned the turban and excluded some 40 Sikh students from classes for wearing the turban last week. The St Joseph’s Higher Secondary School in Baramulla, 50 km from the State Capital, Srinagar, which has about 300 Sikh students, imposed the ban saying that the turban is against the school’s uniform code. UNITED SIKHS wrote on Tuesday to the principal of the school, Fr Sebastian Nagathunkal and to Rt. Rev. Peter Celestine, the Bishop of the Diocese of Jammu-Srinagar that runs the school, asking them to reverse the ban immediately as it infringes the students’ right to education and religious freedom. The school principal has now agreed to meet the parents on Sunday; however, there is no indication if he will reverse the ban unconditionally.

The Baramulla Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee and parents of students requested UNITED SIKHS for assistance after the school principal refused to meet them. The affected students who were made to stand under the sun as punishment for wearing the turban, have been turning up at school wearing their turbans, accompanied by their parents.

Sikh students at St Joseph’s school who were excluded from class for wearing their turban.

“We have also written to the Education Minister of Jammu and Kashmir asking him to intervene to ensure that the ban is reversed unconditionally and without delay. There should be no reason to negotiate with parents as the school is wrong in the first place to impose the ban,” said Mejindarpal Kaur, International Legal Director of UNITED SIKHS.

“We fail to understand why the wearing of turbans by Sikh students is unacceptable to the principal. Schools are a place of learning which requires discipline and the wearing of the turban will enhance and not hinder a Sikh student’s discipline. We hope the School will resolve the issue without delay and support the principle of “Unity in Diversity” that is being preached all over India’, said Gurpreet Singh, Director of UNITED SIKHS- India.

Sikh students wearing turbans at the St Joseph’s school, as shown in old photos in the school’s souvenir magazine

“The Chairpersons of the National Human Rights Commission and National Commission for Minorities have both been notified about this ban so that this issue is considered at a national level. We cannot have a school in India banning the turban ever again, either out of ignorance or wilfully,” he added.

“Upon meeting with Principal of St Joseph School Baramulla when I asked why a ban has been imposed on Sikh students he was unable to give any reason, and gave his verdict School won’t allow students with turban, we the youth of the Kashmir valley condemn this act and we will fight for our rights,” said 25 year old Kulbeer Singh, a former student of St Joseph’s and a social activist.

Source: Mejindarpal Kaur/aw-india@unitedsikhs.org

4 comments

  1. I hope the students fight for their rights or leave the school, I certainly hope no one bends to the pressures of such ignorance, denying themselves the wearing of their dastar.

    I shaved my face through pressure instead of my own decision and felt as if I killed a small part of myself or had chopped off a limb.

  2. Shamsul Islam (@shamsforjustice)

    I am shocked by this news that Sikh students at St. Joseph’s, Baramulla are being penalized for wearing turbans. We must know if it is against school code then why it was allowed in the past and who decides about dress code. This kind of diktat is not only against secular ethos but also smacks of narrow mentality. I am sure Catholic management of School will take immediate corrective steps as they have been in the forefront of the struggle to keep India as secular and a nation thriving with diversity.

  3. Aruna Rodrigues

    This is exactly the kind of thing we don’t need in India. And may I add that it is hardly Christian, lacking goodwill (all to apparent by making the sikh students stand in the sun, how appalling) and even distinctly bigoted. What a shame. What a blot on the entire christian community.
    Wise up please

  4. I can tell you his reason,Kulbeer Singh. He is intolerant person who only desires that there be Christians in India. If he had full power he would be burning people at the stake probably like Catholics used to in Europe some centuries ago. He must smell some weakness in the Sikhs to throw his weight around like this. Are there are a lot of students who are willing to take their turbans off.

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