Sikhs stage protest in Delhi over French turban ban

New Delhi: In the wake of French President Francois Hollande’s visit to India, supporters of the ShiromaniAkaliDal (Badal), along with Sikh students, staged a protest here on Friday over the ban on wearing turbans in that country.

The protestors urged the government to ask France to withdraw the ban on wearing turbans in public schools.

SAD (B) president Manjit Singh GK said that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh should exert pressure on the French government and urge them to lift the ban.

“The French president has come on a visit to India and our government is signing deals worth crores with him. There is a ban on wearing turbans in public schools in France. If the Sikh children do not start wearing turbans from schools, then they will not wear turban when they grow up. They will wear caps or they will get the hair cut. As France is a secular country, putting a ban on religious symbols is illegal,” said Manjit Singh GK.

“We have proposed a plea in United Nations and it has ordered and given the government of France 180 days. We want Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to exert pressure on the French government to lift the ban,” he added.

Gurdeep Singh, a protesting Sikh student, said that turban is the most recognizable feature of a Sikh, and unlike other headgears, it is an integral part of an identity of a Sikh.

“Turban is the symbol of pride for us and defines the core identity of Sikhs. We want that the government of France should lift the ban,” he added.

The Sikh religion requires followers to grow their hair and wear a turban, while children must wear traditional Sikh headgear called the “patka” or “dastaar” in schools.

France banned wearing turbans and Muslim headscarves in public schools in 2004, saying that it was aimed at checking what they said was the rising influence of radical Islam among France’s large Muslim population. Indian Sikhs say the ban denies them religious freedom.

The Punjab government had passed a resolution in the state assembly in 2009, demanding France to lift the ban there.

The French president is presently on a state visit to India to strengthen strategic partnership between the two nations.


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