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Sinha to take up turban issue with French minister
Onkar Singh in New Delhi |
February 10, 2004 12:31 IST
Last Updated: February 10, 2004 15:28 IST
External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha will take up the turban issue with French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin when he visits India this week.
Sikhs in France are upset with the proposed French ban on wearing religious symbols (turbans for Sikhs, head scarves for Muslims, crucifixes for Christians, yarmulkes for Jews etc) to school.
A number of Sikh leaders and organizations have sought appointments with de Villepin -- who incidentally led the French campaign against the US-led war in Iraq -- during his stay in the capital to express unhappiness over the French government's decision.
Among those expected to meet the French minister are Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, Union minister for chemicals and fertilizers, and Tarlochan Singh, chairman of the National Commission for Minorities.
Manjit Singh Calcutta, secretary Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, will also meet de Villepin on behalf of the SGPC, which controls gurdwaras in India.
Parkash Singh Badal, Punjab's former chief minister and president of the Shiromani Akali Dal, discussed the issue with Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee who directed Sinha to take up the matter with the French ambassador in India. Vajpayee asked Singh to instruct the Indian ambassador in France to draw the French government's attention to the fact that the turban is an essential element of the Sikh faith.
"French Ambassador Dominique Girad is convinced that the turban is an inseparable part of the Sikh identity and has promised to take up the matter with his government," Dhindsa told rediff.com
Tarlochan Singh, who first raised the issue with the external affairs ministry and the French ambassador, felt Sikhs had become victims of legislation designed to control Muslims and Jews.
"Just 5,000 Sikhs live in France," he said. "Six million Muslims and an equal number of Jews live in a country where Christians are in majority. The French legislation is designed to control Muslims and Jews. Sikhs have become unintentional victims."
Simranjit Singh Mann, president of the Shiromani Akali Dal (Mann), was the only political leader from Punjab to attend a January 31 demonstration held by Sikhs from all over Europe in Paris to express solidarity with French Sikhs.
'Sikhs feel concerned and perturbed over the proposed ban on external religious symbols that would specifically affect Sikhs. The Sikh turban is an article of faith and forms an integral part of the Sikh personality. It is the Sikh religion, culture and tradition which make it mandatory for any practicing Sikh to have unshorn hair and wear the turban which perhaps is not the case of other religious denominations,' Manjit Singh Calcutta said in his letter to the French ambassador.