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A Sikh who fought for his turban

September 01, 2004 20:33 IST

Gurbax Singh Malhi, parliamentary secretary to the Canadian labour minister, believes the French government must withdraw a controversial Bill that prevents Sikhs from wearing turbans.

Malhi in the 1990s had fought his own battle in the Canadian parliament to protect his right to wear a turban.

A law in Canada prohibits members of parliament from sitting in the House with their head covered. "When I was elected to the House of Commons in 1993, I had this obstacle to overcome. There was no way that I would take my seat without my turban. I spoke to all political parties and members of the House of Commons and managed to convince them that turban was part of my religious code. Once they understood, the law was changed," Malhi said.

Malhi, who is in Amritsar at the invitation of the Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee to participate in the 400th year celebrations of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib's Prakash Utsav, hopes the Sikhs in France too would be allowed to wear turbans.

"I had a chat with the French ambassador in Canada a week before the controversial Bill was passed and told him that turban was part of the Sikh religious code.

"I was very much there when Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh told the audience in Amritsar that he had sent [National Security Advisor] J N Dixit as his special emissary to meet the French president. Dr Singh sounded confident that the issue would be sorted out to the satisfaction of both sides," Malhi told rediff.com.

Malhi was studying law at the Agra University when he migrated to Canada in 1974. "I am married and have two children -- one son and one daughter. I am a full-time politician," he said.

He is a member of Canada's Liberal Party.

Malhi recalled how when he was campaigning in his constituency, a woman shut the door on him saying that Sikhs work only for their community. "Even her neighbours thought the same. But once she gave me time I convinced her that I would work for everyone," he said.

On Wednesday, Malhi was one of the distinguished guests who were presented with a siropa by the head granthi of the Akal Takhat Sahib, Bhai Joginder Singh Vedanti. "I was deeply moved by the honour bestowed upon me," said Malhi.

Onkar Singh in Amritsar