Community Alert

Indian Catholic School Bans Turban and Excludes Sikh Students

“A Sikh is religiously mandated to keep his/her hair unshorn and covered under a turban at all times. Therefore, a school that imposes a ban on the Sikh turban and excludes a student for wearing it violates his/her right to religious freedom and education,” said Mejindarpal Kaur, International Legal Director of UNITED SIKHS, in a letter to the school and the Catholic Church of India.

“As a member of the Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, I requested assistance from UNITED SIKHS because the school principal initially refused to meet us or the parents. Whilst we look forward to the meeting with the principal on Sunday, we are determined that the school does not impose any conditions on the wearing of the turban,” said Dr Tara Singh, member of the Baramulla Gurdwara Parbandhak Commitee.

Highlights:

Baramulla, Jammu and Kashmir, India – 23rd May 2013 – 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.

You may read a previous press release on UNITED SIKHS’ advocacy for the right to wear the turban at http://unitedsikhs.org/PressReleases/PRSRLS-13-03-2013-00.html



Issued By:
Mejindarpal Kaur
International Legal Director
UNITED SIKHS
law-india@unitedsikhs.org
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