All party meet of political, Panthic and Human Rights groups
Asks France to see reason on the Turban issue


LUDHIANA, January 24- Numerous political, religious, human rights and BKUs parties and groups today appealed to the French government not go ahead with the proposed legislation banning the wearing of Sikh Dastaar (turban) in public schools and to regulate their wearing at the workplace in France.

The appeal was made through a resolution unanimously adopted at an all-party meeting convened by the International Human Rights Organisation (IHRO) at Shaheed Kartar Singh Sarabha Nagar, Ludhiana, asking the French government also to take care of the religious feelings of other prevailing faiths in the French homeland.

Dozens representatives of numerous groups, including Punjab Human Rights Organisation (PHRO), Khalra Mission Committee, Movement Against State Repression, Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), Shiromani Akali Dals, Dal Khalsa, Bharti Kisan Unions, Institute of Sikh Studies, Sikh League International, Punjab Sikh Lawyers Council, World Sikh Council, Sant Samaj, Sikh Students Federations, attended the meeting and expressed solidarity with the Sikhs living in France.

IHRO chairperson D S Gill said that the proposed law violated fundamental human rights, including freedom of religion and the right to education. "Wearing a Turban is not optional but a mandatory requirement of the Sikh faith. Such law will deny approximately 7,000 Sikhs, residing in France, their fundamental right to practise their faith," he said.

The French proposed law, if enacted, will ban Sikhs from wearing their distinctive Turbans in addition to banning Islamic head coverings, Jewish skullcaps and oversized Christian crosses in public schools and workplaces, said IHRO secretary-general Mohinder Singh Grewal.

While condemning the issue of banning the wearing of articles of faith, participants felt the need to counter this move since wearing a turban was a matter of faith unlike scarves or crosses worn by people of other faiths. As per Sikh tenets, every Sikh has to have unshorn hair and wear a turban. "This had been ordained by none other than the Tenth Guru Gobind Singh," said Pishora Singh of the Bharti Kisan Union (BKU-Ekta).

When some leaders tried to enforce the use of helmets on the Sikhs at the outbreak of the World War, the Sikhs resisted the move and decided that Sikhs should not wear the helmets, because it is an act of apostasy? So, the Sikh soldiers were allowed to wear their turbans and they fought for freedom of French people, said former Jathedar of Sri Akal Takht Sahib, Bhai Jasvir Singh Rode, now the chief of the Religious Wing of the SAD (Ravi Inder Singh).

Most of the speakers felt that the top Sikh leadership, especially of the SAD (Badal) and the SGPC, is not taking interest the required interest in the matter and urged them to immediately talk to the Prime Minister and the President of India to use their good offices to put pressure on Paris to see reason and to drop the proposed legislation. Its lightweight secretary Dalmegh Singh who assured all help for the cause represented the SGPC. The absence of SAD (Mann) and Congress party was conspicuous.

SAD (D) president Kuldip Singh Wadala quoted ‘Universal Declaration of Human Rights’ as saying that everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion and this right includes freedom in public or private to manifest his religious beliefs.

Endorsing Wadala’s views, Gian Chand of the Punjab Janata Morcha added that the States Parties to this declaration undertook to have respect for the liberty to ensure the religious and moral education of their children in conformity with their own convictions. SSF leader Jaspal Singh Manjhpur condemned the inaction of the Akali leadership so far on this sensitive issue.

Prof KBS Sodhi, Director, IHRO Religious and Academic Affairs, Dr Sarup Singh Alag, Dr Devinder Kaur Deep, Prof Anurag Singh, Tejwant Singh Grewal, Jatinder Singh Sandhu (PSLC), Santokh Singh of the Institute of Sikh Studies and IHRO public relations secretary Inderjeet Kaur shared their views on the right to wear turban, giving historical and spiritual aspects on the subject matter.

London based journalist Nirpal Singh Shergill apprised the representative congregation of the Panth of the efforts and the lobby created by the Sikh Diaspora, including US based NGO, the United Sikhs. Surat Singh Khalsa explained the importance of the Turban in Sikh faith.

D S Gill, while concluding the meeting, cautioned the French government of the impact that was going to affect all faiths worldwide in case the French government did not stop going ahead with the proposed legislation.

Sri Singh Sabha Gurdwara president Shingar Singh thanked the Panthic representatives who had gathered there for the noble cause.

(D S Gill)