Ahead of president Francois Hollande's visit to India on February 14 and 15, France has clarified that there is no ban on wearing the Sikh turbans in public. But displaying religious symbols - which include turban and the cross - have been banned in public schools, diplomatic sources said.
The Sikh organisations such as International Sikh Confederation have protested against the ban on turban and wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, urging him to take up the issue with the French president. The National Commission for Minorities (NCM) had also taken up the issue with the external affairs ministry.
The diplomatic sources said there were misunderstandings on the issue.
"There is no ban on wearing turban in public places such as streets. The diktat is that while being on the streets, no one should cover their faces. Turban doesn't fall under this category, the way burkha (veil) is," they explained.
But the sources said France has decided that there shouldn't be any display of religious symbols in public schools. "You cannot wear the cross as well."
"We have this policy in place for sometime now and French people are supportive of it. This is a policy in accordance with our secularism," sources said.On March 15, 2004, the then French President, Jacques Chirac, had brought an amendment to the French code of education that banned wearing clothing or symbols in state schools which "conspicuously exhibit a religious affiliation."
The French president will meet the Indian prime minister on February 14. Both sides are set to deepen their strategic ties, in which military, nuclear, space and counter-terrorism cooperation are vital. The French president will also visit Mumbai on February 15.