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Allow French Sikhs to wear turbans, Chirac urged

The Sikh body pointed out that it was "imperative" for the community's members to keep their hair unshorn and covered.

india Updated: Feb 20, 2006 18:32 IST

A Sikh religious body on Monday made an "humble appeal" to visiting French President Jacques Chirac to lift a law barring Sikh students from wearing turbans and scarves.

The Sikh body pointed out that it was "imperative" for the community's members to keep their hair unshorn and covered.

Even Prime Minister Manmohan Singh follows the tradition "in the course of carrying out his multifarious administrative duties", the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) that manages Sikh shrines in the capital said in a letter to Chirac, carried as a front-page advertisement in a daily newspaper.

Lifting the ban "would be very much in tune with French traditions and ethos", the letter said, adding: "Additionally, you shall earn Sikh gratitude and (their) appreciation of French traditions for all times."

A group of Sikhs had staged a noisy demonstration here Sunday against the 2004 ban on turbans and scarves.

Pointing out that Indians have had a "long and loving relationship" with French history and culture, the letter said: "We Sikhs in particular share with you the precious values of liberty, equality and fraternity which inspired the French people on the eve of the French Revolution."

"It would be interesting for you to learn that Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the illustrious Sikh ruler of Punjab, had his army trained by professional French commanders and generals and this enabled him to fight valiantly against the advancing British imperialist forces," the letter added.

It noted that an incident about the Sikhs' fight against Mughal fundamentalism was mentioned in French textbooks.

"This is the saga of Saragarhi when, during the Afghan wars, a miniscule post manned entirely by a dozen Sikhs fought valiantly to the last man and died in battle rather than withdraw or surrender," the letter said.

In the light of this, "we make an humble appeal to you that in order to safeguard Sikh tenets, the French government may, in tune with their culture and commitment to cultural freedom, permit Sikhs in public schools, colleges and universities to wear scarves and turbans over their unshorn hair", the letter urged.

President Chirac is on a three-day visit to India that concludes on Tuesday.

First Published: Feb 20, 2006 18:30 IST