As French President Emmanuel Macron arrived Friday on his four-day visit to India, the Sikh community settled in France has once again raised the turban issue and written to External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj to take notice of the situation in France.
The letter (copy with The Indian Express) has been sent by Conseil Représentatif Des Sikhs De France (Representative Council of Sikhs of France) based in Paris, saying that Sikhs are being asked to remove their turbans while getting photographs clicked for several official documents.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Ranjit G Singh, spokesperson of the council of Sikhs in France said that ‘dastaar struggle’ continues in France for Sikhs as they are still being asked to remove their turbans when they apply for any official document. “Despite the success that we got in the United Nations after raising the issue there in 2012, ground reality has not changed in France. Whenever we apply for an identity document, we are asked to remove turban for photos. The French Sikh community is struggling for their identity here. The issue was raised during the visit of former French president F Hollande to New Delhi but it remains unsolved till now,” he said.
The letter has also been sent to Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC), Indian Embassy in Paris, Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee and MPs from Punjab including Harsimrat Kaur Badal, Dharamvir Gandhi, Bhagwant Mann and Harinder Singh Khalsa.
The council in its letter has also raised the issue of bus cards (navigo cards) issued in France. ‘This year, even a bus card (navigo card) require a picture without dastaar (Sikh turban). It is a humiliation every time we have to remove turbans for it and then show that card having that picture every time. Passport, European licence card, health card, student card and public transport card for each one we are not allowed to wear turban in the photograph,’ says the letter.
French Sikhs add in their representation that the great history of Sikh and French relations should not be forgotten. ‘There was a great friendship between Maharaja Ranjit Singh and King Louis Philippe I. Sikh soldiers fought for France during World War I and then wearing dastaar was never an issue. Turban was never an issue when Sikh soldiers fought for France and defended freedom of France,’ adds the letter.
“Unfortunately today Sikh identity is not safe in France. In 2012, the United Nations Human Rights Committee had supported French Sikhs but still the French government has not changed the law till date. We are struggling for our identity in France because of a 2006 regulation of French government in which all head covers such as turban are forbidden for ID picture. This is erasing Sikh identity in France,” added Singh.
Sikhs in France have alleged that even children are not allowed to wear turbans in French schools and Sikhs also lose job opportunities if they wear turban.
“We want Indian authorities to raise our issues with French president. The Sikh diaspora settled in France since decades now but still a question mark is raised on our identities. This is simply hurting our religious sentiments and French government continues to do it despite the United Nations Human Rights Committee supporting us,” he added.