The bust of great Sikh warrior Maharaja Ranjit Singh was unveiled at Allard Square of St Tropez in France Saturday evening in a military ceremony, which, ironically, had no representative from the Punjab government.
Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal had handed over the bust to French ambassador to India, Alexander Ziegler, during the latter’s visit to Punjab Bhawan, Chandigarh in July this year.
In the ceremony organised by Sikh de France, an organisation representing Sikhs living in France, the bust was installed at St Tropez, the birthplace of French warrior General Jean Franquis Allard who served in Maharaja’s army.
General Allard was one of the most trusted warrior generals of the Maharaja and played a key role in modernising the Sikh army at par with European standards.
While the ceremony was well-attended by French officials, India’s former chief of Army, General JJ Singh, Indian ambassador to France Mohan Kumar, Ludhiana resident Harjinder Singh Kukreja among others, none from the Punjab government attended it.
When asked about it, Navjot Singh Randhawa, Director Tourism and Culture told The Indian Express, “French Sikhs approached us to get the bust made and we gave it. If you present someone with a bouquet of flowers, it is not important to deliver them personally. We were pre-occupied, hence none could attend the ceremony.”
The project was personally supervised by St Tropez Mayor Jean-Pierre Tuveri and his deputy Henri Prevost Allard who were given a proposal by Sikhs to pay tribute to the Maharaja and get his bust installed.
A military guard of honour was given to the Sikh warrior before unveiling of the bust.
Speaking to The Indian Express over phone, Ranjit G Singh, director, public affairs, Representative Council of Sikhs France, said, “It was an honour for us to get Sikh warrior’s statue installed here in France. General Allard though born in St Tropez was buried in Lahore. He was one of the most trusted general of Maharajas’ army and trained Sikh soldiers. His grandson Henri Prevost Allard is now the deputy Mayor of St Tropez and thus we prepared this proposal and sent it to him. It was approved and in fact he personally supervised all preparations. The Indian national anthem was also played on the occasion.”
Nearly three feet tall and weighing 110 kg, the bust is said to be made of bronze by famous sculptor Prabhat Rai of Madhya Pradesh. Sources said it cost Rs 75,000 to Punjab government. However, some organisers in France alleged that it was not even pure bronze but mixed with brass which is much cheaper.
Asked why a better quality statue was not sent, Randhawa said, “It was a gift from our side andnot an obligation for the Punjab government. The price of the gift is not important but the feelings behind it that should matter. Still CM Parkash Singh Badal took personal interest in the project and handed over the bust to French delegation in a well organised ceremony.”