Leaving the Sikhs out in the cold

Over a year back, in these columns, I had taken up with the then President of France the issue of the French ban on the Sikh turban in their schools. Now all that SGPC chief Avtar Singh Makkar has got out of Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon is a bland statement that the Ministry of External Affairs would take up this matter with the visitor.

Thereafter, we find our SGPC elders happily returning to Amritsar having achieved little, but smartly claiming for public consumption that they are doing their level best on the issue.

Does not a Sikh Prime Minister understand the emotive issues involved in the matter? Why was this simmering issue not sorted out with the French before we had extended an invitation to President Nicholas Sarkozy to visit us? Unlike the strong Muslim vote bank and its muscle, the issues concerning the Sikhs hardly create a ripple for those in power in Delhi. Sadly, the Sikh leaders (in and out of power) themselves have not taken a strong position in this regard.


If a minority community like the Sikhs is aggrieved over the turban issue, I see no reason why the Indian government had to invite Mr Sarkozy over for a full-scale official visit. The Sikh diaspora has been left to fight out their battles on their own in the courts and the Sikh political and religious hierarchy has once again left the Sikhs out in the cold, mindful only of their own interests of keeping secure their offices and electoral vote banks.

Maj-Gen HIMMAT SINGH GILL (retd), Chandigarh


I read Roopinder Singh’s article, “Turban: A matter of pride and honour” (Jan 23). If the turban was that important, why did Guru Gobind Singh, while laying down five musts, known as five ‘K’s (kesh, kangha, kara, kachha and kirpan) for Sikhs, not add turban to it?

Those days everybody in this region, irrespective of his religion, used to wear a turban. With the passage of time, most people in this region stopped wearing turbans except the Sikhs who continued to carry the Guru’s dress style. Strangely, a majority of the Sikh masses followed the Guru’s dress code partially by sticking only to the turban. For, they have fondly accepted the western dress style.

If one goes by the compulsive clause of wearing turbans by Sikhs, no Sikh ever can be an astronaut. The French ban on the display of religious symbols (aimed not solely at Sikhs) is exactly like the ban in Indian armed forces. Here too, fighter Sikh pilots are not allowed to wear turbans while flying aircraft; they wear helmets.

If we take a biased approach to such non-issues (non-issue because the number of students restricted from wearing turbans in France is less than a dozen) we can never think of a better peace-loving and progressive society.

BALVINDER (Former Principal, Govt College), Chandigarh

Soldiers’ woes

In his article, “Pay defence personnel in kind”, Lt-Gen Raj Kadyan (retd) has discussed a major problem of serving soldiers. Imagine the condition of a family which shifts residence 25 to 30 times during an employee’s period of service. My daughter shifted 11 schools to complete her Class X. All of us who have retired have 30 to 40 wooden/tin boxes which we were using while proceeding on transfer at short notice. Senior government officers and those in the private sector get furnished houses. Why cannot a serving soldier be provided with the same?

Educated girls don’t want to marry soldiers because they don’t have a good bank balance. The ex-servicemen have been waiting for interim relief from the Sixth Pay Commission, but there has been no forward movement. The nation expects soldiers to defend the borders, fight insurgency, overcome natural calamities, provide aid to civil authorities and die when the time comes. The government should at least fulfil their just demands.



The writer has rightly recommended the supply of some reasonable facilities in the residences of defence officers at regular family stations in view of their frequent transfers. This is a very practical and cost-effective proposal. The Sixth Pay Commission should consider it favourably.

Since most defence officers cannot stay with their families even when posted at family stations because of their problems, such personnel having double establishments must be compensated with adequate house rent allowance irrespective of the location and classification of their places of residence.

Commander D.S. RAI (retd), Ludhiana

Two faces of India

I had an unforgettable experience during a journey by the morning Shatabi Express from New Delhi to Chandigarh on January 22. Welldressed men and women and bottled water in a carpeted, spic and span, Executive Class coach greeted me. This India represented a vibrant, affluent and happy-go-lucky India.

My fellow passengers were a family of five who had just returned from a holiday abroad. Also in the coach were officers and representatives of banks, trade and commerce being guided by a jovial, young lady PRO.

When I peeped out of my window seat, I was shocked to watch the predicament of the passengers of the Nizamuddin-Amritsar Express scrambling for a small space. Most were shivering in the biting cold and there was a huge rush of men, women and children with heavy luggage. While they were fighting for a space in the dingy coach, my fellow passengers in the Shatabdi were talking about cricket, sensex and bird flu!

At 7.40 a.m, my train started with the waiters welcoming us with roses. I closed my eyes and offered prayers to God to bridge the gap speedily between the two faces of India.

JAGJIT PURI, IAS, Chandigarh



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