Tribune News Service
Jalandhar, June 19
Bhai Ranjit Singh (82), who fought a legal battle against the French Government to keep intact his identity as a turbaned Sikh, has returned to India with pain in his heart. He rues that neither any Sikh outfit nor the Indian Government helped him in his two-decade-long fight.
Ranjit, who was born in Shahpur village of Ambala, Haryana, had left for France in 1991. Then, he was issued an ID with the turban and it was due for renewal in 2001. To get the ID renewed, the French authorities asked Ranjit to get himself photographed, this time without the turban. He, however, refused to comply and, after a couple of years, the French government stopped his social security allowance.
He took on the French Government and on June 12, 2012, the UN Human Rights Committee concluded that France had violated the religious freedom of Ranjit. But the French Government refused to extend social security allowance.
Refused to abandon his turban, Ranjit finally returned to India in May this year. In an exclusive interview with the Tribune, Ranjit spoke about his 18-year-long struggle on the turban ban, his final journey back home, his live without any permanent job and substantial benefits, and the planning of his life here in Punjab.
Ranjit said while many Sikhs in France upheld the view that turban is more of a cultural than religious identity; the French government should lift the ban on wearing turbans in public schools.
“How can we connect our future generations with our religious beliefs when we do not wear a turban at all? It is like parting away with your religion as well,” said Ranjit.
Ranjit, who was trolled by over hundreds of critics after the Tribune published a report on his journey back home last month, said the comments posted by his critics on the report has only strengthen his beliefs and his war against the turban ban.
“My family members, including my daughter-in-law, also wear turban (Amritdhari Sikhs) and we have never abandon it to avail any social benefit in any of the foreign countries. Like many others, I have also met unscrupulous agents but never availed citizenship at the cost of my turban despite being offered by the French government. My critics should be proud of me for this,” said Ranjit.
While his close friends in India and France had tried to convince him to remove his turban for the ID card purpose only, Singh refused to do so. “What is the fun of removing turban just for an ID card? I had to remove it every time I need to show my identity documents anywhere. And, why should I remove it at all? I am a Singh and I am not a terrorist”, signs off Ranjit Singh.
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