Sikhs across the world are shocked over the exclusion of Sikh Regiment from the Republic Day parade. Dr Rami Ranger CBE, Chairman of the British Sikh Association, said Sikhs have been defending India for centuries, starting from their Gurus. This is a report in Asian Lite News, the UK newspaper and portal for Asians [Disclosure: I am director, editorial and corporate communications at the media house].
To be honest, I hadn’t noticed their absence even though the Sikh Light infantry and regimental contingents are visually stunning and always receive a special cheer.
Story has it that the authorities kept them out because they are inimical to President François Hollande of France after that country banned turbans and no one wanted the chance of an incident...perhaps the French security asked for it. By the same token the regiment might itself have indicated to the army chief that they would not like to salute someone who had directly impacted on their religious symbols.
Perhaps the Centre and the army had mutually agreed to sit out the parade for what is probably the first time this regiment was absent. Last year it was there in all its finery. According to Asian Lite, prominent members of the Sikh community in the UK expressed concern of the exclusion of the Sikh Regiment from the Republic Day parade in Delhi on 26 January.
Dr Rami Ranger CBE, Chairman of the British Sikh Association, said Sikhs have been defending India for ages. In a tweet, he asked why Sikh Regiment was missing from the Republic Day Parade.
Punjab Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal said the episode as “sad and regrettable” in a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and saying that the community was “hurt”.
In his letter, Badal said, “the absence of the Sikh regiment from the Republic Day parade was sad and regrettable”.
Badal urged the central government to issue necessary instructions and guidelines “to ensure that the Sikh Regiment is never kept out of Republic Day parade in future”.
“A widespread feeling of hurt and resentment (has been) caused by the non-inclusion of the Sikh Regiment in the Republic Day parade where French President Francois Hollande was the chief guest,” Badal said in the letter.
The Sikh community has been at loggerheads with the French government due to the latter’s ban on students wearing turbans in schools in France as it was seen as a religious symbol.
“The Republic Day parade is always regarded as a great occasion to showcase India’s multi-cultural and multi-religious identity, highlighting its secular ethos. As a vibrant and fiercely patriotic minority community in the country, the Sikhs are always seen as the most powerful symbol of this multi-dimensional identity and secular character of the country,” Badal said.
“The exclusion of the Sikh Regiment from the parade would be regrettable at any time but it was doubly so this year because of the presence of the French president as a special guest at the event.
“The Sikhs have been facing several practices in France which amount to the denial of freedom to observe the fundamental religious practices to the community, including a ban on the wearing of turbans one of the five symbols of their religion,” Badal said.
Incidentally, the French president started his India tour on 24 January from Chandigarh, the joint capital of Punjab and Haryana, which was designed by French architect Le Corbusier.
Hollande was received at Chandigarh airport by Haryana Governor Kaptan Singh Solanki, who is also the acting Punjab governor, Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar and Chandigarh MP Kirron Kher.
However, Punjab Chief Minister Badal was admitted to a hospital a day earlier and could not meet Hollande. But his son and Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal did not step in to receive the French president.
Modi, breaking protocol, specially flew to Chandigarh to welcome the French president at the famous Rock Garden.