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Resolve French turban ban before the issue turns ugly, minorities' commission tells PM

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Ramaninder K Bhatia, TNN Feb 25, 2012, 04.42AM IST

CHANDIGARH: Given the aggressive posturing of some Sikh organizations, including the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), in light of the latest defence deal of India with French government for 125 aircraft, the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) has asked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to once again take up the turban issue "emphatically" with France.

NCM member H S Hanspal, referring to the messages that he was receiving from various Sikh groups, urged the PM to resolve the issue with the French government saying this was just the "right time" to do so because of the Rs 90,000 crore defence deal to buy 126 advanced combat aircraft that the two countries had entered into.

Adding a note of caution in his February 22 letter, Hanspal asked the PM to give priority to the matter "before it gains momentum and takes an ugly turn. The government of India may assert for the issue of turban more emphatically with the French government," he wrote.

This comes in the wake of demands made by Sikh organizations like Kendriya Singh Sabha, besides the SGPC that India should scrap the deal in view of the turban ban. United Sikh's India representative Gurpreet Singh said, "How can the country led by a Sikh PM continue to sign such deals with France where the religious rights of his own community are being challenged every day."

Telling the PM, "the NRIs look to you as saviour of their religious rights," Hanspal added that the Akal Takht jathedar "had already taken up the matter seriously and appealed to the Sikh masses across the globe to intensify their struggle and build pressure groups on their respective countries to restore turban pride."

The communication to the PM also mentioned a recent development in which the United National Human Right Committee (UNHRC) had already held that France had violated the religious freedom of a Sikh by asking him to remove his turban for an ID photograph, Hanspal told the PM that France was expected to submit its reply on March 15, to UNHCR query about what it had done to check the violation.

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The contract for the 125 French fighter planes is worth 12 billion dollars alone, the French would agree to anything to get that order. Manmohan and Praneet Kaur External affairs minister (Amarindars wife) should sort this out instead of condeming Sikhs all the time.

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