PM raises turban ban issue with French President

Singh

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has conveyed Indian "sensitivities" regarding the ban on wearing turban in France to French President Francois Hollande, who has assured him that he would ask the authorities concerned to engage with the Sikh diaspora.

According to well informed sources, India's concerns regarding the Sikh turban issue in France figured in the discussions.

"Even as global geopolitical developments, defence acquisitions, civilian nuclear cooperation and trade dominated the recent Summit level interaction between India and France, country's concerns regarding the Sikh turban issue in France figured in the discussions (on February 14)," they said.

The Prime Minister is understood to have conveyed to President Hollande Indian "sensitivities" in the matter, they said.

"It is reliably learnt that the French President was receptive to the concerns and indicated that upon his return, he would consult the concerned authorities, and ask them to engage with the Sikh diaspora in France," they said.

It may be recalled that there is an ongoing engagement with France on this issue at various levels.

Most recently, Ambassador Roland Dubretrand, Ambassador for Religious Issues, French Ministry of Foreign Affairs had visited India in December 2012 and had discussions with Minister of State for External Affairs Preneet Kaur.

There is no ban on wearing Sikh turbans on the streets of the country and private schools but there is a ban on displaying religious symbols, including turban and even the cross in the public schools.

It was on March 15, 2004, that the then President Jacques Chirac brought in an amendment to the French code of education that banned wearing clothing or symbols in state schools which "conspicuously exhibit a religious affiliation".

France has always maintained that this law was not specially against Sikhs but affected also Catholics, who comprise about 80 percent of France's population.

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