Despite Pressure From India – France Not Budging On Turban Ban

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NEW DELHI – Asserting that there was no discrimination against the Sikh community in France, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe today virtually ruled out lifting the ban on wearing turban in his country.

“France believes in democracy and freedom. For us, religion must not interfere in political and daily life. We have passed a legislation banning the use of religious signs in public places,” he said at a joint press conference with External Affairs Minister SM Krishna after wide-ranging talks between the two leaders.

He went on to say that the Sikhs were treated like the Christians, Jews and members of other communities in France and hoped a solution could be found to the stand-off on the issue through talks between the departments concerned of India and France.

The ban on turban in France followed by some other European countries taking a similar action has caused a lot of concern in India, particularly among the members of the Sikh community. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and other Indian leaders have taken up the matter with Paris from time to time but in vain.

Krishna also conveyed to his French counterpart the sentiments of the Sikh community on the issue. He said New Delhi was pursuing the matter with the European Union too and hoped to find a solution.

“The turban is a symbol of dignity. It is a sensitive issue for every Indian. We had discussions with the French to find a mutually acceptable solution. I have also written to the Italian Foreign Minister on the problems faced by the Sikhs at the airports in that country. We are pursuing the matter with the EU as well,” he added.