JALANDHAR: Hoping to get reprieve, a Sikh advocacy group has challanged the French government’s ban on wearing turbans before the United Nations
Human Rights Committee United Sikhs, which filed the challenge on December 15, told TOI over email that in a first since France passed a law in 2004 banning the wearing of religious symbols, including the Sikh turban, to public schools, three cases had been moved before the UN.
“We’re asking the UN to deliver Sikhs in France their rights under Articles 2, 17, 12, 18 and 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which are derived from the inherent dignity of the human person,” said legal director of United Sikhs Mejindarpal Kaur in a statement mailed to TOI from US.
“Under the ICCPR, France may restrict these fundamental rights on only the most compelling grounds, and may do so only so far as absolutely necessary. We submit that France has not made out a compelling case for denying a Sikh the right to wear a turban,” she added.
United Sikhs’ staff attorney Jaspreet Singh said one of the applicants, Bikramjit Singh, was 18 years old when he was expelled from school in 2004 after France passed the law. The other two applicants are Shingara Mann Singh (52) and Ranjit Singh (70) who were denied renewals of ID documents because they refused to remove their turbans to get identity photographs clicked.
While Shingara Mann Singh, who held a French passport for 15 years, was refused a replacement passport by French authorities in 2005 as he refused to remove his turban for his ID photo pensioner, Ranjit Singh has been deprived of health care since 2002 for want of renewal of his residence card with a similar condition — removing his turban for ID photo. Their cases were dismissed by French courts and then by ECHR. The European Court of Human Rights had earlier dismissed the legal challenge to the ban.
“In essence, France is insisting that the applicants expose themselves not only at the time the photograph is taken, but also each and every time they have to produce their ID. France’s insistence that the applicants choose between repeated violations of their religious beliefs, with the attendant shame and humiliation, and being unable to travel (and transact) freely inside and outside France is unjustifiable,” lawyers commented on the ID cases.
“I want to share about how Sikhi was my form of inspiration. As a kid I grew up with a lot of difficulties personally and with my family. I faced issues of not having much diversity around me and racism as well. One thing that kept me going was doing NitNem and doing a lot of Paath. When my brother and sister were feeling down, I would take them up to my room and we would read some Banis together. Doing this would give us so much peace, and make us forget about what was going on. It gave us hope and a connection to something bigger than ourselves. Throughout my life if I felt lost or confused I would always turn to Sikhi. I found that the things
I naturally believed and felt were just affirmed by Sikhi. Sikhi teaches that men and women are equal, and more than that, we are all one. We are all made of energy, and aside from what diversity we have on the outside, are all made of the same universal energy. Because I loved my mom and my sister, it didn’t make sense for me to treat them differently, and Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s teachings affirmed this. Guru ji’s teachings are so simple and powerful. “So kyo manda akhiyai jit janmai raajaan – Why call her bad who gives birth to kings?” So why would we treat women poorly if they are the source of all of us? It just doesn’t make sense.
People from other religions sometimes have a tension with others because of their belief system. In Sikhi we have a really simple way of looking at it that you can be on any path and it doesn’t matter as long as you are a good person. So this gave me so much confidence that I could be friends with Chrisitians, and Muslisms, and Hindus. This beautiful concept from Sikhi just made so much sense to me. I found a lot of strength in Sikhi. It gave me guidance in my dark and difficult times. Sikhis has literally been my guiding light to help me out of the darkness. “
– Jagmeet Singh