Please Be Involved, Click here and Join UNITED SIKHS

To receive forthcoming bulletins join our UNITED SIKHS Yahoo group

To donate go to www.unitedsikhs.org/donate

Community Voice

October 21, 2005

07 Katak (Samvat 536 Nanakshahi)


Paris, Thursday - The French Sikh community will have a taste of French justice on Friday, when an Administrative Tribunal will rule if Jasvir Singh, Bikramjit Singh and Manjit Singh has been unlawfully excluded from school for refusing to remove their Turbans. This could be the beginning of a long legal trail for these teenage Sikh boys, which may take them to the European Court of Human Rights.

As these Sikh boys faced the icy atmosphere of a courtroom on Tuesday, the French Education Minister Francois Fillon said on French Radio, “The Sikhs will have to bend before the law.” Mr Kudrat Singh UNITED SIKHS director in France who has been in the forefront of the legal action said, “The Sikhs will break, but they will not bend.”

On Oct 19, a packed courtroom heard counsel for these young Sikh boys, M A Beauquier, argue before the President of the Administrative Tribunal, “We have not come here to argue for our clients’ right to religious freedom. Not yet. We have come to argue for their right to defend themselves against a decision of their Principal to exclude them from school without giving them an opportunity of a disciplinary hearing, as required by the law.”

These young Sikhs have applied to the Administrative Tribunal for an emergency interim order for their school, Louise Michel College in Bobigny, a suburb of Paris, to reinstate them or to establish a disciplinary panel for them to defend themselves against their exclusion from school.

The school has filed a 10 page reply to the Sikh boys’ application arguing that the school had not excluded the Sikh boys and that a dialogue is continuing and there is no need for emergency measures sought by the Sikh school boys. Today, Mr Beauquier filed a response to the school’s submissions, giving a day-by-day account of the unsuccessful attempts of the Sikh boys to attend school since September.

“It was the first chilly autumn morning in France. The world media was anxious as we were, about the outcome. The packed courtroom heard how Jasvir, Bikramjit and Manjit Singh were effectively excluded from school when for a couple of weeks they were asked to remain in the school canteen with no teacher in attendance and then unceremoniously asked to leave the vicinity of the school,” recounted Kudrat Singh, director of UNITED SIKHS, a global human development organisation which has been in the forefront of the Right To Turban campaign since the French president revealed his plans last December to ban religious expression in public schools.

Mr Beauquier told the Tribunal that, when schools re-opened for the new-year in September, Jasvir, Bikramjit and Manjit had attended Jean Michel School in Bobigny, “wearing a Turban which all young Sikhs must wear.”

“This turban was considered by the Management of the college as a sign by which these boys expressed a religious membership openly, within the meaning of the law which prohibits the wearing of any ostensible religious sign,” Mr Beauquier said.

He added that the school did not allow the boys to attend classes but allowed them to do self-study in the school canteen until Sept 22. “Suddenly on Thursday Sep 23, 2004 Jasvir Singh saw himself being refused access to education all together. He was verbally told that it was prohibited for him to be in the vicinity of the school,” Mr Beauquier said in his written submissions.

Mr Beauquier argued that the decision to ban the Sikh boys from school was made ignoring all the procedures laid down, which permit the student and his representatives to present a defense.

“Following this, on September 28, Gurdial Singh, Jasvir Singh’s father, wrote a letter to the principal of the School asking him to reinstate Jasvir Singh as his son had not been given his legal right to defend himself,” Mr Beauquier said.

“The Principal of the school did not respond to Mr Gurdial Singh’s letter and we wrote to the school giving them 8 days to reinstate the Sikh boys. We got no response,” Mr Beauquier said in reply to the School’s claim that a dialogue is continuing between the school and the Sikh school children.

“This situation, where the student is expelled from a school without defending or explaining himself, is no more acceptable,” Mr Beauquier argued. “It is under these conditions where the applicant requests the President of the Court to safeguard the fundamental freedom at the very least by ordering the reinstatement of the boys to school or the formation of the disciplinary board,” he told the Tribunal.

Our Mission

To transform underprivileged and minority communities and individuals into informed and vibrant members of society through civic, educational and personal development programs, by fostering active participation in social and economic activity.

UNITED SIKHS is also an avenue for networking between like-minded organisations to establish and nurture meaningful projects and dialogues - whether social, cultural or political- to promote harmony, understanding and reciprocity in our villages, towns and cities.

UNITED SIKHS is a coalition of organisations and individuals, who share a common vision based on the belief that there is no greater endeavour than to serve, empower and uplift fellow beings. The core of our philosophy is an unwavering commitment to civic service and social progress on behalf of the common good.

Accordingly, UNITED SIKHS has sought to fulfil its mission not only by informing, educating and uplifting fellow beings but also by participating in cross-cultural and political exchanges to ensure that the promises and benefits of democracy are realized by all.

We at UNITED SIKHS believe that the development of enlightened and progressive societies can be made possible by socially conscious groups of people who make a commitment to develop and direct human potential. Our work, efforts and achievements stand as a testament to our faith in this vision.