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Press Release: September 20, 2004, Asu 6, 536 NANAKSHAHI
Paris, France – Despite repeated requests to the French government for a permanent resolution to the Sikh student turban ban in writing, no such document has yet been provided to the Sikh community. The French government had offered an option to four Sikh schoolchildren to be admitted into private schools, but did not provide any written statement as to whether the government would be funding the students’ education. Weary of the French government’s inability to provide in writing any definitive option, the Sikh community in France held an emergency meeting on September 18 and resolved that the four Sikh schoolchildren should be rightfully attending their regular public schools in the turbans that they had worn previously and not the private schools assigned to them.
The situation took on a new facet when Domnique Girard, French Envoy to India, told the Indian Express newspaper in the article titled “Controversy over turban issue over: French envoy” (http://www.indianexpress.com/full_story.php?content_id=55274) that the turban issue had been resolved and that a majority of the Sikh students had, “without any difficulty,” returned to their schools. “That statement is farthest from the truth,” replied Karmvir Singh, Director of UNITED SIKHS, who recently conducted a survey of the French Sikh students and provided the following results:
Karmvir Singh stated that, contrary to the statement of Domnique Girard, the Sikh community has not compromised on the issue, and it is entirely possible that rather the Sikh schoolchildren may have had problems concerning the turban ban but did not report them. This also means that the matter has not been resolved as far as the Sikh community is concerned, as the 20 students that were barred from the classroom have not been given any options in writing. The Sikh community is still waiting for a document from the French government to resolve this matter permanently.
Mr. Gurdial Singh, father of Jasvir Singh, one of the four Sikh students barred from the classroom, explained that the students were told to submit a note drafted by Mr. Jean Charles Ringard, inspector of the East Paris school district (93), with an assurance that the government would allow the students to attend private schools. However, when questioning the private schools as to whether the government would be funding the education, the schools replied that no such statement existed in the note. This left the schoolchildren with no written document of who would be funding their education, despite there having been a verbal agreement between the Sikh community and Mr. Ringard. Consequently the students, along with the Sikh community, have stated that because of the lack of any written options being offered, they will continue to protest against the ban by attempting to attend their public schools wearing their turbans.
Just recently, the French government released a statement that assured the French Sikh community and the global Sikh community that they would be resolving the matter of the Sikh turbans being allowed into schools to the satisfaction of the French Sikhs. As a follow-up to this statement, the French government did allow Sikhs to enter their schools with turbans on. However, the teachers of the school system have banned 20 Sikh schoolchildren from entering the classrooms for their education, leaving the matter unresolved to the frustration of the Sikh community. Along with this barring entry to classrooms, the Sikh schoolchildren have been given no written assurances of a permanent solution to accommodate for their educational instruction by the French government. As of now, four students, namely Jasvir Singh, Ranjit Singh, Vikramjit Singh, and another Ranjit Singh are the four Sikh students that refuse to go to school without a turban. The status of the other 16 students that were barred from their respective classrooms is unknown.
In lieu of no written document of options being offered, Mr. Gurdial Singh, father of Jasvir Singh, and Karmvir Singh, Director of UNITED SIKHS, responded that this temporary solution was not acceptable and demanded a direct, written, and permanent resolution to the matter, as the verbal assurances offered were not binding and could be repealed at any time and leave the present and future Sikh students stranded without an educational avenue. The Sikh community is still awaiting a final written decision from the schools regarding the turban issue that would be permanent, applicable at the national level and an option for present and future generations of Sikh schoolchildren. In a previous meeting, legal options were prepared if the need arose.
Meanwhile the four Sikh students have vowed to attend their public schools, and not the private schools assigned to them by Mr. Ringard, to continue their staunch protest against the French turban ban.
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