For the first time, the Indian Republic day parade saw an absence of Sikhs. The highly decorated Sikh regiment and the float of the state of Punjab wasn’t seen. The exclusion of Sikhs from the parade created resentment among the Sikh community leaders who condemned the Centre.
Hindustan Times reported the rejected Jathedar Gurbachan Singh saying:
Taking the exclusion as “a cruel joke on the Sikh community”, Akal Takht jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh said on Friday here: “Sikhs face a lot of issues in France, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi was required to take those up with the French President.
That he didn’t is great injustice to Sikhs. In France, Sikhs are not allowed to wear turban and now even in their own country, for which they have even sacrificed their lives, they are kept out of a military parade. We are hurt.”
The jathedar said that for all this, Sikh disunity was also to blame to an extent.
Congress leader Captain Amrinder Singh Told the Indian Express:
Punjab Congress chief Amarinder Singh on Sunday regretted the absence of a Sikh regiment contingent in this year’s Republic Day parade and termed it as a “grave omission”.
“Particularly when President Francois Hollande of France, where turban is banned at public places, was the chief guest. There could not have been a better occasion to convey the importance of the turban to him,” Singh said.
Regretting the state government’s “failure” to send its contingent to represent the glorious culture of the state at the parade, he said, “The Akalis actually have no idea about the significance and importance of such occasions.”
The Akali Dal took up the issue with the Union Government by CM Badal writing a letter expressing his disappointment.
He was quoted in the Deccan Herald:
Badal said the exclusion of the Sikh regiment from the parade would be regrettable at any time but it was magnified this year because of the presence of the French president as a special guest at the event. Badal said, “The Sikhs have been facing several practices in France which amount to the denial of freedom to observe the fundamental religious practices to the community, including a ban on the wearing of turbans — one of the five symbols of their religion”. He said that this would have been an appropriate occasion to demonstrate to the French dignitary the place of the Sikh community in India’s rich cultural identity and its contribution to the cause of freedom.