In the edition of ‘The Statesman’ of 2nd March, 2016, a letter to the Editor, captioned as above, by Col. Avtar Singh (retd.) highlights that on our Republic Day parade on 26th January, 2016 the Sikh regiment was not allowed to participate. A quote from the letter ~
“Mr. Francois Hollande (President of France) was the chief guest” and a contingent of 20,000 French soldiers led the parade, whom all other Indian contingents followed while the Sikh regiment was banned from participation in the parade. Further quote from the letter ~
“This French regiment had served in India during 1781 – 84 as a colonizing force.
The Sikh regiment, the oldest and most highly decorated regiment of the Indian Army, was left out. The difference is that it had fought in France during both the world wars for the defence of the French against a Fascist and occupying regime. French patriots publicly cried in 1940 when Paris fell to the Nazis. …..In France, Sikh children are not allowed to wear their turbans to school. They have been forced to choose between education and religion. Sikhs have to take off their turbans for being photographed for an identity card or driver’s licence. ….”
It seems, eclipsing the Sikh regiment this way, was possibly to avoid displeasure of the French President Mr. Francois Hollande in whose country the Sikhs are subject to some racial restrictions as we find in the letter.
Here, I’m inclined to take a leaf from the Sikh history. Their uprising, inspired by their 10th and last Guru, Guru Govind Singh, was for protection of the weak, irrespective of their religion, from the atrocities of the Mughols. Tagore penned his poem “Bandi Bir” (=The Captive Hero) based on the anthology of the British historian Todd. Here the martyr Banda Bahadur was cruelly killed by the Mughols after the Sikhs lost to them. However, this is one of the poems where Tagore upholds that the seeming defeat of the Sikhs was a victory in the test of history. It was the victory of their spirituality over the brutal force they had to encounter. That is why Sikh ideal survives as a dynamic force, one of the noble heritages that will propel the Indian nation forward. And what happened to the omnipotent rulers (Mughols) who had let the hell loose on this beautiful earth, cultivated cruelty and inhumanity at its highest and appeared invincible? In the words of the Poet –
"With blood stained sword in hand, with their bloody look,
They hide face in the children's lesson book……………"