Chandigarh: The controversy over the exclusion of the Sikh Regiment from the Republic Day parade in Delhi refuses to settle down, with Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal on Sunday describing the episode as "sad and regrettable" in a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and saying that the community was "hurt".
In his letter, Badal said "the absence of the Sikh regiment from the Republic Day parade was sad and regrettable".
Badal urged the central government to issue necessary instructions and guidelines "to ensure that the Sikh Regiment is never kept out of Republic Day parade in future".
"A widespread feeling of hurt and resentment (has been) caused by the non-inclusion of the Sikh Regiment in the Republic Day parade where French President Francois Hollande was the chief guest," Badal said in the letter.
According to reports, the Sikh Regiment, which had participated in the parade earlier, was excluded this time.
The Sikh community has been at loggerheads with the French government due to the latter's ban on students wearing turbans in schools in France as it was seen as a religious symbol.
"The Republic Day parade is always regarded as a great occasion to showcase India's multi-cultural and multi-religious identity, highlighting its secular ethos.
"As a vibrant and fiercely patriotic minority community in the country, the Sikhs are always seen as the most powerful symbol of this multi-dimensional identity and secular character of the country," Badal said.
"The exclusion of the Sikh Regiment from the parade would be regrettable at any time but it was doubly so this year because of the presence of the French president as a special guest at the event.
"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," Badal said.
Incidentally, the French president started his India tour on January 24 from Chandigarh, the joint capital of Punjab and Haryana which was designed by French architect Le Corbusier.
Hollande was received at the Chandigarh airport by Haryana Governor Kaptan Singh Solanki, who is also the acting Punjab governor, Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar and Chandigarh MP Kirron Kher.
However, Punjab Chief Minister Badal was admitted to a hospital a day earlier and could not meet Hollande. But his son and Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal did not step in to receive the French president.
Modi, breaking protocol, specially flew to Chandigarh to welcome the French president at the famous Rock Garden.