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Indian Army Bans Non-Sikh Religious Symbols

Courtesy: Jagpal Singh Tiwana.

The Straits Times, New Delhi, Jan. 19, 2004

India's military has instructed its personnel not to sport bracelets, birthstone rings, vermillion streaks or sacred threads in an effort to maintain a strict dress code and a secular image, a report said yesterday. The orders were issued after senior officers found that more and more personnel of India's million strong Army were indulging in such practices, The Indian Express said. These instructions are in addition to the standing dress regulations issued in 1962, the paper said. It did not specify whether the ban on the 'religious' symbols had any link to rising Hindu fanaticism in India. The ban also appeared limited to symbols visible outside the uniform.

The new instructions are specially strict for the 75 women officers in the force, who are not allowed to wear bangles, ear studs, lipstick or nail polish. A vermillion streak or dot on the forehead - worn usually by a married woman - is permitted but only if hidden by a beret. Men may wear a signet ring on their left hands.

The Army top brass has, however, been more liberal with its Sikh officers and soldiers. They may continue to wear their traditional steel bracelet - one of the essential symbols of Sikhism. There is also no bar on Sikhs wearing a turban.