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Bedi: No Discrimination Against Sikhs in the Indian Armed Forces


A.N.I., Chandigarh, Aug. 23, 2003

A former Air Marshal of the Indian Air Force has reacted strongly to a Radio Pakistan report that Sikhs in the Indian armed forces are being discriminated against. In a report, Radio Pakistan claimed that Sikhs in the Indian Air Force were being forced to cut their hair and remove their turbans. 'I think the Indian armed forces are one of the most secular institutions in the country. We live together, eat together. We have a mosque, gurdwara, temple, church with common walls,' Air Marshal (Retd.) R.S. Bedi said. 'Officers attend functions of all communities. To say any such thing is utter rubbish,' he adds.

'Some of the biggest names of the Indian Air Force, against which Pakistan particularly frames its charges, are of Sikhs who have done their nation proud in war and peace-time operations since the country's independence. And that's not talking about the community's contributions even before that, cementing their place permanently in all spheres of the Indian ethos,' Air Marshal Bedi says. 'Today, the Marshal of the Air Force is a Sikh, Arjun Singh. That says so much. The highest office on offer is held by a Sikh officer. Chief of Air Force Staff Dilbagh Singh was a Sikh officer, and there have been many vice chiefs too. If there was an attempt on anybody's part to prevent the Sikh community from going up, it's a wrong perception,' says Bedi.

Brigadier (Retd.) Sant Singh says Sikhs have a distinct identity in the Indian armed forces and are hugely respected for it. 'There are two regiments that are exclusively for Sikhs - the Sikh Regiment and the Sikh Light Infantry. The government and authorities do not allow any clean shaven person to join these regiments. To join them, you have to keep full hair and a beard,' says Singh.