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‘Harassment & disrespect’: Indian govt urged to confront Spain after Sikh pilot forced to remove turban at Madrid airport

The dastaar literally means ‘dast-e-yaar’ or the hand of G-d and is an important part of the Sikh culture.

A prominent Sikh leader has called on New Delhi to confront the Spanish government, after an Indian Air Force pilot told him he was subjected to a ‘discriminatory’ search in Madrid.

The Sikh pilot, identified as Captain Simranjeet Singh Gujral, was reportedly harassed while passing through security at Madrid’s airport.

“The Madrid airport officials demanded him to remove his turban and asked for a manual check-up of his turban which is an offence in the eyes of a Sikh,” Manjinder Singh Sirsa, president of the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee and a member of the Delhi Legislative Assembly, wrote in a letter to External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar.

He noted that the air force captain was subjected to the invasive search even after clearing the airport’s metal detectors.

“Truly, this is a case of bias and racial attitude towards Sikhs at the Madrid airport,” Sirsa said.

Sharing his letter on Twitter, the Sikh politician expressed hope that the External Affairs Ministry would raise the issue on a “global level.” He also noted that Madrid airport officials “continue to hurt our sentiments and play the ‘ignorance’ card to their advantage.”

There are no reports so far of Madrid airport responding to the allegations. Sikhs are routinely subjected to discriminatory behavior while traveling or living abroad, usually on account of their distinctive headgear.

In April 2009, Capt. Kamaljit Singh Kalsi and 2nd Lt. Tejdeep Singh Rattan challenged a U.S. Army order that they remove their turbans and shave their beards. In March 2010, Rattan became the first Sikh to graduate Army Officer School at Fort Sam Houston since the exemption was eliminated in 1984; a waiver was granted for his religion.