India on Wednesday said dishonour to the Sikhs is a national insult and the government takes serious note of the incident in which golfer Jeev Milkha Singh’s coach Amritinder Singh was forced to remove his turban at Milan airport last week.

Assuring the Rajya Sabha that the issue would be taken up with Italy, External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna said, “Whenever there is an insult to Sikhs, we take it as national insult. We take it up in that spirit.”

He was responding to senior BJP leader S. S. Ahluwalia who said during Zero Hour that the Indian government was not able to convince Italy that turban for Sikhs was a symbol of religious respect.

Mr. Ahluwalia said the turban is “Guru’s blessings” and “we cannot tolerate insult” to it in a country where the Prime Minister is a Sikh.

He said the Italian Ambassador expressed regrets over the first incident at the Milan airport, when Jeev’s coach was asked to remove the turban and put it in the tray where shoes were screened. Jeev and his coach were travelling on March 15 to participate in the Sicillian Open.

The coach was meted out the same treatment on his return by the same security officer, Mr. Ahluwalia said asking, “What is the use of the Italian envoy’s regret...what is the use of lip service?”

He said, “Italy is very dear to our country and India is very dear to Italy” but these incidents occur.

The BJP leader said the Italian envoy should be summoned to the External Affairs Ministry and asked what his regret meant if such incidents recur.

Mr. Krishna said the turban of Sikhs shows the majesty and diversity that India stands for. It is not a piece of cloth but a symbol of national pride, he said.

Sharing the concerns of members over attacks on Indian nationals abroad, he said welfare of Indians going for jobs and studies abroad was of utmost importance to the government.

“Whenever incidents of this kind have been reported to us, we have immediately taken it up with all seriousness that it deserved so that they do not recur. But in some countries, they keep recurring unfortunately,” he said.

Referring to the recent incident of rape and murder of an Indian in Australia, Mr. Krishna said, “I will take it up with the Australian Ambassador. We will call the Ambassador. He has been repeatedly called and we have given our views.”

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