Expresses regrets, says matter being investigated to ascertain facts and responsibilities
India summoned the Italian ambassador here on Wednesday and conveyed its “serious unhappiness” over golfer Jeev Milkha Singh's coach being asked to take off his turban during a security check at the Milan airport.
Ambassador Giacomo Sanfelice di Monteforte expressed his regrets over the incident and said the matter was being investigated to ascertain facts and responsibilities.
“The matter is very disturbing. It has already been brought to the highest level in Rome and Milan. Investigation is on to ascertain facts and responsibilities. To this, personally I add my deep regrets,'' the ambassador told journalists after meeting senior MEA official Vivek Katju.
On Tuesday, Jeev Milkha Singh's coach Amritinder Singh was asked to take off his turban while undergoing a security check at the Milan airport. This was the second time in a week that the coach was subjected to this treatment.
While there was widespread indignation over the incident, Congress MP Pratap Singh Bajwa said the ambassador had termed it a “regrettable but isolated incident.”
Around 10,000 Indians live in Italy and many of them are Sikhs. “I would like to mention that regulations concerning security checks at Italian airports have specific provisions for Sikhs which are fully compatible with the religious sentiments of your community,” wrote the ambassador to Mr. Bajwa.
“I can confirm to you that I have personally taken up the matter with competent Italian authorities in order to ensure that existing rules of procedure concerning security checks will in future be implemented by all officers on duty at Malpensa [Milan] airport,'' he said.
In the Rajya Sabha, External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna said the incident was being taken up as a “national insult.” He was responding to S.S. Ahluwalia's (Bharatiya Janata Party) charge that the government was unable to convince Italy that the turban for Sikhs was a symbol of religious respect.
“Why this lip service?”
He also pointed out that this incident had occurred despite the ambassador expressing regrets over the earlier episode on March 15 at the same airport.
“What is the use of the Italian envoy's regret? What is the use of lip service?” he wanted to know.
To this Mr. Krishna said: “Whenever incidents of this kind have been reported to us, we have immediately taken them up with all the seriousness that they deserved so that they do not recur. But in some countries, they keep recurring unfortunately.”
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 added.
The Minister shared the concern of members over attacks on Indian nationals overseas and assured them that the welfare of Indians going for jobs and studies abroad was of the utmost importance to the government.