By Min Kaur | BBC | LONDON |
For Sikhs, not cutting their hair and covering their hair with the turban is an essential part of their faith but the British establishment wasn’t ready to embrace the turban. The Wolverhampton bus station became the unlikely venue for a battle that changed the face of the UK.
One man, Tarsem Singh Sandhu, decided to make a stand against the bus bosses. My father featured in this report was also affected by the ban in other jobs when he came to the UK.
Both Tarsem Singh, my father and many other Sikhs had to face the agonising choice of cutting their hair and losing their turban or being sacked. It was a highly distressing experience.
Tarsem Singh says when he came to the UK in 1962 hardly anyone was wearing a turban and they would say you can’t get a job unless you cut your hair. He goes on to say it’s like you have had your arm cut off.
My father came to the UK in the 1970’s and he also could not get a job unless he cut his hair and he had no choice and he says how this affected him and made him cry at night because he did have his hair.
In 1966, when Tarsem returned to work after some time, he came in with his turban and reported to duty and they said you’re not wearing full uniform. His stand against this led him to get suspended from work and when word got out to the Sikh community a protest took place where over 6,000 people came to support him. This was the largest demonstration that took place in Wolverhampton.
Sohan Singh Jolly, who was inspired by Tarsem’s struggle, threatened to burn himself to death by a set date if the ban isn’t uplifted and a day before the ban got lifted.
My father says because of the battle Tarsem fought against my father can wear his turban and feels proud and is grateful for this.
Tarsem ends saying he didn’t do this for himself but for others.This is what you call a selfless sewadar!
See also BBC report, ‘The turban-wearing British bus driver who changed the law’, (BBC, 30 April 2019), here.
Comedic video talking about Sikh turban goes viral in US (Asia Samachar, 24 July 2019)
UK’s first turban wearing Sikh postman (Asia Samachar, 5 July 2019)