TURBAN TURMOIL: Buckingham Palace guard given permission to ditch traditional bearskin hat

Published: December 3, 2012

Members of the horseguards brigade fix their hats along the Processional Route to Buckingham Palace before the wedding of Britain’s Prince William and Kate Middleton in London on April 29, 2011. Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP/Getty Images

VANCOUVER DESI

An Indian-origin Sikh set to be the first person guarding Buckingham Palace in his turban after being given the privilege not to wear the mandatory bearskin on ceremonial duties has ignited a debate all over the world.

Guardsman Jatinderpal Singh Bhullar, 25, who joined the Scots Guards this year, has been given permission to wear a turban when on guard duty outside Buckingham Palace, breaking hundreds of years of tradition, the Daily Mail reported Sunday.

The regiment traces its origin back to 1642 and its soldiers have worn bearskins on parade since 1832.

Bhullar is based at Wellington Barracks in Birdcage Walk. The base is used by soldiers from the Scots Guards’ F Company, who are responsible for public duties and guarding the Queen.

According to military sources, Bhullar, from Birmingham, is expected to parade for the first time next week. When he marches with his colleagues he will become the first guardsman not to wear a bearskin headgear.

As a devout Sikh, it is mandatory for Bhullar to wear a turban. It is intended to protect his hair, which he never cuts, and to keep them clean.

For centuries, Sikhs have worn turbans in battle and fought as part of the British Army – including Bhullar’s grandfather, who served in World War II.

The step, however, has irked some serving non-commissioned officers based at Wellington Barracks, who are furious that the Ministry of Defence (MoD) compromised centuries of history for one soldier.

Jatinderpal Singh Bhullar is photographed during military airborne training. Submitted photo/Facebook

Traditionalists in the Scots Guards say the allowances made for Bhullar will make the whole company look ridiculous to tourists and onlookers.

David Cuthill, chairman of the Dundee branch, told the Daily Mail the guardsmen will look “ridiculous” if Bhullar wears a turban instead of a bearskin.

“It should be regiment first and religion second. A guardsman is not a guardsman if he’s not wearing his bearskin,” he said.

“Hundreds of years of tradition should be protected. I appreciate his predicament, but if all the other guardsmen are in bearskins and he is in a turban, it is going to look ridiculous.”

According to the newspaper, this sentiment was shared by a number of other serving non-commissioned officers based at the Wellington Barracks, where Bhullar is based.

Bhullar is one of only 20 to 25 British-born Sikhs in the British Army.

An MoD spokeswoman said: “The Army takes great pride in its diversity. Discussions are underway between this unit, the Sikh community and the MoD. The individual will have the full support of the Army and his colleagues.”

- with files from IANS






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