London: The British army's first Sikh soldier allowed to wear a turban rather than a bearskin on ceremonial duties has suffered abuse from his colleagues over his headgear and his refusal to cut hair and his beard, a media report on Sunday said. Guardsman Jatinderpal Singh Bhullar, 25, who joined the Scots guards this year, has been given permission to wear a turban outside Buckingham Palace, breaking hundreds of years of tradition.
The decision by Army bosses has proved controversial with Bhullar's fellow soldiers. "The Army's Sikh chaplain has told The Mail on Sunday that Bhullar has endured taunts about his turban and his refusal to cut his hair and his beard," the Daily Mail said in a report.
Bhullar is based at Wellington Barracks in Birdcage Walk. The base is used by soldiers from the Scots Guards' F Compan, who at present are responsible for public duties and guarding the Queen. According to military sources, Bhullar, who is from Birminghan, is expected to parade for the first time next week.
When he marches with his colleagues he will become the first guardsman not wear a bearskin, the report said. Traditionalists in the Scots Guard say the allowances made for Bhullar will make the whole company look ridiculous to tourists and onlookers. The regiment traces its origins back to 1642 and its soldiers have worn bearskins on parade since 1832.
According to the daily, it was initially approached by serving non-commissioned officers based at Wellington Barracks, who were angry that the MoD had compromised centuries of history for the sake of one soldier. The soldier's father has spoken of his pride and condemned the bullies.
Surinder Bhullar, 47, from Slough, Berkshire, said: "He deserves respect and he will stay strong. That includes wearing his turban instead of a bearskin, no matter what other soldiers say. He is observing his religion". The argument presented by Bhullar's colleagues was backed by senior members of the Scots Guards' regimental association.
Unlike serving personnel, these retired officers are allowed to speak publicly. David Cuthill, chairman of the Dundee branch, said on Sunday, "It should be regiment first and religion second. A guardsman is not a guardsman if he's not wearing his bearskin. 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".