The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Beard proves costly for jawan

Calcutta, Nov. 28: A BSF constable, Ali Mohammed Khan, was allegedly tortured by his boss and threatened with a transfer to Manipur and other dire consequences for seeking permission to grow a beard.

The 27-year-old was transferred to Manipur last night. The order said he has to leave for the north-eastern state by 5 this morning.

A couple of months ago, Khan had sent written complaints to senior officers, including BSF inspector-general Somesh Goyal, narrating his predicament. No one responded.

He finally met members of the Tipu Sultan Masjid Committee in Calcutta last week and told them about the “torture” by commanding officer Ajay Singh.

A 15-member delegation led by the secretary of the committee, Aziz Mubarki, met additional BSF director-general G.S. Gill this afternoon to protest against the treatment meted out to Khan.

“Initially, he refused to meet us. Later, two of us were allowed to see him. We discussed the problems and requested him to allow Khan to grow a beard and withdraw his transfer order,” Mubarki said.

After the meeting, Khan was permitted to grow the beard. Mubarki said: “His transfer (order) has been withdrawn for the time being. A fact-finding panel has been formed to look into the allegations.”

Gill refused comment.

Goyal admitted to have received Khan’s complaint. “He has been allowed to grow a beard but I do not know whether his transfer order has been revoked. You ask the ADG about it,” Goyal told The Telegraph tonight.

Commanding officer Ajay Singh, too, declined comment when contacted.

According to rules, anyone can grow a beard with permission from his commanding officer. Only Sikhs are an exception — they do not need the permission.

“A member of the force belonging to the Muslim community may be permitted to grow a beard on religious grounds. A supervisory officer not below the rank of commandant or equivalent may permit a member of the force under his control to grow a beard,” says a Government of India order.

A resident of Hyderabad, Khan joined the BSF as a con-stable in August 1999. He was transferred to Amdanga in North 24-Parganas in 2001.

Three years later, he was transferred to Manipur. He joined the 100 Battalion in Amdanga again in March 2006.

“I was shocked to be transferred to Manipur again last night. I was asked to leave early in the morning. It was deliberately done and I was very sacred. It was only in the afternoon that I came to know that the order had been withdrawn for the time being,” Khan said over the phone.

In August 2004, he first wrote to Singh, for permission to grow a beard. “But he became very angry. One day he called me in his office and hurled abuses at me. He threatened to kill me when I told him that my demand was justified according to rules,” Khan said. The same treatment started on his return to Amdanga in 2006.

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