The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Cops cross over close shave
- Minority panel backs policemen plea to wear long beards

The beard of contention now finds itself torn between city police norms and minority commission protests.

Some Muslim policemen have complained to the minority commission that they have been refused permission to keep “long, flowing beards” and even threatened with punitive action. The minority commission, in turn, has written to the state government recommending amendments in the law “to allow Muslim policemen to keep their beards on grounds of religion”.

Commission chairman K.M. Yusuf confirmed on Monday that he had sent a letter to the government to “expedite a decision” on the recommendation. “The rules were framed in the Raj and they should be amended. I have also asked the director-general of police, D.C. Vajpai, and police commissioner Sujoy Chakraborty not to take any action against policemen with flowing beards till the government takes a decision on the matter,’’ Yusuf added.

The beard battle comes in the wake of a policeman in Murshidabad being suspended for saying no to the blade. The suspension was revoked after the minority commission stepped in.

Police have opposed the minority commission recommendations, arguing that it could set a dangerous precedent of personnel citing religion to bend the rules. The home department has, reportedly, refused permission to the eight city policemen who have raised the issue.

Citing Section 684 (A) of the Police Regulation of Bengal, 1943, a senior official of the home department said: “Only Sikhs and Punjabi Muslims are allowed to grow a beard. Any other cop is permitted to do so only on medical grounds.’’

But no action has yet been initiated against the ‘errant’ policemen. Two officials of the Tollygunge traffic guard were spotted on Monday, sporting flowing beards. Their ‘service records’ revealed that they had not obtained special permission to keep their beards.

Additional commissioner of police Damodar Sarengi said that a policeman is not permitted to keep a beard to maintain “uniformity in service and a smart look’’.

The Muslim clergy, however, has protested this point. “It is an infringement of our religious sentiments. In a democratic and secular country, we have the right to practise our religious beliefs and follow the rules,’’ said Haji Saud Alam, a Muslim leader who runs a madarsa in Topsia.

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