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regular-article-logo Monday, 27 May 2024

Row over violation of police dress code as cops in Kashi Vishwanath temple don priest robes

Cops deployed inside the shrine for crowd management have shed their khaki uniforms for red and saffron and donned the tilak and rudraksh to look like priests, the idea apparently being to make the devotees more comfortable

Piyush Srivastava Lucknow Published 14.04.24, 06:34 AM
Police in priests’ robes at the Kashi Vishwanath Temple in Varanasi.

Police in priests’ robes at the Kashi Vishwanath Temple in Varanasi. Sourced by the Telegraph

Telling police from priest may have become a little difficult for visitors to the Kashi Vishwanath temple in Varanasi.

Cops deployed inside the shrine for crowd management have shed their khaki uniforms for red and saffron and donned the tilak and rudraksh to look like priests, the idea apparently being to make the devotees more comfortable.

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The move, implemented since Friday, has drawn accusations of violation of the police dress code and of an election gimmick. It has also prompted the question whether the lawkeepers' uniform can feature symbols of a particular religion in a secular country.

The eight policemen posted inside the temple are in red dhoti-kurta, sporting a white gamchha printed with images of the kalash and the swastika. They have a rudraksh mala around their necks and a tilak on the forehead.

Their four female colleagues are in saffron salwar-kurta and a dupatta printed with salutations to Shiva.

However, police personnel posted at the temple gates and outside are in the usual khaki uniform.

Varanasi police commissioner Mohit Agrawal said the move would help crowd management inside the temple.

“People don’t mind when the sewadars (helpers of the priests) ask them to move fast and often shout at them. They also push the devotees sometimes to keep the sanctum sanctorum area less crowded,” he said.

“However, the devotees react when the police do it. So, we decided to give priest-like dresses to the police on duty there.”

The priests tend to wear red or yellow dhoti-kurta while the sewadars wear red, yellow or white.

Agarwal said the policemen wouldn’t touch any devotees and only request them to cooperate. He said any new police personnel deployed inside the temple will first have to undergo three days’ training in how to earn the respect of the devotees.

A similar decision to have the police dress like priests when deployed at the temple had to be withdrawn in 2018 following opposition from some of the priests.

Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav said the move violated the police dress code.

“It is not important what they (government) want to do, what is important are the rules,” he said.

“Those who have given this order should be suspended immediately. Thugs may enter the temple in such dress and cheat the devotees.”

A senior police officer in Mathura said the state government had the right under the law to decide the police uniform.

Senior Congress leader Dwijendra Tripathi said: “The government wants to run the country with the help of fake religiosity. Such decisions are taken by the BJP government to deceive voters and get them to believe they are truly religious. The fact is that they are playing ugly tricks to win the election.”

In 2021, then BJP-ruled Karnataka had witnessed howls of protest when some police personnel reported for duty wearing saffron clothes as part of the Vijaya Dashami celebrations.

Policemen had turned up at Bijapur police station in white kurta-pyjamas and saffron shawls; policemen at Kaup in Udupi wore white dhotis and saffron shirts while their women colleagues sported saffron saris.

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