An order by the Alwar SP directs nine policemen to cut their beard with immediate effect. The policemen for whom the order has been issued belong to the Mev community (Muslims) and they had earlier been given permission to keep a beard. The order issued on Wednesday revokes the earlier permission.
While police service rules say that policemen cannot keep a beard, permission can be granted or withdrawn by the department head which in this case is the district Superintendent of Police (SP).
Answering media queries Alwar SP Anil Parish Deshmukh said, “Law and order duties of the police require that policemen should not just be impartial, they should also look impartial. The basic aim behind this order is that it aims to enhance all forms of impartiality during functioning.”
Deshmukh added “The state government has provisions that give rights to department head to grant such permissions. 32 persons had been given permission to keep a beard. The recently granted permissions have been withdrawn. Rest of the permissions continue. In case they wish to challenge it, they can give a representation. Decision will be taken as per rules.”
Sources within the department say that there had been complaints against these nine constables from within the department. It is alleged that they had reflected religious bias in functioning and with co workers. A discreet inquiry was conducted into the allegations and they were found correct. Sources further add that this has been the reason for revoking the permission to keep a beard.
There are rumblings in the Mev community against the order. Sher Mohammad, head of Mev panchayat expressed ire at the move, “This is an absurd and biased order. It has hurt our religious sentiments. Article 25 of the Constitution says that a person can maintain his religious identity if he performs his duty properly.
He went on to add, “The affected policemen have come to meet me they have said that they can sacrifice their job, but will not cut the beard. The SP’s behaviour can affect the peace of the city. I demand that the government issues a notice to the SP and he be asked why the permission was withdrawn.”
State BJP vice president Gyandev Ahuja, of the anti-JNU comments fame, was of the opinion that the order would for maintaining discipline and ensure smooth functioning. “The policemen should follow the order. There is nothing religious about it,” said Ahuja.
Situated on the Rajasthan Haryana border, Alwar is increasingly turning into a communally polarised district. With the Mev community expressing resentment against the police order, the issue shows all possibilities of escalating into a political controversy.