UP Home Guard DG S.K. Shukla claims he was trying to “facilitate a consensus among Hindu and Muslim communities over the issue of the Ram temple.”
New Delhi: In a clear indictment of Director General of Uttar Pradesh Home Guard, Surya Kumar Shukla, who was caught on video taking a pledge to get the Ram temple in Ayodhya constructed “as soon as possible”, the Indian Police Service Association has distanced itself from the “act” of the officer and declared that it was “against the ethos of neutrality, fairness and uprightness that the Indian Police Service stands for”.
In the video, Shukla was seen taking the pledge at an event, ‘Ram Mandir samasya aur samadhan’, which was organised by the Akhil Bhartiya Samagra Vichar Manch at the Department of Public Administration’s building in Lucknow University.
Shot on January 28, just two days after violence took place at Kasganj in the state during the Tiranga bike rally organised by some right wing groups on Republic Day, the video showed Shukla taking a pledge along with other participants. He was heard pledging to work for the construction of the Ram temple: “Aaj is karyakram ke dauran, hum sab ye sankalp lete hain ke jaldse jald Ram Mandir ka bhavya nirmaan ho… Jai Shri Ram (Today, at this programme, all of us take a pledge that the Ram temple is made as soon as possible… Jai Shri Ram).”
As the video went viral, it drew a lot of flak including from a large number of former police officers who felt that Shukla had violated the oath to the constitution by taking this pledge.
The IPS Association also reacted strongly to it. It tweeted and issued a message on its Facebook page condemning Shukla’s action. “We disassociate ourselves from the act of a senior IPS officer as shown in the video & reiterate that it is against the ethos of neutrality, fairness and uprightness that Indian Police Service stands for,” the association said.
We disassociate ourselves from the act of a senior #IPS officer as shown in the video & reiterate that it is against the ethos of neutrality, fairness and uprightness that Indian Police Service stands for. pic.twitter.com/PoAxmlFBfL
— IPS Association (@IPS_Association) February 2, 2018
For his part, Shukla had defended his action by saying he had been invited to the seminar “to facilitate a consensus among Hindu and Muslim communities over the issue of the Ram temple.”
He told Indian Express that “the issue is being blown out of proportion” since the Supreme Court had also directed that a solution be found through discussions. “This event was an effort by some Muslims and I had gone there after being invited as I felt it was a good move. I do not find anything wrong with being part of the programme,” he was quoted as saying. As for the pledge, he has asked “What is wrong? I just said ‘Ram Mandir ka nirman ho’ (I just said Ram temple be constructed).”
Though Central Training Institute, Home Guards, later issued a statement saying, “it would be appropriate to build the Ram temple in the future” and that “everybody pledged to find out solution of this problem in future”, and State Principal Secretary (Home) declared that there was no need for seeking any further clarification from Shukla, constitutional experts found his actions to be totally against the oath to protect the constitution.
Senior advocate Prashant Bhushan demanded that the police officer be sacked for the misdemeanour. “Totally against his oath to protect constitution. Must be sacked,” he tweeted.
Yogi Raj means Goonda Raj.A DGP takes oath to build temple at the earliest with saffron gang!Totally against his oath to protect Constitution. Must be sacked. But will be rewarded like ANI reporter who carried false story of threat to Chandan’s father,to get gun licence from govt pic.twitter.com/QJgXUzCzAu
— Prashant Bhushan (@pbhushan1) February 3, 2018
Senior Supreme Court advocate Kamini Jaiswal too agreed that Shukla’s action amounted to misconduct and that action should be taken against him in accordance with the law.
“It is actually misconduct and action should be taken against him. He can’t be instigating people knowing the background as to what has happened and the matter is still in court. It only shows his bent of mind and he is not fit to be an officer to take care of the law and order situation. Action in accordance with law should be taken against him,” she said.
On the officer claiming that the event was called to create harmony, Jaiswal said what has happened “is the biggest kind of disharmony. He should have given a more neutral statement. What is the message you are sending to the minority community – that even the law enforcing agency would work towards building the temple.”
The opinion among the senior retired police officers, however, appeared divided in the matter.
S. Banerjee, who retired as director general of the Railway Protection Force, insisted that Shukla should not have taken the oath of constructing the Ram temple. “You cannot do it. You have no business to be taking such an oath. It is completely illegal what he has done. You are supposed to take an oath to the Constitution stating that I will uphold the interest of my state and remain neutral in my life. I think this person doesn’t deserve his rank.”
On the officer pleading innocence that this event was organised to create harmony between the two communities, Banerjee said, “What nonsense. How does it allow him to take an oath over there. He should not have taken the oath. In my opinion he should have ideally even avoided going to such an event itself.”
Another retired IPS officer, Ajay Agarwal, who retired as director general (prisons) in Delhi, however, defended Shukla’s conduct, saying practicing religion was a personal choice.
“There is no controversy in this. This is his own personal matter. This is his religion and if he has taken a pledge, I don’t think there is a problem with that. So what if he is a serving officer. By serving in the government you don’t leave your religion. And he has not said anything controversial. He has only said that the mandir would be constructed. What is wrong with that? He has not said that we will get the temple constructed forcefully or that we will remove the Babri mosque and construct it. He has only said the temple would be constructed and there is nothing wrong in that.”
Agarwal insisted that such a statement did not amount to a violation of the oath to the constitution. “What is the oath in the constitution, that you will not follow your religion? He has not said anything contravening the constitution, has he? By taking the pledge in the open, he has not done anything extra-constitutional. I think it is good that he has recognised his religion. This has not interfered with his government duties. Constitution does not debar you from practicing and professing your own religion.”