New Delhi: A five year old video clip of a gathering at a senior IAS official’s home where the virtues of Islam are being discussed has prompted the Uttar Pradesh government to order an inquiry by a special investigation team.
In one of the videos, Uttar Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation (UPSRTC) chairman Mohammed Iftikharuddin is seen sitting with a group of men, apparently clerics. He is heard quoting Ayat 158 of the Surah Araafa which says all is God’s nizaamat and that after the last prophet, it is the duty of individuals to carry ‘deen’ to all of humanity.
In a related video, there is a gathering where another man is talking about how in Punjab someone came to him saying he wanted to convert to Islam after seeing his sister burning in the pyre after her death.
The videos were said to be taken at Iftikharuddin’s official residence when he was the Kanpur divisional commissioner between 2014 and 2017.
Since propagating a religion or extolling its virtue is not an offence, it is not clear what crime the SIT intends to investigate. Inviting a religious preacher to one’s officially allotted accommodation is also not a crime. However UP minister of law and justice Brajesh Pathak said the place where the IAS officer is sitting and preaching seems to be a government property, “which is not at all appropriate legally or constitutionally”, he claimed.
The state government is particularly strict on the matter of religious conversion, Pathak added. “We have even made a strict law regarding that. We will take strict action against anyone who tries to convert people using force or any kind of lure.”
The videos, however, do not indicate the use or threat of force, or of any kind of allurement. And they were made five years before UP’s new anti-conversion law.
NDTV reports that the videos were shared among others by the verified Twitter account of Neeraj Jain, deputy mayor of the Ajmer municipal corporation. His Twitter profile describes Jain as a former national vice president of the BJP’s youth wing and an RSS worker.
Iftikharuddin, who is currently posted in state capital Lucknow, told a TV channel that he had said nothing objectionable in the video that its reporter showed him.
Nevertheless, the government has ordered a probe by the SIT, an official said.
The team will be headed by DG CB-CID G L Meena and ADG Bhanu Bhaskar will be its member. It will send its report to the government in seven days, the official said.
National Vice President of ‘Math Mandir Samanvai Samiti’ Bhupesh Awasthi has made a written complaint with the state government against the IAS officer and submitted copies of the videos.
Deputy chief minister Keshav Prasad Maurya, who was on a visit to the district and neighbouring Unnao on Monday, said the inquiry was instituted into the matter when his attention was drawn to the videos.
Meanwhile, Kanpur police Commissioner Asim Arun told PTI that the investigation to verify the authenticity of the videos has been handed to ADCP East, Somedra Meena. “It is being investigated whether the video is authentic,” he said.
A few months ago, UP enacted a controversial law to curb forced conversions. In recent days and weeks, the state police have made several arrests, including in Delhi, under the law. The arrested men, Muslim clerics, have denied the charges.
The Uttar Pradesh Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) had on Sunday arrested three men in connection with alleged religious conversions. The ATS said that while two were residents of Muzaffarnagar in UP, the third one hailed from Nashik in Maharashtra.
Bithoor BJP MLA Abhijeet Singh Sanga called the IAS officer a “literate Aurangzeb”.
“I would ask Kanpur divisional commissioner Raj Shekhar to purify the commissioner camp office compound with ‘gangajal’ obtained from Bithoor,” Sanga told PTI.
(With PTI inputs)