//3 Muslim cops ordered to shave off beards

3 Muslim cops ordered to shave off beards

Beed district SP says they can't keep a beard without a senior cop's permission

C Unnikrishnan, August 22, 2006, Mumbai Mirror

 Constable Sheikh Riyaz, before and after the shave


Three Muslim constables in Beed in the Marathwada region of Maharashtra have been forced to shave off their beard by district superintendent of police Santosh Rastogi.

First asked to take off the beards on July 18 this year, the constables — Sheikh Riyaz (seen in picture), Pathan Lalla and Sheikh Mansoor — finally removed them last week after repeated warnings of disciplinary action by the SP.

However, following a complaint filed with the State Minorities Commission, Deputy Chief Minister R R Patil has intervened and asked the police department not to implement the SP’s decision.

Sources said that at a meeting held on July 18, Rastogi, seeing constable Shabir Gulab sporting a beard, asked him: “Have you obtained permission to grow a beard? If you have, produce the written order. If you haven’t, you’ll have to shave off the beard immediately or else face action.”

Rastogi asked eight Muslim constables too to remove their beards on the basis of an April 2002 government resolution that requires Muslim cops to take permission of superiors if they want to keep a beard. That permission can be granted only during the month of Ramzan, the GR states. Mumbai Mirror has a copy of recordings of the meeting.

After Rastogi warned of action several times, three of the nine constables decided to do away with the beard on Thursday last.

However, NCP district youth president Sayyed Naved Uzma wrote to the State Minorities Commission seeking a detailed probe. “This is tantamount to hurting religious sentiments. There are some junior officers who are targetting the minority community,” Uzma told this paper.

Vice-chairman of the Minorities Commission Abraham Mathai confirmed receiving the complaint. “If one’s religious practices do not interfere with one’s duties towards the state, they should not be infringed upon. I cannot comment further till I study the matter,’’ he said.

Rastogi said he did not want to comment on the matter but state Director-General of Police P S Pasricha, currently out of Mumbai,  said, “I’m aware of this matter but can comment only after I read the case file when I return to Mumbai in a couple of days. The rule, however, is that any policeman has to take permission from the commissioner or superintendent of police to grow a beard. This permission is for a particular time, say Shravan for Hindus or Ramzan for Muslims and cannot be indefinite.”

R R Patil clarified there were no recent directives to invoke the GR. “I am looking into the matter,” he said. Legal experts said a Delhi high court order of 2002 permits Muslims in the armed forces and the police to grow a beard as part of the religious obligation.