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Slugfest over Karnataka cops dressed in saffron, Siddaramaiah calls it ‘UP-like jungle raj’

Congress leaders hit out at Bommai’s BJP govt, while senior police official says cops were celebrating ‘Ayudha Pooja’ and have been asked to be more careful about clothes.

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Bengaluru: A fresh political slugfest has broken out in Karnataka after photographs of police personnel sporting saffron clothes outside police stations Thursday (14 October) surfaced on social media and went viral.

In the photos, the staff of the Vijayapura rural police, including the SP, are seen wearing white clothes and saffron shawls. At the Kaup police station in Udupi, personnel were spotted wearing saffron shirts and white dhotis, or saffron saris.

The photos took a political turn Sunday after leader of opposition in the Karnataka assembly, Congress’ Siddaramaiah, used them to accuse the Basavaraj Bommai-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government of turning Karnataka into an “Uttar Pradesh-like jungle raj”. Former CM Siddaramaiah has been engaged in a Twitter war of sorts with Bommai since last Wednesday, and demanded the CM’s resignation.

Karnataka Congress president D.K. Shivakumar also raised the matter Monday on his social media pages.

“Why have you changed only uniforms for the police, Mr Bommai? Hand them a trident and the permission to carry out violence as well. That way, your dream of establishing a jungle raj will be complete,” Siddaramaiah lashed out at Bommai Sunday.

“Police in Karnataka seem to be taking a cue from the chief minister’s defence of moral policing and have locked up the law of the land inside their police stations. Karnataka has an honourable history of impeccable and pro-people governance. This is not your Yogi Adityanath’s Jungle Raj. If Mr Bommai is not able to provide a constitutionally sound government, then he must resign and go home,” Siddaramaiah said.

Shivakumar added: “Our police forces are bound by constitutional provisions to ensure law and order, by rising above all distinctions. By donning colour of a political outfit, what kind of an example is Karnataka police setting? Will @CMofKarnataka and @DGPKarnataka look into this serious matter?”

BJP leaders like national general secretary C.T. Ravi have been defending the police personnel and countering the Congress’ attack.

“Where is it written in the Constitution that Saffron clothes should not be worn by our Police forces? It is amusing to watch CONgress leaders invoke the Constitution to peddle their narrative. Saffron colour is part of our National Flag,” Ravi said in response to Shivakumar.

Also read: Gandhis alone can keep Congress united, Rahul must now take charge, Siddaramaiah says

Advisory sent to police personnel after incident

While the political battle rages, senior Karnataka police officials have taken note of the concerns raised over the photos.

Speaking to ThePrint, Devajyoti Ray, Inspector General of Police (Western Range), under which Kaup police station falls, said the photos were from the day of Ayudha Pooja (worship of instruments) and did not intend to show any particular inclination.

“It was a festival day and Ayudha Pooja is celebrated in all police stations. The staff had only dressed up in festive attire, but there was no intention to express inclination or allegiance to any spectrum or organisation,” the IG said.

He added that an advisory has been sent to all personnel involved that more caution should be exercised in the future. “We have advised the personnel concerned that clothes that project neutrality must be maintained,” Ray said.

But former state home minister and Congress leader Ramalinga Reddy insisted that policemen on duty displaying saffron clothes was a violation of police manual rules that mandates officers to be neutral and secular.

“Station House Officers of both the stations should be suspended immediately over this violation. The chief minister’s attempt to appease the Sangh Parivar is trickling down to all institutions, and it must stop,” Reddy told ThePrint.

A senior IPS officer told ThePrint that the controversy was “unnecessary”. The IGP-rank officer said celebrations of Ayudha Pooja were common in police stations, just like other offices.

“The policemen in the photos are accompanied by their family members as well. Senior officials wear skull caps to greet Muslim brethren on Eid outside mosques too. There is no specific prohibition of sporting clothes of any colour in the police manual,” the officer insisted.

(Edited by Shreyas Sharma)

Also read: Christians cry foul as Karnataka House panel orders church ‘survey to check forced conversions’


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