For the best experience, open
on your mobile browser or Download our App.

UP's Kashi Temple Police Donning Saffron Robes Raises Eyebrows

The policemen wore saffron dhoti and kurta instead of khaki shirt and pants. The women officers wore saffron shalwar and kameez.
Police dressed in saffron attire instead of khaki uniform in Kashi, Varanasi. Photo: X@yadavakhilesh

Lucknow: Shortly after Yogi Adityanath came to power in Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, in 2017, Hinduisation seemed to be at the top of his agenda. It started with renaming cities and towns with Islamic associations. This was followed by changing the colour of government buildings and even state road transport buses to saffron, among other things.

These moves took a drastic turn 48 hours ago when policemen stationed at Varanasi’s Kashi Vishwanath temple were made to wear saffron robes. It wasn’t just about altering the colour of the official police uniform. It involved a transition from khaki shirt and pants to saffron dhoti and kurta for men, and saffron shalwar and kameez for women officers.

Whether this too follows a diktat from the top is not known.

Yet, the fact remains that the new Varanasi Police Commissioner Mohit Agarwal formally directed his team to do the makeover of the police engaged in the security of the Kashi Vishwanath temple. Prime Minister Narendra Modi redeveloped the temple as the grand Kashi Vishwanath corridor.

Agarwal is said to have expressed his desire to affect the change in uniform of these cops at a security review meeting for the temple that was held in Varanasi three days ago.

The news broke out only when the policemen on duty were seen in the new saffron attire barely 24 hours later.

“When I went for my daily morning darshan to the temple, I noticed that something was amiss, because I did not see any policemen inside the main shrine. I inquired and was told that the uniform of the cops has changed,” said a devotee who lives in the vicinity of the temple He said he usually starts his day with a darshan at the temple.

He told The Wire over the phone from Varanasi, “I fail to understand what good is this going to do to the security of the temple. Who doesn’t understand that men in khaki make all the difference in crowd control or regulation? Who is going to listen to these fellows clad in saffron clothes?”

However, this logic is either not understood by the official machinery or those at the helm of affairs and more keen on pleasing the political masters.

Given that the move has surprised a significant portion of the state police, it has become a subject of jokes throughout the region. However, there is also a faction of police officers who are pleased with the decision.

However, the common feeling is that this is the brainchild of those who are out to prove themselves as ‘more loyal than the king’. It comes as no surprise, given Yogi’s obsession for the saffron, that some  sycophants have chosen to go for this move, disregarding the state’s uniform rules.

“Every state police in entitled to its own rules for uniform, but if any change is affected in the uniform [rules], it can be done through a procedure, not on the basis of whims and fancies of any individual officer or politician,” said former director general of MP police Yashovardhan Azad, who was also the Central Information Commissioner.

However, a former UP Director General V.N. Rai is willing to give his junior colleagues the benefit of the doubt. He said, “Making cops dress up like the local priest could help them remain incognito inside the sanctum sanctorum of the temple to keep a quiet tab on mischief mongers. But surely such an arrangement would not work if all policemen engaged in temple security were to be made to wear this kind of uniform.”

Former IAS officer Vijai Shankar Pandey, who retired as secretary to the Government of India, finds the move “not only violative of the uniform rules but also in gross contravention of the Indian constitution.” According to him, “it sends a wrong message to the people in a secular, democratic nation like ours. Even if this has been done in pursuance of any diktat from above, it is the duty of an IPS officer to say “no” to such unconstitutional orders.”

Pandey feels that such practice should be discontinued, “otherwise don’t be surprised that over a period of time, cops wearing such dresses would start behaving like priests and not carry out their duties.”

However, Varanasi Police Commissioner Agarwal found nothing wrong with his order. “This is nothing new. Such an experiment was carried out  earlier as well. I have done [this] after consultation,” he claimed.

So don’t be surprised if the top cop in Varanasi also chooses to don the saffron – so what if it doesn’t help to improve policing, it will surely earn him many brownie points. For all you know, he is looking up to.

Make a contribution to Independent Journalism
facebook twitter