Sunday, November 16, 2014

Karnataka police circular asks officers to scrutinize passport applications from Muslims and Christians

Bangalore: A police circular asking officers to scrutinize deeper passport applications from Muslims and Christians have stirred a controversy in Karnataka, southern India. Amar Kumar Pandey, Additional Director General of Police (ADGP) of the Internal Security Wing, faxed the circular to police commissioners of Bangalore, Mysore, Mangalore, Hubli-Dharwad and Belgaum, all major cities in the state with sizeable population of minority groups.
The circular states “Apart from verifying the nationality of applicants clearing passport applications, police should find out religion and sub-sect details. In case of Muslims, they should find out if the applicant is Sunni or Shia. If s/he is Sunni, then delve deeper and find out if the applicant belongs to Deobandi or Barelvi or Ahle-Hadith sub sect. Similarly, if an applicant hails from the Christian community, details like Roman Catholic or Protestant etc should be collected.”
When quizzed by a city newspaper, Pandey defended himself saying he did it in the interest of national security by focusing on “developments across the world.” He refused to divulge further reasons for his issuing the circular saying it was in the interest of ‘security.’ Later he retracted on the circular saying it is “temporarily” withdrawn adding “at this moment, the circular issued by me is null and void. We will take a fresh call on it after remaining it after reexamining the matter. It may take three or four days.”
The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has however strongly criticized the action as it violated the stipulated procedures in the passport verification. Any officer in-charge of passport verification desiring to go beyond the stipulated guidelines in the interest of national security must get a written permission from the MHA. Though the circular is scrapped “temporarily,” the motivation behind Pandey’s action is still uncertain many have even raised concern over why he did not include any guidelines for verification of Hindu applicants.