An order issued by the Rajasthan police prohibiting the construction of places of worship in police stations has evoked mixed reactions, with the Opposition BJP targeting the Congress Government for disturbing a tradition followed since before Independence. However,
civil rights groups here have supported the circular.
Additional Director General of Police (Police Housing) A. Ponnuchami stated in the circular, issued on Monday, that the Rajasthan Religious Places and Buildings Act, 1954, disallowed the religious use of public places. The circular asked all Superintendents of Police and other unit in-charges to ensure strict compliance with the Act.
Mr. Ponnuchami said a trend had been witnessed during recent years on the construction of places of worship with public participation in police stations and office complexes on the pretext of faith. “There is no provision for such construction in the building plans drafted and approved for the police offices,” he said.
The People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) said on Wednesday that the law was clear that public places, including government properties, could not have any religious structure. “Temple construction in police stations is in complete violation of the Act [of 1954] and the growth of temples amounts to a brazen encroachment on public land,” PUCL State president Kavita Srivastava said.
While expecting that other departments and District Collectors would follow suit, Ms. Srivastava said mere issuance of a circular would not change the situation and the authorities trying to enforce the law would face a backlash from the Hindutva forces. “The next logical step is the booking of criminal cases against the Station House Officers who allow such constructions,” she said.
The PUCL had in the first decade of the millennium conducted a survey in the State Secretariat, High Court and other government buildings in Jaipur, and found that more than two dozen temples existed in the courtyards and inside various offices.
However, the BJP said the “illogical” order had exposed the Congress government’s “anti-Hindu face”, as conducting worship in police stations was an old tradition in the country and the police were a “self-disciplined force” capable of preventing illegal constructions inside police stations.