Wednesday, June 30, 2010

‘Is sporting a beard in the city a crime?’

Civil Engineer Mohammed Saleem

Mateen Hafeez | TNN

A 42-year-old Muslim civil engineer was on Monday bundled off to a police station, detained and grilled about his identity for over four hours and then let off with an advice not to sport “such a long beard’’. He was picked up for his “suspicious movement’’ in front of the Israeli consulate.

Mohammad Saleem not only had to spend more than four hours at the police station and take two havaldars to his residence by taxi—to get his identity proof documents—and treat them to soft drinks and tea, but also answer “extremely humiliating’’ questions.

Saleem, working for a private construction firm, had gone to the Earnest House I-T office to submit some files on his employer’s behalf. He finished his work and came out of the building and was looking up some numbers on his new cellphone when his troubles started. Saleem did not know that the neighbouring building housed the Israeli consulate. “I was checking my new phone when a person came up to me and asked me who I was. He was joined by others who took me back to the I-T office to check if what I had said was true,’’ he added.

It was only later that he realised that the persons who had got hold of him were from the Israeli consulate. “An Israeli, too, was there and security staff took my cellphone to check if I had clicked any photographs,’’ Saleem said.

But, despite nothing amiss being found, the security staff called up the Marine Drive cops, who took Saleem to the police station. It was here that Saleem learnt that sporting “such a long beard’’ in the vicinity of the Israeli consulate was something that could land an Indian citizen in trouble.

“I repeatedly requested the policemen to allow me to make a call, but they did not pay any heed to my request. They recorded my statement, took my residential address, my office address and then allowed me to make one call to my employer who spoke to the cops on my behalf,’’ Saleem added. “What was more offensive was that an official from the Israeli consulate and a security guard abused me in front of the police officers,’’ he said.

Israeli consulate-general Orna Sagiv was in Bangalore and said she did not know of the case. “The cops will possibly be able to give you more details,’’ she added.

Two cops then took Saleem to his residence in a cab to check if he really stayed in Mumbai and it was only after they returned to the police station and gave him a clean chit that he was allowed to leave.

Additional police commissioner R K Padmanabhan said, “If required, I will ask for an inquiry into it.’’

The Times of India, June 30, 2010

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