SIT launches probe into IAS officer’s video advocating religious conversion


PTI, Sep 29, 2021, 8:36 PM IST

Kanpur: An SIT set up by the Uttar Pradesh government on Wednesday launched its probe into the video clips purportedly showing a senior IAS officer advocating religious conversion in a meeting with Muslim clerics at his former official residence here.

As SIT chief and CB-CID Director-General G L Meena visited the city for the probe and held a meeting with his team members, AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi cried foul.

The video clips, which surfaced on Tuesday, feature former Kanpur”s Divisional Commissioner Mohammed Iftikharuddin discussing religious conversions with Muslim clerics at his office-cum residence here during his tenure in the city.

With the issue cropping up months ahead of the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections, it instantly assumed a political overtone.

In a tweet, AIMIM chief Owaisi alleged that the state government has taken up for probe a six-year-old video when it was not even in power.

He accused the UP government of taking up the probe “out of context” and termed it a “blatant targeted harassment based on religion”.

“If the parameter is that no officer should be connected to any religious activity, do prohibit the use of all religious symbols and images in government offices,” he said in his tweet.

“If merely discussing faith at home is a crime, punish all officers participating in public religious celebrations. Why this double standard?” the Hyderabad MP asked in another tweet.

Owaisi has announced that he would field 100 candidates in the upcoming UP assembly elections to create leadership among Muslims.

The SIT has been asked by the government to complete its probe in seven days.

SIT chief Meena has earlier declared that his team would gather evidence and record statements to complete the probe within its stipulated deadline.

Kanpur zone’s Additional Director General of Police and SIT member Bhanu Bhaskar”s assistant said after deliberating on the matter the probe team visited the divisional commissioner”s camp office where the purported videos were said to have been shot.

In one of the purported videos, Iftikharuddin is seen sitting with a group of men, apparently clerics, and is heard saying that it is their duty to spread Islam to every home.

In a related video, the 1985-batch IAS officer is purportedly seen sitting at a gathering where another man is talking provocatively about the merits of converting to Islam.

Iftikharuddin was the Kanpur divisional commissioner between 2014 and 2017.

Presently posted in Lucknow as the chairman of Uttar Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation, Iftikharuddin, on being confronted by a TV channel scribe, first denied being present at the gathering but later admitted that he was present there.

“What wrong did I say? I have been misinterpreted,” he had told the reporter in Hindi.

An official on condition of anonymity here said Iftikharuddin is said to be on medical leave after the videos went viral on social media and has left UP for his parental town Siwan in Bihar.

UP Transport Minister Ashok Kataria said the state government has already instituted a high-level probe and if the officer is found guilty, action will be initiated against him.

Meanwhile, demand for Iftikharuddin’s suspension has also been made to ensure a free and fair probe into the charges against him.

National vice president Bhupesh Awasthi of ”Math Mandir Samanvay Samiti” has demanded suspension of the UPSRTC chairman before starting the SIT probe.

He also submitted a memorandum, addressed to UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, to Kanpur Divisional Commissioner Raj Shekhar here on Wednesday morning.

Talking to PTI over phone, Awasthi said Iftikharuddin is a very senior officer of the rank of additional chief secretary and it is required that he be suspended for a free and fair probe.

Awasthi had earlier made a written complaint with the state government against the IAS officer and submitted copies of the videos.

It is, however, not clear as to who uploaded the videos, which had been shared widely on social media.

A few months back, UP enacted a law to curb conversion through force or deceit. In recent days, the state police has made several arrests, including those in Delhi, in connection with an alleged conversion racket.

The Uttar Pradesh Anti-Terrorist Squad had on Sunday arrested three men in connection with the alleged religious conversions.

 

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