The Tamil Nadu govertnmen has barred a bureaucrat from preaching Christianity in the state because such activities were likely to cause communal disharmony and disturb public order. But the IAS officer, Uma Shankar has cried foul saying he has been targeted by the BJP and RSS for exposing corruption. He has also alleged that the state government’s move is unconstitutional.
Chief secretary of Tamil Nadu K Gnanadesikan wrote to IAS officer C Umashankar last week and said his “preaching and propagating activities” scheduled between January 24 and 26 in Tirunelveli, Thoothukudi and Kanyakumari districts of the state was unbecoming of a member of the service.
He was also warned of appropriate action under the All India Services (conduct) Rules, and was chided for his action on January 16 in Kanyakumari that allegedly disturbed public order and resulted in two police cases.
Umashankar cancelled his tour but said he would move court against the directive that he said impinged on his fundamental rights. The officer said he was a Hindu officially but a Christian by faith.
“The state government order asking me not to preach Jesus Christ is illegal and unconstitutional but I have complied with the directive. I have cancelled 7 meetings till yesterday and this week again I am cancelling. I go and preach in churches. Where is there a problem with others? Where does it affect their rights? They have restricted my individual freedom, my rights,” CNN IBN quoted Umashankar as saying.
“Where are they getting the idea that an IAS officer cannot exercise his religious right? My service rules are very clear: they do not speak about religion. Religion is my fundamental right and the Supreme Court is very clear on this. If a fundamental right has to be curtailed, it must be through legislation,” he added.
Under the Constitution, public servants are entitled in their private lives to profess, practice or propagate any religion freely. But they should leave no room for an impression in their public conduct that they are likely to favour persons belonging to any particular religion. This impression is bound to rise if a public servant participates in bringing about or organising conversions from one religion to another.
Welcoming the government order, Hindu Munnani (Hindu front) founder Rama Gopalan said his organisation had often condemned Umashankar for preaching and propagating a particular denomination of Christianity. The officer’s action was in contravention of service rules and the Hindu Munnani had filed a complaint against him, Gopalan said.
This isn’t Umashankar’s first run-in with the state government. In 2010, he was suspended after doubts were raised about the genuineness of his Dalit certificate. The suspension was revoked later.
He also unearthed several scams in Tamil Nadu, including the cremation shed scam case in the 1991-96 AIADMK government that resulted in the conviction of then minister C Selvaganapathy. During the DMK regime of 2006-11, Umashankar was appointed head of Arasu Cable TV after a tiff between then chief minister M Karunanidhi and his grandnephews, the Maran brothers.
With inputs from PTI
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