LUCKNOW: Devotees entering the sanctum sanctorum of Kashi Vishwanath temple in Varanasi were taken by surprise early this week on finding cops deployed for crowd management -- often criticised for their high-handedness -- missing.
Instead, there were burly men in dhoti and kurta who were far more courteous than men in khaki they had replaced.
Although it was a pleasant change for people visiting the temple for 'darshan' of Lord Shiva, they couldn't realise for long that 'volunteers' controlling crowd were cops only. Just their attire had changed. In a bid to present a 'friendlier' image of cops who can mingle with devotees in a better way, the Varanasi Police decided to make the innermost area of one of the holiest Hindu shrines khaki-free.
So, when early this week, eight constables on duty reported for work for the night shift, they first shed their khaki and donned dhoti and kurta before taking their position. Wearing yellow kurta and white dhoti, when they were managing the crowd, many thought they were part of 'pandas' (priests) crew. Their pushing and shoving to make the crowd moving had suddenly become bearable.
"Most devotees had this habit of spending long time inside the sanctum sanctorum. They don't realise that a long queue of devotees keeps waiting outside as well. To make them move sometimes cops on duty have to literally push them forward. While local people had complained earlier also, there was sudden spurt in complaints when darshan went live sometimes back," says a senior police official.
After the dress code came into effect early this week, Varanasi SSP, Ram Krishna Bharadwaj, told media persons: “We explored various options to address these complaints. First, we thought of deploying volunteers in place of cops. But it would have been a long-drawn process." So, it was decided why not give a 'volunteer look' to the cops themselves?
"It was decided that constables in sanctum sanctorum duty will wear kurta and dhoti while woman constables will dress up in traditional Salwar-Kurta,” Bhardwaj said. There are about 24 constables in the list of sanctum sanctorum duty and the SSP released the separate fund to each constable to buy the new dresses.
“This has been done for the time being because worshippers and the temple authorities were feeling uncomfortable in the presence of men in uniform. We have been receiving complaints… and we must respect their sentiments,” said Varanasi IG Deepak Ratan.
To ensure the success of the step taken for the first time, the cops attended a three-day behavioural orientation training programme before deployment at sanctum sanctorum.