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ZEPO’s derogatory remarks against bearded teacher cause outrage in Poonch; explanation sought

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Srinagar: A Zonal Education Planning Officer (ZEPO) in Surankote sub-division of Poonch district has purportedly called a bearded Muslim teacher the “biggest militant” and allegedly desecrated the mosque in the vicinity of the school on her visit to the institution.

With this incident causing outrage in the area, the Sub-District Magistrate (SDM) Surankote has sought an explanation from the officer for her unwarranted behavior, news agency GNS reported.

In a video that is being widely shared on the internet, the ZEPO, identified by GNS as Kamlesh Kumari, can be seen calling the teacher, identified by the Imam of the local mosque as Ashiq Hussain, as the “biggest militant” during her visit to the school.

The alleged incident has taken place at Yaseen Public School, Dundhak Khanikhodi on April 01.

“This man is the biggest militant. Just look at his face…,” Kumari is seen yelling in the video.

Farooq Ahmad Misbahi, the local imam while addressing the media after the incident, alleged that besides calling Farooq a militant, Kumari had desecrated the Madrassa and two mosques in the vicinity of the school by barging inside wearing shoes.

“If wearing a beard makes you a militant, then even the PM (Narendra Modi) sports one…,” Misbahi said.

He said that the different communities in Poonch district have been living with communal harmony, and urged the DC Poonch and SSP Poonch for strict action against Kumari besides her immediate transfer.

Misbahi said that Kumari had been a serial offender known for her rude behavior in the area.

As per GNS, Kumari has been asked by the SDM Surankote, Saleem Ahmad to submit her explanation within two days.

“A video is viral on social media in which you are seen using derogatory language during [a] visit of [the] Yaseen Public School, Dundhak (Khanikhodi) on April 01,” reads the explanation letter.

“A deliberate and malicious act , intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religious beliefs is not expected from a government officer/ public servant,” the letter reads, adding, “You are seen uttering, using words, etc., with deliberate intent to wound the feelings of a particular person.”

It said that Kumari’s action “has caused public mischief and enmity, hatred and ill-will in the public at large.”

“It is also viral on social media that during your visit to Yaseen Public School, Dundhak (Khanikhodi) on 01/04/2021, you also entered the Mosque without removing your shoes.”

The SDM’s letter says that the ZEPO also “forced the Head of Institution to open a specific room of school whose keys were lying at Poonch at the headquarters of the School”.

The letter further alleged that Kumari was not wearing a face mask and violated COVID-19 SOPs.

It said that the ZEPO “harassed the school management on the pretext of inspection and used very harsh and derogatory language against a particular person of school management which has caused hatred and unrest in the society.”

The SDM asked the ZEPO to explain her position within two days “as to why disciplinary action may not be recommended against you to the competent authority.”

In case of non-receipt of reply within two days, the SDM said that it shall be presumed that she has nothing to say in her defense and “action under rule shall be recommended to the competent authority.”

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