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Friday, March 31, 2023

Babudom’s colonial hangover: Muslim IRS officer Reshma Lakhani forcibly enters Jagannath Mandir

Babudom has almost become synonymous with arrogance. In a display of arrogance and complete disregard for temple rules, Indian Revenue Service (IRS) officer Reshma Lakhani forcibly entered Jagannath Mandir. It must be highlighted that Jagannath Mandir prohibits the entry of non-Hindus.

Lakhani did not just refuse to listen to Superintendent Roshan Yadav who explained the rules but the IRS babu also got him transferred 400 kilometres away from Puri. She marked a copy to the Minorities Ministry complaining about the ‘behaviour’ of Yadav. Such is the sense of entitlement among the Babudom that a person merely performing his duties was accused of ‘misbehaviour’ and strict action was demanded against him.


Superintendent Roshan Yadav was informed of the officer’s visit. He apprised his higher authorities that as Lakhani was not a Hindu, she would not be allowed inside the temple but they’ll let her see the temple from outside. Lakhani reached the Puri Guest house according to her vehicle pass and after freshening up she insisted that she would enter the temple.

Yadav said that Lakhani turned a deaf ear to his repeated pleas highlighting only Hindus could enter the temple. He added that the IRS Babu forced her way into the Mandir without permission. People associated with the temple complex said that Muslim officers and women entered the temple despite several warnings. Lakhani misused her power and position to enter the Mandir and get Yadav transferred. A demand has been made to Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman to take strict action against Lakhani.

Babus, who suffer from a sense of entitlement, often display such arrogance. In 2020, a similar incident in Himachal Pradesh generated much discussion on social media. An IAS officer of the 2018 batch, Ms Ritika Jindal apparently broke an ‘age-old parochial tradition’ by performing ‘havan’ at Shalooni Temple at Solan, HP. She apparently ‘taught lessons of equality to priests’. This announcement was met with generally hostile reactions from the wider Hindu society present online.

The lady had no business meddling in religious affairs and ‘teaching equality’ to temple priests! Basically, she as a Tehsildar was in charge of the temple and arm-twisted the priests to do what she liked in contravention of long-established traditions. Thus, an agent of our secular state used her powers of administering a temple, to illegally meddle in the religious affairs of the temple. Of course, a moralizing interview followed in which madam lectures that we should remove the ‘patriarchal’ mindset and the ‘orthodoxy’ from our society and work according to the constitution.

As such the role of administrators (Babudom), including IAS officers, is not what they consider ‘social reform’, but to improve the governance and delivery of services to citizens. Many officers in recent years have taken it upon themselves to become celebrities and even have dedicated Public Relations teams.

No Babu would dare to go to a mosque, church etc. and demand to perform priestly duties there. Not only is it against general courtesy, where one should not intrude into the workplace of others, but also perhaps only Hindus will tolerate such an insult to traditions. It must be remembered that although only Hindu places of worship are covered under various temple acts (which ideally have no place in a truly secular set-up and also have no parallel in the Western nations that such ‘reformers’ worship), even these acts cover only secular matters like administration of temple properties.

This points to their desire to be seen in the limelight, and often results in making a nexus with local media and politicians.  A few such officers have even been implicated in various corruption scandals. However, this has not reduced the penchant for fame among many young officers. If they achieve the same in the job allotted to them, everyone would be happy.

Babudom is the feudalism of today’s Bharat. It is unsuitable to the times, exploitative and has done more harm than good. Constitutional changes after independence might have changed the veneer of the civil service, but the spirit remains the same.

In recent times we have seen multiple examples of civil servants acting like medieval lords, having power without responsibility and being rewarded for their misdeeds. Civil service is the biggest hurdle in the way of meaningful democracy in Bharat; it is what stops Bharat from being a superpower. It is time we look at some alternative models of bureaucracy for our country. It is imperative if we wish to live up to our true potential.

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