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Dalit IAS officer converts: My name is Umrao Khan and I am no longer a Hindu

Patrika Staff | Updated on: 14 February 2017, 3:28 IST

The conversion

  • Umrao Salodia, a Dalit IAS officer in Rajasthan, converted to Islam because of \"discrimination\" by the state government
  • He says he wasn\'t made chief secretary despite being the senior most IAS officer in the statement

The controversy

  • Apparently the decision was taken by CM Vasundhara Raje herself
  • Congress and Dalit organisations have accused the Raje government of discrimination

More in the story

  • What led to Salodia\'s decision?
  • Corruption charges against the officer
  • What is the government\'s defence?

One wonders what drove Umrao Salodia, chairman of chairman of Rajasthan State Road Transport Corporation, to convert to Islam.

With barely six months left for his retirement, Salodia had seen it all in the echelons of power. Yet, the grudge of not being promoted as the chief secretary proved to be too much for him.

Alleging victimisation by the Rajasthan government, Salodia not only converted to Islam last week, he also applied for voluntary retirement giving a notice of three months to the government.

A 1978 batch IAS officer, Salodia was the senior most IAS officer in the race for becoming the next chief secretary of Rajasthan.

However, the government chose to give present incumbent CS Rajan a 3 months extension.

Apparently, this prompted Salodia to declare his conversion to Islam. While addressing the media last Thursday, he said that he believed in the equality that Islam, unlike Hinduism, offered to all its followers.

"After conversion my name is Umrao Khan," he declared.

Also read: Crime against Muslims, Dalits rising in Rajasthan, claims Jamaat-E-Islami

Salodia, who was to retire on 30 June, 2016, also wrote a scathing letter to the Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje.

"For the first time after Independence, myself, an IAS officer from SC/ST category would have been appointed the Chief Secretary of Rajasthan on the basis of seniority. Instead, to deny the opportunity to me, Mr CS Rajan has been given a three month extension ," he wrote to Raje.

Expressing his inability to "function under my junior" Salodia has asked the government to sanction his voluntary retirement within 3 months.

Salodia has held several important posts in Rajasthan. He was the the Director General of the Jawahar Kala Kendra and was transferred to the Rajasthan State Road Transport Corporation as its chairman in October.

The government's response

Sources say that decision to not promote Salodia as the chief secretary came from the chief minister herself.

The present chief secretary supposedly enjoys her full faith. Also, she did not want to elevate an officer who has only a few months left before retirement.

The government has rejected Salodia's charges.

"The tenure of the senior-most IAS officer CS Rajan has been extended for three months. Salodia should have, at least, waited till 31 March," said Rajendra Rathore, the state's parliamentary affairs minister

Refuting Salodia's charges of bias, he said, "The government has promoted Dalits at every level...Salodia has forgotten that this government made Kailash Meghwal, a member of the SC community, Vidhan Sabha Speaker. Another Dalit officer Lalit K Pawar is serving as the chairman of Rajasthan Public Service Commission while Ram Khiladi Meena is head of Rajasthan Sub-ordinate Services Selection Board".

A red-faced government is also preparing for disciplinary action against Salodia, alleging that he has breached the service rules for IAS officers.

Corruption charges

Salodia is facing charges over a controversial land transfer decision he took as Chairman of Revenue Board in Ajmer.

The case pertains to the allotment of 18 bighas of land belonging to the Urban Improvement Trust (UIT) in Bhilwara to a man named Badrudeen on flimsy grounds.

According to Badrudeen, the land belonged to the royal family of Udaipur, which gave it to his father in 1949. But it was not registered in his ancestors' name.

When the revenue board rejected Badrudeen's claims, he filed a revision petition that was upheld by a two-member bench of the revenue board in 2013. As a chairman of the board, Salodia was part of the bench.

There are allegations that Salodia handed over the judgment in back date. The Rajasthan Anti-Corruption Bureau filed an FIR against Salodia in 2014 on the complaint of a retired District & Sessions judge.

Salodia, in turn, has filed a counter case against the complainant, accusing that he had been falsely implicated to scuttle his promotion as the chief secretary.

He was also criticised for ordering his sub-ordinates to maintain a cow at his official residence during the same tenure.

Also read: Why did Vasundhara Raje drop Anish Kapoor from Rajasthan's cultural panel?

"I have been falsely implicated. It was done as I did not favor a district-level officer Nanak Ram during my tenure. The police has not acted on my complaint. I have raised the issue at all levels, but to no avail," Salodia alleged.

Opposition targets government

The Opposition has accused the government of failing to protect backward communities.

"It is unfortunate that Salodia has been forced to convert after discrimination on the basis of caste. If this is what an IAS officer is facing, imagine the plight of common Dalits in the state. The atrocities against SCs and STs have been on the rise under the present dispensation," Congress leader Sachin Pilot said on Thursday.

The leader of Opposition in the Vidhan Sabha Rameshwar Dudi has demanded an explanation from the government.

"Salodia's allegations have raised a constitutional crisis in the state. The chief minister should clarify her position. The government needs to answer whether it is violating the Constitution by discriminating against a Dalit IAS officer," he said.

Dalit groups cry foul

The controversy has outraged several Dalit groups in the state and many of them have threatened to launch an agitation if Salodia is not promoted.

While the Dr Ambedkar Memorial Welfare Society has sent a memorandum to the chief minister in this regard, the Raigar Samaj Navnirman Mahasamiti has demanded an inquiry by a retired High Court judge.

The Rajasthan Dalit-Muslim Ekta Manch has issued a statement condemning the alleged discrimination against Salodia.

"It is painful to see such incidents happening even after 68 years of independence. The government should work to resolve the issue on priority," said Abdul Latif, the president of the Manch.

For now, Salodia is discharging his duties as usual. He spent the first day of the new year in office. But the controversy surrounding him is far from over.

Also read: Rajasthan govt approves new job quotas: will caste cauldron boil again?

First published: 3 January 2016, 9:29 IST