Muslim drivers: Kerala govt says no cop intentionally excluded

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Thiruvananthapuram/New Delhi, Oct 16 (UNI) Kerala Home Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan today said no policeman was intentionally excluded from the security duty of Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha L K Advani during his visit to Kozhikode.

Mr Advani, meanwhile, distanced himself from the controversy.

The reported removal of two Muslim police drivers from Mr Advani's motorcade during his recent Vijay Sankalp Rally in Kerala on October 14 had sparked a controversy.

Mr Advani said, in a statement, ''I would like to state that neither I nor anyone in the BJP had any knowledge whatsover about the incident. I came to know of it only through the media,'' and asserted that neither he nor the Party had given any such instructions.

He also said the BJP did not believe in discrimination on the basis of religion in any matter.

BJP spokesman Prakash Javadekar said the reports to this effect were baseless and assigning of the security tasks to the individual officials is the job of the State Government and the BJP had no role in it at all.

Mr Balakrishnan said the statement of Union Minister of State for External Affairs E Ahamed taking umbrage at the incident was opposed to secular values and ethics, adding the state government had not received any official communication from the Centre seeking a probe into the incident.

Reacting to media reports that two Muslim police drivers were excluded from the motorcade of Mr Advani in the last minute, he told reporters here that the ''allegation is contrary to truth'' and nobody was excluded from his escort duty.

Talking to reporters in Kozhikode after having detailed discussions with City Police Commissioner Anoop Kuruvilla John and Assistant Commissioner Pradeep Kumar, in-charge of security in the city on the day of the incident, Additional Director-General of Police K S Jhangpangi, said, ''The removal was procedural.'' Stating that there was no malafide intention in the action, he said hundreds of policemen were detailed for security job and some of them were excluded from duty as their services were not required.

Mr Jhangpangi, who is expected to submit his report to the Director-General of Police this evening, said the authorities would ascertain how a report regarding security arrangements had appeared in a section of the press without confirmation from the concerned.

However, giving a clean chit to the Commissioner, the role of Mr Pradeep Kumar, who had ordered the removal without consent from higher-ups, would be inquired further, a top officer preferring anonymity said.

The incident, however, sparked a controversy with some organisations, including the Indian Union Muslim League, Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM) and Muslim Youth League, demanding a high-level probe into the incident.

Indian Union Muslim League state general secretary P K Kunhalikutty had strongly condemned the incident.

BJYM State President K Surendran told reporters that a thorough investigation should be ordedred into the controversy.

Stating that the controversy was blown out of proportion aimed at tarnishing the image of Mr Advani, he said the Morcha suspected some ''foul play'' in mishandling the leader's travel arrangements.

The chopper, carrying Mr Advani, who was scheduled to attend an award presentation function here, landed at Karippur airport instead of the Vikram Maidan in the city.

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