A right to information activist (RTI) Manoranjan Roy has complained against Maharashtra state government for giving state funeral with police honour, covering dead body with national flag of one-million strong Dawoodi Bohra community’s 52nd spiritual head, Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin. Roy has threatened that if government failed to take appropriate action on responsible person, he will be left with no option, but to knock the door of High Court.
Syedna, 102, passed away on January 17, 2014 around 2.30am after a heart attack in Saify Mahal (his house in Malabar Hill). He was buried on January 18 in the renowned Raudat Tahera, the mausoleum which has the Syedna’s father’s Syedna Taher Saifuddin’s tomb, in Bhendi Bazaar area of South Mumbai which is community-dominated. At least 70,000 mourners-across 40 countries-attended the funeral of their spiritual leader. According to Roy he saw on television that Burhanuddin’s dead body was covered with national flag and was given state funeral with police honour.
On January 20, 2014 Roy filed an RTI application (copy with ABI) in Public Information Officer (PIO) in Chief Minister and Chief Secretary’s office, Mantralaya, Mumbai. Roy demanded copy of permission given to cover the dead body of Burhanuddin with national flag.
On January 24, PIO replied (copy available with ABI) that matter does not relate to his office. Hence his office has forwarded application to concerned department.
“As per my knowledge Burhanuddin other than only being a spiritual leader of a particular community and he had no other achievement of eminence, nor had he done nothing for the nation. Then why he was given state funeral with police honor? I was shocked. I decided to know the facts,” said Roy.
On Feburary18, 2014 general administration (protocol) department replied (copy available with ABI) that on January 17, deputy secretary, Ajay Ambekar has informed in writing to Commissioner of police, Mumbai that state government has decided to accord state funeral with police honour to Sydneha. Ambekar has also forwarded order copy to the secretary of the governor, Raj Bhavan, The additional Chief Secretary to the Chief Minister, Mantralaya, The Secretary to the deputy Chief Minister, Mantralaya and The Collector, Mumbai.
The activist found that the reply given to him is not on an official Letterhead as the national emblem is not displayed on it, and has two mistakes , Firstly January 18 ,was a Saturday and Ambekar has wrongly mentioned it as Tuesday.
The second error is – Ambekar states that state government’s decision copy was already sent to Additional Chief Secretary’s office but, earlier PIO replied that the matter does not relate to Additional Chief Secretary’s office and he had passed on the query to the concerned department. Then what is the truth?
On February 24, Roy complained (copy available with ABI) to Pranab Mukherjee, President of India, Sushil Shinde, Central Home Minister, Governor of Maharashtra and Chief Minister of Maharashtra demanding action on responsible person. Roy has threatened that if authorities failed to take action in 30 days, he will file suit in Bombay High Court.
State funerals have long been an honour reserved for those holding constitutional posts, besides ex-prime ministers and ex-presidents. If proved that proper procedures were not followed in conferring state funeral to Sydnea, the policy will be termed as discriminatory and will be termed as appeasement policy by many.
This would not only result in more and more community leaders asking for state funeral for their religion guru’s but would dilute the sanctity attached to the honour.
“What can I say (comment) on this. Ask them (government) who has awarded the honour. Our guru (Syedna) was Ambassador of peace. Not even Hindustan he also visited abroad for Aman-Shanti (peace) especially United Nation. He has done lots of work for social, education, health and our community. Saifee hospital in Charni Road and Bhindi Bazar redevelopment projects are their example,” said Burhanuddin’s media associate, Shaikh Qureish Raghib.