The Jammu and Kashmir administration has suspended a senior official allegedly for saying that the Hindu text Rig Veda allows the eating of meat, including beef. He is alleged to have made the remarks at lunch with colleagues in a restaurant.

In an order dated September 6, Rajouri District Magistrate Vikas Kundal suspended Assistant Commissioner (Panchayat) Abdul Rashid Kohli for making allegedly objectionable remarks about Hinduism.

Kundal has formed a panel to investigate the matter and file a report within 15 days.

“This conduct of the officer is not only a violation of service conduct rules, but also an issue hurting religious sentiments of other community and has the potential of creating a law and order problem within the district,” the order stated.

Kohli denied the allegations, saying that he was only having a discussion with his colleagues at the lunch and did not force them to eat meat, reported The Telegraph.

One of the colleagues, Secretary (Panchayat) Sanjeet Sharma, filed a complaint against Kohli.

In his complaint, Sharma said that everyone else at the table ordered non-vegetarian food but he ordered a vegetarian meal. Kohli asked him why he ordered vegetarian food, to which Sharma said he does not like to eat meat, the secretary said in his complaint to the district magistrate.

Claiming to be citing the Vedas, Kohli said that eating different varieties of meat make people “holy” for a certain number of days, according to the complaint.

“... [Kolhi said] If you eat mutton, you will become holy for one month but I was shocked when he told me that if you eat beef, you will become holy for one year,” Sharma claimed in his complaint. “When I objected to his words, he repeatedly told me it’s [a] fact which is written in your religious scriptures. He said you didn’t read them.”

Sharma also alleged that Kohli told him that he would convert to Islam if he read the Vedas.

“He disrespected Hindu religion and Hindus,” the complainant said. “Being on such a respectable post and being a public servant, such derogatory remarks for a specific religion speak volume of his agenda.”

Sharma alleged that when he asked the senior official to stop making such remarks, Kohli threatened to fire him from his post.

“Sir, is the service of an employee being ruled as Islamic rule or by laws framed by [the] Indian Constitution?” he asked the district magistrate. “I wonder how an officer can force someone to convert and go against the principles of one’s religion.”

Kohli told The Telegraph he had read on the internet that eating meat is allowed in the Rig Veda and so he asked his two Hindu colleagues why one of them ordered non-vegetarian food and the other vegetarian food. He claimed that after the lunch, everyone had departed cordially.

“I never realised that he [Sharma] had felt offended,” he told the newspaper. “Had he told me, I would have apologised. I never intended to offend him and never asked him to eat non-vegetarian food. But late in the evening, I learnt that he was registering a complaint.”

Notably, the Jammu and Kashmir High Court had held in February last year that a district magistrate does not have the authority to suspend any member of Indian Administrative Service and the Jammu & Kashmir Administrative Service, reported Bar and Bench.