The superintendent of police in Uttar Pradesh’s Shamli district has defended his decision to massage the feet of a Kanwar pilgrim, The Sunday Express reported. The Twitter handle of the district police on Friday shared the video of Ajay Kumar Pandey massaging the pilgrim’s feet along with the caption: “Suraksha ke saath saath seva bhi [Not just protecting people but serving them too].” The officer told the newspaper that he did it as the man looked tired.

Kanwar is an annual pilgrimage undertaken by devotees of Hindu deity Shiva. The pilgrims, called ‘kanwarias’, carry water from the Ganga river in containers suspended on the sides of a pole. They walk barefoot, often across hundreds of kilometres.

Pandey was invited to inaugurate a naturopathy medical camp organised for Kanwar pilgrims in Shamli on Friday night, Hindustan Times reported. “It was done to send out a good message that we are there to help,” Pandey told The Sunday Express. He added that the police now have many roles. “Compassion and humanity are also part of it. The police cannot maintain a distance from the people. When policemen can help injured people and give them first aid, can an SP not offer a weak person some comfort?”

Saharanpur Deputy Inspector-General Upendra Kumar Agarwal also supported Pandey. “In my opinion, there is nothing wrong in it,” he said. “It is one’s personal initiative to serve ‘kanwarias’. Some policemen are serving ‘kanwarias’ by distributing fruits, a few taking them to the hospital for treatment. SP Shamli served the kanwaria in his own way. No senior officers have inquired or sought any report so far about the video.”

Hours after the video was tweeted, Pandey and District Magistrate Akhilesh Kumar showered rose and marigold petals on the pilgrims. The devotees shouted slogans praising Chief Minister Adityanath.