A senior IPS officer in Uttar Pradesh on Friday stoked a controversy after a video clip of him taking pledge for the early construction of Ram Mandir in Ayodhya went viral on social media.In the 21-second clip, Surya Kumar Shukla, along with half a dozen other people, is seen taking a vow to build the temple. “We Ram bhakts, as part of this programme, take the pledge that a grand Ram Mandir be constructed at the earliest… Jai Sri Ram,” the video showed them saying with one arm raised.A 1982-batch IPS, Mr. Shukla is currently Director-General, Home Guards, and the second senior-most IPS in the State, according to the U.P. Police website.The controversial incident took place during a private function organised in a room of the Public Administration department of Lucknow University on January 28 by the Akhil Bharatiya Samagra Vichar Manch, which claims to be a social organisation.Though it was a closed-door affair, the title of the seminar indicated that it was held to chalk out a solution to the Ayodhya dispute: Ram Mandir Nirman Samasya Evam Samadhan.Apart from Mr. Shukla, some Hindutva activists and members of the Muslim wing of the RSS were also present on stage. So was Advocate Hari Shankar Jain, who was in 2014 felicitated by Amit Shah, then U.P. in-charge of BJP, for taking on the Samajwadi Party government for its move to withdraw terror cases. Mr. Jain, a counsel for the Hindu Mahasabha in the Ayodhya dispute, also helps Hindus fight legal cases through his organisation, Hindu Front for Justice.While the government has sought an explanation from Mr. Shukla, he clarified that his presence at the event was being misinterpreted and the short clip was selectively made to go viral without considering what he said prior to it.“As a responsible officer, we cannot say or do anything like this. It is being shown as though we are going for a forcible construction of a mandir. This is misinterpretation,” Mr. Shukla told reporters.Talking about the pledge, Mr. Shukla said the vow was being taken to create an atmosphere of communal harmony and not for the construction of the Ram Mandir.He said he attended the seminar as it was being held for an intellectual discussion on how to resolve the “Ram Mandir issue peacefully”.“I had said [at the event] that this issue is sub judice in the Supreme Court, so it would not be proper for me to give a speech on it or present detailed views. So I did not give any speech,” Mr. Shukla said.Retired IPS officer S.R. Darapuri told The Hindu that Mr. Shukla’s act was a “direct violation of the IPS code of conduct” and also punishable as he had participated in a political event and made his communal biases known.Congress spokesperson Akhilesh Pratap Singh said both officials and criminals were being influenced by the BJP under the rule of Narendra Modi and Yogi Adityanath. “An alliance has been formed between the three. And these BJP people, along with the criminals and officials, think themselves above the law,” Mr. Singh said.The IPS Association has condemned the incident saying that it is “against the ethos of neutrality, fairness and uprightness that Indian Police Service stands for”.