For about 400 junior policemen in Bihar’s Samastipur district, a pledge of honesty is part of the application form for leave to perform Chhath puja. It comes with a rider: If they give a false declaration just to avail leave, their entire family would be visited by a curse. As the four-day Chhath puja (a festival of thanksgiving to the sun) gets underway in November in Bihar and some neighbouring States, the personnel in Samastipur seeking leave have been asked to swear in the name of the Chhath deity that they intend to perform the ritual themselves. If they fail to do so, a “curse may befall their children, and in fact the whole family.” The format of the pledge meant for policemen of junior rank went viral on social media on Wednesday, drawing protests from the men in uniform.“I …take a pledge in the name of the Chhath deity that I, myself, am observing Chhath puja for the last…years. Oh goddess Chhath! If I take leave on a lie, my children and my whole family will be cursed,” said a pledge form, filled up by a policeman in Samastipur and signed as Shri Narayan Singh. The four-day Chhath is considered a mahaparv (great festival) in Bihar and other eastern parts including neighbouring Uttar Pradesh. The festival, known for its austerity and piety, begins on Thursday.Association not amusedThe honesty pledge has not gone down well with the personnel. The president of the Bihar Policemen’s Association, Mrityunjay Singh, told journalists in Patna that the “pledge is tantamount to an assault on religious sentiments and betrays mistrust and doubts on the integrity of junior rank officials”. “Should they be subjected to such humiliation? I’m going to meet top officials at the police headquarters in this regard”, he added. On the official side, though, there was denial. Samastipur Superintendent of Police Vikash Burman said, “there is no official pledge form issued by the department for leave. We have taken serious note about such a report. A senior police officer has been asked to inquire.”Going a step further, Mr. Burman said there was no question of granting leave even with such a document, as leave for policemen had been cancelled by police headquarters in view of the Chhath festival, to ensure law and order.”Although there are around 400 junior personnel in Samastipur district, few had applied for leave for Chhath. “This is ridiculous. If we take leave to observe the greatest festival of our State, we are threatened with a curse on children and family members,” a district police officer from Samastipur said over phone. Did he apply for leave? The policeman was not ready to respond. Personnel posted in other districts of Bihar too objected to the honesty clause.