A Virtual Battle Led To Basant Rath’s Suspension By MHA

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by Tasavur Mushtaq

SRINAGAR: On Wednesday, July 8, an order from North Block ruffled feathers in the ranks of Jammu and Kashmir police. An IPS officer of the rank of IGP, Basant Rath was put under suspension for “repeated instances of gross misconduct and misbehaviour.”

IGP Basant Rath on road

Probably for the first time to suspend a senior police officer for “misconduct,” the order issued by Ministry of Home Affairs in exercise of powers conferred by clause (a) of sub-rule (i) of Rule 3 of the All India Services (Discipline and Appeal) Rules, 1969 placed Basant under suspension with immediate effect. As per the order, his “headquarters shall be in Jammu”

The Puzzle

In newly carved out UT of Jammu and Kashmir, the police department was “puzzled” over a complaint. An IGP rank officer kicked a storm. An unusual and possibly first case of its kind, a senior IPS officer had filed a written complaint against his boss, Director General of Police (DGP), Dilbagh Singh, over an alleged threat to his safety and reputation.

According to the reports, IGP Basant Rath in a written complaint addressed to the SHO of Jammu’s Gandhi Nagar Police Station, urged him to “take note of my apprehensions about my life, liberty and bald head”. The “reason”, Basant wrote, is “certain activities of Sh Dilbagh Singh, IPS, 1987 batch, currently DGP, UT of J and K”.

He has also marked copy to the police chief, Dilbagh Singh, interestingly the man who has been accused in the complaint.

Basant, a 2000 batch IPS officer has made it clear that he has complained: “as a private citizen and not as a civil servant or a policeman.” “I’m writing to you to take note of my genuine apprehensions about my safety and reputation. I’m doing it as a private citizen of this country. In my personal capacity, not as a civil servant, not as a policeman,” he wrote.

Asking not to register FIR but take note, he wrote, “I am not asking you to lodge an FIR against the person mentioned. I am just asking you to make this letter a part of the daily diary in your police station. Today.  Now. In case something bad happens to me, you should know whose number you should dial. With due respect”

Pointing out that he expects the concerned officer to acknowledge his letter, Basant wrote that the officer can send him a screenshot of it on WhatsApp or a direct message on his Twitter handle.

He also appreciated the officer and his team’s “brilliant job in these testing times”. He wrote, “May Allah protect you and your brilliant team and your family members. Stay safe and keep the people of J and K safe. I’ll always pray for your well-being.”

However, the concerned SHO, G Choudhary told a Delhi based newspaper that he has not seen the letter. “I have not seen it,” he is quoted to have said.

Twitter Tussle

The letter appeared days after a twitter tussle that started on June 12. Popular on Twitter, Basant’s response to some user-triggered a spat between two senior officers of the police.

The details of the day are that a Twitter user, named Dilbag Singh, had posted an article run by a local daily about Basant’s initiative of providing free books to students preparing for competitive exams.

In his response, Basant hinted that Dilbag Singh owns a big estate in Jammu.

“Hi Dilbag Singh. Can I call you Dilloo? Are you the one who owns 50 canals of land in Sarore near the dental college? Is it registered on your name?” Basant tweeted, in a dig at allegations levelled against the J&K DGP by a local daily last year. It did not end on a single tweet. In subsequent tweets, he seemed to have been aiming at his senior.

“Dilloo Darling, please don’t drink too much daaru just because it’s a Sunday evening. You have an exam waiting for you,” he wrote in one of his tweets.

In a few other tweets, he wrote, “My Phone crashed. Not my character. All my screenshots, Whatsapp forwards and messages lost forever. Not my nuisance value. Milte hai break ke baad. Bye, Dilloo.”

“Stickability. This is the most important word in my dictionary. If do or say something and if it doesn’t stick with the intended audience for 68 years and 3 months, then I’m not good enough. Then I’m not bad enough. Munna bhi badnaam hua, darling tere liye.”

WhatsAPP Response

It still is a mystery if the person Basant was responding to was the actual twitter handle of the DGP or a fake one. Reports in media said it is not Dilbagh Singh, the DGP’s twitter handle. However, the DGP Singh, according to media reports responded to the allegations and provocations on a WhatsApp group of journalists and bureaucrats.

“See he doesn’t even know whether it’s 2 kanals or 50 kanals. He is poor at homework. Shame on this IPS officer who has risen to become IG and is dumped without any work again because every-time he is given responsibility he proves to be a joker and useless. I challenge prove an inch of land or proper or any business worth a penny in my name,” Singh purportedly wrote.

Basant was also apparently shown the screenshots because he took to Twitter and posted one of them which called for a flood of complaints against him. Mocking at a person, who called for his arrest (on the same platform), Basant wrote:  “Salaam, Suneem Baba. Is it you? Or that ORF guy? How can you get me arrested? I’m such a sweetheart.”

Many days later, he was placed under suspension. There was a literal jam on the twitter. People came in his support, some even saying, despite differences.

Courting Controversies

Basant is no stranger to the controversies. With the first fortnight after his promotion to the rank of IGP in February 2018 and his posting as traffic chief of the erstwhile state was all over the social media. With unconventional style of working, the first warning letter came from the then DGP of erstwhile state S P Vaid “against violation of the service conduct rules, operating without uniform, hurling abuses, and manhandling commuters.”

In response to Vaid’s letter, Basant was quoted by The Telegraph having said: “Forget about the letter. I won’t discuss the colour of my favourite brand of chocolate with the media at this time.”

The same year, he also had some tussle with former mayor Junaid Mattu. In a veiled reference, he called Junaid a “Cabbage”. Subsequently, he was removed from the position of IGP traffic and attached in the office of Commandant General Home Guards Civil Defence/SDRF. As accused by the National Conference, “Mayor used his new found affection for the BJP and its General Secretary Ram Madhav to transfer an honest police officer Basant Rath.”

Busy in arranging books and managing material for students of Jammu and Kashmir, Basant has continued to dominate his presence in the virtual world. He has a huge following and most of them like his style. “Rath had attained celebrity status and people would often click selfies with him,” the Week reported.

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