November 13, 2018 10:53 pm

Govt Shunts ‘Peoples Cop’, Ruffles Feathers

SRINAGAR — Days after he had a spat with new Srinagar mayor Junaid Azim Mattu on Twitter, J&K Traffic police chief Basant Rath was handed his transfer and attachment orders on Tuesday by the governor administration. 

Basant Rath, one of the most prominent cops in Jammu and Kashmir, has been attached with the office of commandant General, Home Guards,  considered to be a dormant department. 

Alok Kumar, a 1997-IPS cadre, has been transferred and posted as the new Inspector General of Police (traffic) for Jammu and Kashmir “in the interest of administration”, a government order read.

Rath, whose unorthodox ways to discipline the chaotic Srinagar traffic had won him accolades and obviously some criticism, got huge support from social media users, with many saying his spar with Mattu had led to his ouster from the traffic department. 

According to sources, the proposal to shift 2000 batch IPS officer Basant Rath was sent to Raj Bhawan on Monday and he was shunted out on Tuesday. Neither Rath nor Mattu were available for comment.

Mattu and Rath had a Twitter spat a few days ago after the former sought to “manage and discipline” traffic in Srinagar city only to be confronted by Rath, who said the mayor had no jurisdiction on traffic. 

Immediately after assuming charge as Mayor on November 6, Mattu tweeted:”I have received numerous complaints about traffic mismanagement issues in the city. I have spoken to the SP Traffic (Urban) and sought a review of current traffic diversions and plans. The SMC has been directed to help with decongestion of alternate routes for some relief.”

The tweets had elicited an almost immediate response from Rath, who responded to Mattu that traffic was “not your domain”. “Traffic diversion at Jehangir Chowk is a compulsion. The vendors have created a mess … SMC needs to clear the mess (sic),” he tweeted.

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“He should desist from taking me on. I have a better fan following than him. My constituency is bigger than him,’’ he had said, suggesting only a few hundred people cast votes for him in the recent municipal polls. 

Mattu quit National Conference and joined former separatist politician Sajad Lone’s Peoples Conference and contested ULB polls with the BJP backing.

Mattu had bagged 40 votes against 26 polled in favour of his Congress rival Ghulam Rasool Hajam for the mayoral post.

It was the second time since Tuesday that Mattu and Rath locked horns on the social media.

After being elected as Srinagar Mayor, Mattu had said, “What are wetlands for. We will strike a balance between development and ecology but that does not mean putting a chastity belt around the city.”

The IGP had immediately reacted to his comment and called him a “cabbage”.

“Wetlands are precious and a vital part of our ecosystem. Only a cabbage will think otherwise,” Rath had tweeted.

Mattu had drawn flak for his comments from other netizens as well.

Rath’s antics of taking on the big and mighty and not shying at making a sarcastic comment or two had endeared him among Kashmiris, especially young boys and girls. 

The social media savvy officer was hugely popular among the youngsters in Kashmir, a rarity for any police officer in the Kashmir, as he would attend social functions like weddings of locals or just play cricket with boys in the city grounds.

However, his stringent implementation of traffic rules meant he would court controversy very often.

In the initial weeks of his joining as state traffic chief, he penalised some “influential” people for violating traffic norms. Often he would lead drives to clear encroachment on roads and streets.

Former Director General of Police SP Vaid came in support of cop and tweeted: “Basant gained popularity for his unorthodox ways to streamline traffic and his jovial ways to mingle with the people.

He acquired a larger than life image, more so among the large sections of Kashmir youth who loved to take selfies and play cricket with him.”

He added: “Basant to a large extent presented a ‘friendly face of the police’ which was unknown to people. His actions apparently indicated he was seriously improving image of police among the public.” 

“Those talking Good Governance & Accountability have reportedly removed IGP traffic Basant Rath,” MLA Langate Engineer Rasheed wrote on Facebook after the rumours of his transfer started doing rounds yesterday. 

“He has been victimised for being honest, secular & dedicated. Those who took to streets against him in Jammu have achieved nothing except exposing BJP’s vote bank politics & narrow thinking.”

Journalist Mufti Islah wrote;”Going by response on social media – a kind of a barometer for Kashmiris to express unhindered – it is rare an outsider, and that too an IPS officer, has garnered huge public support than a local neta. Is it his poetry, duty or antics that is endearing him among Valleyites?”

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