An online spat with a mayor followed by the transfer of Basant Rath, an unorthodox IPS officer who preferred to wear civilian clothes over khaki and walked into crowds with ease, has created a storm on internet with local social media users throwing their support for him.
Basant Rath, a 2000-batch IPS officer, who served as the Inspector General of Police, Traffic, had become a social media celebrity in the Valley where a lot of people had developed a liking for his unorthodox style of working.
While Rath had a daunting challenge to streamline the messy traffic in the state, where roads are falling short against the growing volume of traffic, he had become popular on social media for his unconventional ways.
A fan of former Pakistani cricketer Javed Miandad, Rath was transferred on Tuesday and attached to the office of Commandant General of Home Guards, Civil Defence and State Disaster Response Force.
Rath’s transfer came within days after his verbal spat with Srinagar’s BJP-backed new mayor Junaid Azim Mattu, who had tweeted that he received “numerous complaints about traffic mismanagement in the city”, and to that Rath had replied that traffic was not his domain.
A day earlier when Mattu had made the controversial remarks that Srinagar’s wetlands were not needed, Rath had responded on Twitter by remarking that wetlands were “precious and a vital part of our ecosystem”. “Only a cabbage will think otherwise”.
The public spat between Rath and Mattu on November 7 and 8 and the “cabbage” reference, less than a week before Rath’s transfer, had left the social media users divided with most of them writing in support for Rath, a rarity in the region where the police enjoy limited public sympathy.
On November 9, a social media user, Dar Yasir, commented that he would “not get shocked to see Mr Basant Sir transferred within days because of his honesty”. Another social media user, a critic of Rath, said the IPS officer was “trying to score points in Kashmir by speaking against those who are in the mainstream”.
Rath joined as IGP,Traffic, in February this year. Videos of his unorthodox and controversial ways as he roamed streets in civvies frequently featured on social media.
Shesh Paul Vaid, the former state police chief, had hoped Rath would not get transferred. “He may follow unorthodox ways, but his honesty and dynamism is appreciable and commendable,” Vaid said.