Srinagar: IPS officer Basant Kumar Rath filed a written complaint against Jammu and Kashmir Director General of Police Dilbag Singh, stating that the top cop poses a threat to his safety and reputation.
Rath, a 2000 batch IPS officer, wrote to the station house officer of Jammu’s Gandhi Nagar Police Station, stating that while he was not asking authorities to file an FIR, they should make a note of his complaint in case something untoward happens to him.
Under the subject section of the complaint, Rath wrote: “Requesting you to take note of my apprehension about my life, liberty and bald head the reason being certain activities of of Sh Dilbag Singh, IPS batch 1987 batch, presently DGP.
“I’m writing 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 police man,” Rath wrote.
“I’m not asking you to lodge an FIR against the person mentioned above. I’m 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,” he further stated.
ThePrint reached Rath for a comment through phone calls, but there was no response, while DGP Dilbag Singh too did not respond to calls or messages seeking a comment on the allegation.
The spat between Rath and Singh, a 1987-batch IPS officer, was triggered by a tweet by the junior officer on 12 June. A Twitter user, named Dilbag Singh, had posted an article run by a local daily about Rath’s initiative of providing free books to students preparing for competitive exams.
“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?” Rath tweeted, in a dig at allegations levelled against the J&K DGP by a local daily last year.
But the story did not end there. In several other cryptic tweets, Rath seemed to have been taking aim at his senior.
Sources in the J&K Police told ThePrint that Rath wanted to draw a reaction from Singh.
“I am not sure what reaction did he expect, but it was certainly not what he got. The DGP shared screenshots of some of Mr Rath’s tweets in a WhatsApp group run by a journalist. What followed was sort of a WhatsApp trial, with almost all of those commenting in response to the screenshot, calling for Mr Rath’s suspension or arrest,” said a senior police officer, requesting anonymity.
DGP Singh apparently reacted to Rath’s provocation on a WhatsApp group called ‘Kashmir Firstpost’, according to screenshots sent to ThePrint by one of the group members.
“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 inc of land or proper or any business worth a penny in my name,” Singh purportedly wrote.
Rath 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. Rath also referred to the person who had sent the original message as “FirstPost Whatsapp Group Stenographer”.
Dear FirstPost Whatsapp Group Stenographer, please be my guest of honour.
My name is Basant. I do what I do. Not an inch asked for; not an inch given. pic.twitter.com/AG0uGX2qPP
— Basant بسنت (@KangriCarrier) June 24, 2020
In another tweet, Rath mocked someone who sent another message on the WhatsApp group, calling for his arrest.
Salaam, Suneem Baba. Is it you? Or that ORF guy?
How can you get me arrested?
I’m such a sweetheart. pic.twitter.com/pCG991XI1D
— Basant بسنت (@KangriCarrier) June 24, 2020
Not new to controversy
This is not the first controversy Rath has been embroiled in. His November 2018 transfer from the inspector general of traffic in Kashmir to the office of commandant general, Home Guards in Jammu, came days after a verbal spat between him and former Srinagar mayor and People’s Conference leader Junaid Mattu. But the change of posting did not silence Rath’s Twitter feed.
Born in Odisha and educated at the prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, Rath first came to prominence for his efforts in Jammu against the notorious drug and land mafia. He was also noted for his role in investigating the 2009 high-profile murder of Amandeep Singh, son of former National Conference legislator Deepinder Kour, allegedly by one Jatinder Singh, who was the son of influential Jammu businessman Nagar Singh.
The case witnessed many twists and turns, with Jatinder Singh allegedly committing suicide in jail, and the arrests of policemen including the SSP Jammu, the SHO of Gandhi Nagar police station, and forensics experts accused of manipulating evidence. The arrests were led by Rath.
Then, Rath returned to the spotlight during his stint as Kashmir’s IG traffic, gaining popularity among Srinagar residents for moving around the streets without security guards.
“Of course, a lot of his goodwill came through his work. He streamlined the chaotic traffic in Srinagar and once that was done, he went to the people, to small events, to markets attending local cricket and football matches,” said a police officer.
“An IPS officer clicking selfies and videos with locals and that too without a barrage of security guards was received well in Kashmir, where the uniform represents something harsh,” the officer said, adding that the initiative to deliver free books to students has also earned him a lot of goodwill.