Centre Wants Action Against IPS Basant Rath, J&K Govt Promotes Him
Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has taken exception to the Mehbooba Mufti government’s act of promoting an Indian Police Service (IPS) officer to the rank of Inspector General of Police (IGP) even as the Centre had called for “action” against him for alleged violation of the service conduct rules.
Following the report of a ‘discreet inquiry’ conducted by Intelligence Bureau, the MHA in August 2017 asked the Jammu and Kashmir government to take “disciplinary action” against Basant Kumar Rath, 2000-cadre IPS, for violating All India Service Rules. The state government had been requested to communicate to the Centre the action taken against the senior IPS officer “at the earliest”.
‘The Fifth Column’
Rath became the subject of the IB’s “discreet inquiry” in 2016-17, apparently on account of his articles in The Wire and The Indian Express. Even the state government’s Home Department sought a detailed report about his activities from then outgoing DGP, K Rajendra Kumar.
The following articles, in particular, have been labelled by the IB as “dangerously critical of the government policy” and “brazen violation of the IPS service conduct Rules:
Vide his letter No: Home/PB-1/Misc/R.Note/2006-03/5939 Dated 9-12-2016, Under Secretary Home, Mohammad Yaqoob Malik, asked the DGP “to kindly furnish a detailed proposal elaborating therein the activities of the officer (Basant Rath), in relation to alleged trade unionism and in creating hatred and disaffection against the State Machinery/Establishment with specific reference to the relevant Conduct Rules”.
It is not clear whether Rajendra’s successor and current DGP, Dr Shesh Paul Vaid, submitted a “detailed report” to the State Home Department or consigned it to records. However, the IB is known to have submitted a detailed report about Rath’s “objectionable conduct” to the MHA.
Subsequently, vide a ‘confidential’ letter, dated 29 August 2017, accessed by The Quint, Under Secretary in MHA, Mukesh Sawhney, wrote to the J&K Chief Secretary:
I am directed to refer to the subject and to say that this Ministry has received a copy of discreet inquiry carried out by the intelligence agency on the conduct of Shri Basant Kumar Rath, IPS (J&K:2000) posted as DIG Doda-Kishtwar-Ramban, Jammu and Kashmir, since first week of July 2017. A copy of the report is enclosed.
“As per the inquiry report, Shri Basant Kumar Rath has written 12 objectionable columns (10 columns in www.thewire.in and 2 columns in The Indian Express) during the current year. On perusal of the articles, it has been observed that Shri Basant Kumar Rath has failed to maintain absolute integrity and devotion to duty, interacted with media without making it all times clear that the views expressed therein are his personal and not that of Government’s, and adversely criticized the current/recent policies of the Government. He has violated the provisions of Rule 3(1), Rule 6 and Rule 7 of the All India Services (Conduct) Rules, 1968,” Sawhney wrote.
In the concluding paragraph, the MHA official wrote:
The Government of Jammu and Kashmir is therefore requested to take disciplinary action against Shri Basant Kumar Rath, IPS, in terms of All India Services (Discipline and Appeal) Rules, 1969 for violation of Rules 3(1), Rule 6 and Rule 7 of the AIS (Conduct) Rules, 1968. Action taken by the State Government may please be intimated to this Ministry at the earliest.
Rath is No Stranger to Controversy
Rath found himself embroiled in a fresh controversy immediately after taking over as IGP Traffic for his “flamboyant” style of issuing appeals and warnings – that were aimed at everyone, ranging from police officials and bikers who refuse to wear helmets to (in his words) "politically well-connected individuals".
In one of his messages on Facebook, he compared helmets to condoms to urge the use of both.
Rath recently seized the car of an Army official, who happens to be the son and son-in-law of two senior serving IPS officers – who have both functioned as IGP Traffic in J&K. Both, Rath and the Army official have applied to register FIRs against one other.
In a separate incident, Congress MLA Usman Majeed alleged in a video that the IGP Traffic was “acting like a goon”. He has also raised questions over the IPS officer’s “indecent and insensitive posts” on Facebook, including Rath’s condom-helmet analogy.
Rath has also been accused of abusing Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s media analyst Javed Trali.
'Upright Officer', 'Loose Cannon', or 'Anti-national'?
Hailing from Odisha and an alumnus of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), Rath compiled his first collection of English poetry, titled Own me, Srinagar in 2012.
Influenced by the late Kashmiri-American poet Aga Shahid Ali, Rath’s first poem, titled Pindi, Pindi, Pindi was based on the flood of Kashmiri youth crossing the LoC in 1989 to get arms and training from Pakistan.
Pindi, Pindi, Pindi, by Basant Kumar Rath
I’m 1989 and old enough
To trek all night
In an unknown forest
Among the known mountains
Under the moth-eaten moons.
No drinking water.
No candy wrapper.
No smoking. No coughing.
No humming of a wedding song.
Under the sleeping eyes
Of a night vision device
May the light machine gun sleep long.
Here’s another of Rath’s poems:
You are seven shocked policemen
Who came to collect fifty eight dead bodies.
Angry but helpless, helpful but unlucky,
They loaded the truck and drove
To the police control room.
Facebook and WhatsApp groups in J&K are currently abuzz with criticism and appreciation of Rath’s style of functioning. While as some extol him as “an upright officer” and “man of high integrity”, others have been virulently calling him a “loose cannon”, while citing his language and tone on social media and questioning the government’s wisdom behind appointing him the IGP Traffic.
Rath has regularly written on a number of contentious political issues of the Valley. He has written about the alleged mass graves in Kashmir, as well as the CRPF’s action in January 1990, that led to the deaths of over 50 Kashmiri demonstrators. Some commenters and social media users have labelled Rath as “anti-national”, “pro-Azaadi”, “pro-Kashmiri”, “rebellious” and even “traitor”. Rath remained unaffected and in one of his articles, published in The Indian Express, Rath mounted a scathing attack on TV anchor Arnab Goswami.
Even after the IB’s inquiry against him, Rath wrote over a dozen articles for The Wire without seeking the government’s permission. He continues to be a regular contributor to the online news portal.
In its report, the IB has mentioned that Rath’s “seditious” articles in The Indian Express and The Wire could have “serious consequences” over the morale and discipline of the police and security forces in Jammu and Kashmir.
Disconnect Between Delhi and Jammu?
While the state government slept over the communication from the MHA – which regulates the IPS – on 8 February 2018, it silently elevated Rath to the rank of IGP and appointed him chief of the Traffic Police.
Sources revealed that the Deputy Inspector General (DIG) Basant Rath’s rank promotion, upon his entering 18th year of IPS, had been previously cleared by a Departmental Promotion Committee (DPC) and its recommendation needed Cabinet’s approval. In the evening, the government announced the rank promotion of some senior IPS officers and a reshuffle in the police.
According to these sources, senior BJP leader and Deputy Chief Minister, Dr Nirmal Singh, and an IGP, met the Chief Minister separately and pushed for Rath’s appointment as IGP Traffic.
Documents accessed by The Quint reveal that Chief Minister was kept in the dark with regard to the communications seeking disciplinary action against Rath. Even as some officials said that two important letters had been appended to the file, members of the DPC could not be reached for their comments.
Sources in the MHA maintained that the state government has neither responded to the communications from North Block, nor initiated any action against the IPS officer. Upon learning about Rath’s elevation, the MHA is understood to have sought an answer from the J&K government as to why action had not been taken against the IPS officer and how he had been conversely given a rank promotion.
Rath has not responded to phone calls and a message from The Quint.
(The writer is a Srinagar-based journalist. He can be reached @ahmedalifayyaz.)
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