Srinagar: Senior Indian Police Service officer Basant Rath, who resigned from the service on Saturday, March 25, will join the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) once his resignation is accepted, the 2000-batch officer told The Wire.
In an exclusive conversation, Basant said that his decision to quit the elite service stems from his “concern” for the people of J&K. “I have put my career and my entire reputation at stake. But I am not looking for votes in Jammu and Kashmir. My people are not my constituents. They are my family,” he said.
Asked whether he was being disloyal to the people of Jammu and Kashmir by choosing to join the BJP, which faces accusations of changing the Union Territory’s Muslim-majority character by changing state subject and land laws, Rath replied: “I have a right to be heard. I am here till 2040 and I will like to serve the people. Ask me this question in March 2040.”
Without naming any political party, Basant said that those training guns at the BJP had allied with the party in the past to share the spoils of power.
“One gentleman, who fled to London when insurgency broke out in Kashmir, got his son into politics as a junior foreign minister with the BJP’s help. Another person, who thanked Pakistan for winning elections in J&K, became the chief minister with BJP’s help. Every single politician in J&K has been a ‘B-team’ of the BJP,” he said.
Resignation ‘unlikely’ to be accepted
Sources in the government said that the Odisha-born, J&K-cadre IPS officer’s resignation is unlikely to be accepted since he is facing a probe by the Union home ministry for “gross instances of misconduct”.
In a letter shared on his social media pages, Rath said that he was leaving the elite service because he wanted to “participate in electoral politics” of J&K. Although Rath is a domicile of J&K as per new rules – which makes him eligible for contesting elections in J&K – sources said the Union government is unlikely to process his request.
“The resignation of all the three Indian Administrative Services – IAS, IPS and IFS, is governed by Rules 5(1) and 5(1)(A) of the All India Services (Death-cum-Retirement Benefits) Rules, 1958. In Basant’s case, the resignation is likely to be rejected since he has a departmental inquiry pending against him,” sources said.
The resignation letter has been sent to J&K chief secretary Arun Kumar Mehta on June 25 and its previous version was curiously signed at 4:20 am by Rath, who is known for invoking powerful irony and metonymy in his writings. Section 420 of the Indian Penal Code deals with the crime of cheating. In popular culture, the number ‘420’ is linked to dishonest acts and persons.
“I hope that you will accept my request for voluntary retirement and oblige me,” Rath said in the letter which has also been marked to the commandant general of J&K’s Home Guards where he was serving as inspector general.
The 2000-batch IPS officer said that he was “indebted to the Government of India” for giving him the opportunity to serve in Jammu and Kashmir and that he was leaving with a “great sense of gratification and sense of attainment.” The Wire has reached out to Mehta for his comment on whether he or his office has received the resignation letter. The story will be updated if and when the response is received.
A native of Pipli village in Puri district of Odisha, Basant has studied sociology at the prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi. He is also a writer. His provocative opinion pieces have appeared in a number of prominent publications, including The Wire and Indian Express. His collection of poetry, Own Me, Srinagar (Writers’ Workshop) has been described by the Los Angeles Review of Books as one of the “books from India that haven’t received due attention.”
“Belong he does, in a way that makes him indistinguishable from Kashmir, its beauty and its pain. He creates a conscience so wide and powerful as to hold violence from all over the world close to his chest, as in the lines above. But it his sensory evocation of his adopted region that packs the greatest ironies of history,” the Review wrote, terming it as a “striking book that deserves its place in the explosive canon of Kashmiri verse.”
Known for his confrontational style of working which has often landed him in trouble with the officials, Rath began his IPS career on a tumultuous note. During his first posting, in central Kashmir’s Budgam district in 2002-2003, while he was on his way to a popular shrine in his official car, he spotted a shopkeeper sitting on a chair outside his shop.
“He got down from the car and without any rhyme or reason kicked the chair, stunning the shopkeeper who was flung to the ground. The incident made him popular but it also earned him many detractors. He would roam around freely in the town when militancy was still at its peak and he was feared for using touch measures to deal with what were essentially law and order issues,” said Abdul Rashid, a resident of Chrari Sharief town where Rath was posted on probation as a deputy superintendent of police early in his IPS career.
The IPS officer came into the limelight in 2018 when, as inspector general of J&K Police (Traffic), he got in a public spat with then Srinagar mayor Junaid Mattu who had sought “review of current traffic diversions” in the city. Rath, who had also faced criticism for not wearing the uniform while on duty, pointed out to Junaid on social media that traffic management in the city was “not the domain” of the city’s mayor.
The spat escalated soon after Rath called Junaid a ‘cabbage’ while asking him to focus on the conservation of wetlands which “are precious and a vital part of our ecosystem.” The remarks came after Junaid had spoken about the issue of wetlands in Srinagar. Basant’s transfer order followed soon. It saw him shunted from J&K Police’s Traffic department to the insignificant Home Guards.
Weeks before the Union government moved to read down Article 370 which granted special status to J&K, Basant was seen distributing books among the aspirants of competitive exams like IAS, NEET and JEE. He has not, however, revealed the source of funding for “thousands of books” distributed by the IPS officer among the aspirants.
In July 2020, Basant was suspended by the Union government following a social media meltdown he had over J&K’s Director General of Police, Dilbag Singh. In a social media post, Basant had sought to raise questions about the personal assets of the DGP Singh. “Hi Dilbag Singh. Can I call you Dilloo? Are you the one who owns 50 canals (six acres) of land in Sarore near the dental college in Jammu? Is it registered on your name?” he had said in a tweet in 2020.
The public spat between a senior IPS officer and the chief of J&K Police at a time when the Union Territory’s political and security climate was going through a tumultuous period in the aftermath of the reading down of Article 370, had caused deep embarrassment for the Union government. He also claimed that he faced threat to his life and liberty from the DGP and he had filed a complaint at Jammu’s Gandhi Nagar police station against him.
After publicly targeting the DGP, the Union home ministry suspended Basant “for repeated instances of gross misconduct and misbehaviour that have been brought into the notice of the government.” According to sources, his suspension period will end next month.