Social media users in Kashmir expressed their anger against the transfer of IGP Traffic Basant Kumar Rath and blamed Mayor of Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) Junaid Mattu for government's decision to remove the highly popular IPS officer.
Rath, who is credited with streamlining the traffic system in Jammu and Kashmir in less than one year of being appointed as IGP Traffic, was shunted out Tuesday.
The government's decision came just four days after a Twitter spat between the IPS officer of 2000 batch and SMC mayor Junaid Mattu, leading to an outcry that he used his clout with the governor's administration to have him removed.
A Twitter user ran an online poll asking people to vote in favour of the person they support in this spat.
"They say, elected leader is more powerful than IAS/IPS. Let Kashmiris vote. Given a chance, who would they vote for?" Amit Tyagi, a frequent traveller to Kashmir, wrote in his post along with the poll. Many users voted in favour of Rath.
Another user, naqeeyousuf1408, praised the IPS officer saying, "Maintaining law and order in J&K with respect to traffic problems a person single handedly overcame that , Now transferred #BasantRath #respect #we need officers like you. "Majidmalik40 tweeted that there was no space for Rath in "this #corrupted country".
One Mohsin Ahmed said, "Dear officer, Basant Rath @KangriCarrier, we salute you for being an honest and dedicated officer. Love you always and you'll always stay in our heart and our blessings are always with you.We are going to miss you sir." Twitter user Shakeel Hamid said, "Cabbage unfolded his layers. #BasantRath #JunaidMattu."
The tiff between the the SMC mayor and Rath began with the IPS officer hitting out at him for saying that wetlands in the city were not of much use if the city did not have proper infrastructure for expansion.
"What will you do in wetlands? Watch birds? There is a dearth of space and we need infrastructure for the city's growth. We are a poor state and have to create employment avenues," Mattu said in his maiden press conference soon after being elected mayor.
Without naming the mayor, Rath had responded on Twitter,
"Wetlands are precious and a vital part of our ecosystem. Only a cabbage will think otherwise." In another apparently related tweet, the IPS officer said, "Land grabbers don't make good policy makers. With or without a Twitter account."
A day later, the SMC mayor had tweeted about the traffic situation in the city. "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," he said. Rath was quick to respond, saying traffic management was not the mayor's domain.
"Not your domain. Traffic diversion at Jehangir Chowk is a compulsion. The vendors have created a mess on Amira Kadal - HSHS - Maharaja Bazar - LD Hospital stretch. SMC needs to clear the mess," he replied to Mattu.
Known for his penchant for the unusual, the IPS officer would not wear his uniform while on duty and would spend most of the time on roads to monitor the traffic management done by his staff.
He invoked provisions of various laws and traffic rules to clear the pavements in Jammu and Srinagar cities, drawing protests from affected people but the general public was appreciative of his measures.
His transfer was a shock that most of his fans were expecting sooner than later as they believed that he was the odd man out in the system which they alleged was corrupt and in inertia.
Rath was replaced by 1997 batch IPS officer Alok Kumar and attached with the office of Commandant General of Home Guards.