People of a Madhya Pradesh town have taken to the streets to protest the transfer of a police officer after he exposed a hawala racket allegedly involving a state minister, a chain of events dubbed as a battle between khaki and khadi.
IPS officer Gaurav Tiwari, transferred from Katni on Monday, has also found support on social media with some drawing parallel with the story of an honest police officer in the hit Bollywood film, Singham, starring Ajay Devgn.
Tiwari was shifted as the Chhindwara superintendent of police barely six months after he was posted at Katni, about 350 kms from capital Bhopal.
Thousands of people have staged demonstrations over the past few days in Katni while many more have pledged support to Tiwari on social media.
The protests have come as a major embarrassment for the BJP government led by chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, who has been highlighting his zero-tolerance policy on corruption.
There are allegations that Tiwari’s transfer came after he busted a Rs 500-crore hawala racket with links to minister of state for MSME Sanjay Pathak, who is also a mining baron.
Pathak, 46, joined the BJP from the Congress in March 2014 after resigning from the state assembly. He later won his seat Vijayraghavgarh (Katni) in a by-poll and was inducted in the Chouhan ministry in June last year despite resentment in a section of BJP workers and leaders.
State Congress spokesperson KK Mishra also released a photograph which purportedly shows the alleged hawala operator with Sanjay Pathak and Chouhan.
Pathak, however, has denied the charges and called for a probe to clear his name. The chief minister also announced an inquiry by the Enforcement Directorate (ED), India’s financial crime investigation agency.
“The photo released by Congress was taken in October 2014 when CM visited the industrial area and there were many people who wanted their photographs with the CM. I knew Satish Saraogi as a businessman,” Pathak told HT.
“However, till date none of the agencies have established if it is a hawala racket or opening of some fake bank accounts or something else.”
Tiwari’s Facebook page has been flooded with messages of support.
“That lakhs of people take to street agitated over a SP’s transfer you must have seen in the film Gangajal only,” posted one Dileep Kumar Asaati, using the title of another Bollywood film, also about a police officer.
Another user Kavindra Narayan wrote: “Are these ‘achchhe din’? On one hand Modiji talks of corruption free India on the other in a BJP ruled state an honest officer is being punished to shield a minister.”
The protests over Tiwari’s transfer has also echoed in the French capital Paris, with international chess champion Akshat Kamparia -- who also hails from Katni -- joining forces with Paris-based painter Jeevan Singh.
Sources said Kamparia will stage a symbolic protest at the iconic Eiffel Tower, holding placards on the “political violence in Katni, India”.
However, the government has refused to budge from its stand.
Another IPS officer Shashikant Shukla assumed charge as the new superintendent of police in Katni on Friday even as protests continued.
More than 500 women led by former MLA and JD(U) leader Saroj Nayak courted arrest in Katni town while similar protests were led by former Congress MLA Chandarsen Gaur.
The district administration clamped prohibitory orders at Subhash Chowk, used for political protests.