Patna: Former Bihar Police DGP Gupteshwar Pandey appeared on a live show on a digital platform Thursday to give a sermon about lord Krishna of the Bhagwad Gita. The blend of policing and religion may strike as odd to some, but for the former Bihar top cop it’s no big deal.
After seeking voluntary retirement from the police force, Pandey has made a name for himself as a katha vachak – a religious preacher who holds sermons in public places.
“There is nothing new about my being a katha vachak,” Pandey told ThePrint Saturday. “Even while I was a serving IPS officer, I used to do it among friends and relatives. Of course, I couldn’t do it in public then, because of the code of conduct for a serving police officer”.
The retired police officer has drawn attention with his recent religious shows, and some believe he may be the first cop to become a katha vachak.
Between 15 and 22 June, Pandey said he did a series of virtual sermons for the Ayodhya Ram Mandir trust (Thursday’s show was a part of this), talking about the Bhagwat Gita, the Ramayan and the Vedas.
“I did not even have to learn them anew. I had done my post-graduation in Sanskrit (from Patna University in 1987) and knew the texts by heart,” he said.
If that’s not enough variety for you, Pandey has also dabbled in politics.
Policing to politics
Incidentally, this is not the first time that Pandey has drawn media attention.
Last year, the 1987 batch IPS officer, became national news when he allowed an FIR to be lodged in Patna in connection with the death of Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput in Mumbai.
Pandey sent a team of four policemen from Patna to Mumbai to investigate the case, which triggered a power struggle between the governments of Bihar and Maharashtra, and drew the ire of the Mumbai Police.
On 19 August, the Supreme Court handed over the Sushant Singh case to the CBI, overruling the objections of the Maharashtra government. The Maharashtra government maintained that the Bihar police did not have the right to lodge an FIR in Patna, since the death took place in Mumbai. But the apex court upheld Bihar police’s right to lodge an FIR, when it received information about a cognizable offence. It had been the stand taken by Pandey to explain his decision to lodge an FIR in the case.
Following this, a video appeared on social media projecting him as the Robin Hood of Bihar.
But soon after, Pandey opted for voluntary retirement, expecting CM Nitish Kumar to give him a ticket from his native town Buxar. In September last year, Pandey joined the JD(U) at the residence of Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. Photographs of Kumar giving him membership were released in the media. Before that, Pandey had held a meeting with JD (U) workers at Buxar.
However, under the NDA alliance, the seat went to BJP and the national party refused to give him a ticket. Ironically, the seat went to another IPS officer, Sunil Kumar, who is now a minister in Nitish Kumar’s cabinet.
This was not Pandey’s first failed attempt to make a move into politics. In 2009 too, he had tendered his resignation from service in the hope that he would get a BJP ticket for the Lok Sabha polls from Buxar. However, when the BJP did not give a ticket, CM Nitish Kumar had helped him get reinstated in service.
But politics is not a thing the ex-DGP likes to dwell on.
“I had no ambition. I have dedicated myself to the will of God,” he said.
In the service of God
Even while serving as a cop, Pandey was known for love of visiting temples.
Now, he spends his time touring places of pilgrim spots – Ayodhya, Mathura and Varanasi – giving sermons as a katha vachak. “Soon, I will be going to the Narmada region,” he said.
While former Gujarat-based IPS officer of Bihari descent, Kishor Kunal became the head the Mahavir Religious trust and was at one time a negotiator in the Ayodhya dispute, Pandey is probably the first cop-turned-katha vachak in the state.
“I have known IAS and IPS officers to go in for politics. Some of them have joined religious sects. But Gupteshwar has very sound knowledge on religion. I think he will succeed as a katha vachak”, former chief secretary of Bihar V. S. Dubey told ThePrint.
(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)
Why news media is in crisis & How you can fix it
India needs free, fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism even more as it faces multiple crises.
But the news media is in a crisis of its own. There have been brutal layoffs and pay-cuts. The best of journalism is shrinking, yielding to crude prime-time spectacle.
ThePrint has the finest young reporters, columnists and editors working for it. Sustaining journalism of this quality needs smart and thinking people like you to pay for it. Whether you live in India or overseas, you can do it here.