Gupteshwar is not liked by a large number of top civil and police officials. They dislike him for being too vocal and for politicising the whole police hierarchy
By Soroor Ahmed | Patna
DURING the high-time of lockdown when Bihar was flooded with millions of migrant workers and when Chief Minister Nitish Kumar remained confined to his official bungalow for over 90-odd days only one voice was audible and that too on various social media platforms. That was Gupteshwar Pandey who, till September 22, served as the Director General of Police, Bihar. YouTube channels were filled with photos and messages instructing and advising people of the state on various issues, including the need for religious tolerance. He became so much visible that some people – in a lighter vein – started calling him the actual chief minister of Bihar as they were not aware of the whereabouts of Nitish and his ministers and other civil officials.
If on the streets across the state the personnel of Bihar Police were imposing strictest possible lockdown, in the bordering districts, including Gupteshwar’s home turf of Buxar, the men in khaki could be seen blocking the entry of migrant labourers from other states. Those who arrived from trains or buses were herded by cops to hundreds of quarantine centres. At places there were complaints of police brutality for absolutely no rhyme or reason.
Perhaps the overworked junior level police personnel would lose temper because they were denied leaves and forced to work for long hours.
What to speak of Nitish Kumar, none of his cabinet colleagues, MP, legislator etc as well as top civil officials was visible in public. It was largely lower level functionaries who carried the huge responsibility. In the whole process of quarantine and providing health services huge amounts of money were siphoned off.
So when Gupteshwar Pandey called on chief minister Nitish Kumar on September 26, that is four days after his voluntary retirement from police services he told the media persons that nothing political was discussed and that he had just gone to his former boss to thank him for giving a free-hand in carrying out the duty. Perhaps, he inadvertently spoke this sentence. No chief minister in the country had gone into shell for so many days leaving everything in the hands of top police officials of the state.
So, Bihar emerged as a classic example of a Police Raj of somewhat different kind with no check and balance. This continued for more than three months. The image conscious Gupteshwar would in-between act as Good Samaritan. During Ramazan and Eid he issued special messages for Muslims to soothe their anger after more than a month-long sinister government as well as media campaign against Tablighi Jamaat.
Once he even rushed to a village in Gopalganj to check the communal tension after a website carried false news that a Hindu youth had been killed by Muslims and the body thrown into a pond. The DGP himself chose to reach the spot to dig out the truth. He immediately denied the news and thus helped prevent communal trouble spread elsewhere.
Whether this single move managed to restore the image of Bihar Police or not is a different matter, Gupteshwar got pat on his back from some quarters, especially Muslims.
But all this was before the death of Sushant Singh Rajput on June 14. Yet till then the Bihar DGP was not known much outside his own state. The tragedy involving the actor and the stand taken by the Bihar government provided Gupteshwar an opportunity to excel his lung power outside the state.
Whether he was justified in his stand or not is a different matter, but the manner in which the whole issue was argued before television channels by him has hardly any place in the civilised world.
While the civil society and police officials in Maharashtra were bound to react, even in the home state of Gupteshwar a large number of his own colleagues – not to speak of others – disapproved of his style and approach.
Unlike the image which the media wants to sketch, the loud-mouthed Gupteshwar is not liked by a large number of top civil and police officials. They dislike him for being too vocal and for politicising the whole police hierarchy. As his brother is a Patna-based senior journalist associated with a TV channel known for its proclivity towards the Union and state governments, there is no problem in getting publicity.
His close colleagues always cite the preferential treatment Gupteshwar has been getting. They cite the example of his 2009 VRS to contest Lok Sabha poll and then his subsequent return to service when denied the BJP ticket. He was then serving as IG.
He did not earn good name in teenager Navruna Chakravorty murder case when he was the IG in Muzaffarpur. This time he has got involved in another Chakravorty – Rhea – case.
The manner in which he took VRS without three month-notice has once again created uneasiness within the top echelon of Bihar police. This is also a sad commentary on the way Chief Minister Nitish Kumar is running Bihar.