Former superintendent of police of Odisha’s Kendrapara Satish Gajbhiye, who was transferred out on Friday (Auguest 7) following violent protests against controversial god man Sarathi Baba and subsequent alleged police excesses, has defended his actions and blamed some television channels for holding media trials to boost TRP and forgetting about legality.
The IPS officer took to Facebook to pour his heart out because “media may not put my position before the people”.
In a long strongly worded Facebook post on Saturday night, Gajbhiye said: “The role of media as a crystallising factor of public opinion is apparent in all the democracies, so also in our country. But the connection between ‘media hype’ and political – administrative – social change and increase in TRP has been established recently. The demand of arresting Sarthi Baba after media hype was not justified when there was no concrete complaint against him and also when the CID CB was looking into it.”
On August 4, an Odia news channel aired a story that Sarathi Baba went to Hyderabad by air along with a young girl in the first week of July and spent time in a five-star hotel there. The channel showed pictures of the baba in the hotel clad in jeans and T-shirt.
The story sparked massive protests in Kendrapara, where the baba has his sprawling ashram, for the next two days demanding his arrest and investigation into his alleged dubious activities. Even as the state government ordered an inquiry by the crime branch of the police into Sarathi Baba’s affairs, pitched battles between protesters and police left several injured.
News channels showed Gajbhiye leading his force with helmet over head and baton in hand, during the clash. He drew flak for police excesses during the protests. He was removed as SP on August 7, a day before Sarathi Baba was arrested by crime branch on charge of forgery, illegal confinement, arms act and other sections.
Gajbhiye, who has now been asked to join the state police headquarters, said some of the channels were continuously raising the question as to why the police was refraining from arresting the baba even after evidence of his air journey to Hyderabad was proved in “media trial”, with some media men and social activists raising questions in the light of large-scale agitation against the self-styled god man.
“However, the majority opinion need not always be legal opinion. If so then, even decisions of Khap Panchayats awarding death penalty would be justified,” Gajbhiye said.
He said the media had continuously shown the clipping of motorcycle headlight being broken by a constable, but forgot to show footages of people throwing explosive crackers on constables. “Who will show the clippings of broken police vehicles? The media has repeatedly shown that a politician who is incidentally an advocate by profession was manhandled by police. But why they are not showing the clipping of this politician, when he climbed up a building and threw boulders on the policemen?” Gajbhiye said.
He said it was the wisdom of the government to transfer him out of Kendrapara, but some of the media channels projected it as a ‘punishment’.
Gajbhiye said the babas thrive on the ‘faith’ of people and sometimes exposing them helps to curb their activities. “But why then in an instant case, the violent agitation was organised by such organisations who are known as traditional sympathisers of God-men? Perhaps they are perturbed by getting one after another baba exposed in various ‘immoral’ if not ‘illegal’ scandals,” he said.