Curious Case of Panda-Radha
By Maxwell Pereira
mfjpkamath@gmail.com

Curious indeed! From out of the blue recently, we were confronted with this spectacle of a serving senior police officer in Uttar Pradesh (UP), claiming himself to be a reincarnation of Radha - the divine consort or Lord Krishna! Talking to brother police officers elsewhere and here in Delhi - some retired, and others still serving, I tried to understand and fathom the import and the impact of this.
For many, like me, it was a bolt from the blue not easily explainable, or pardonable! For some others, it was just a manifestation of a screw gone lose somewhere… a period of right treatment and things should be alright; may be back to what is considered normal. And for some it was a non-issue, since this officer under immense media glare and threatened departmental action in any case had put in his papers seeking voluntary retirement. Admittedly, good riddance of bad wood - amazingly managed without much ado!

Now, what was all the furor over? UP's Inspector General of Police (Rules and Manuals) Devendra Kumar Panda - a man entrusted with duties in the elite Indian Police Service into which he was recruited in 1973 for the task of maintaining law and order, has instead and since 1991 donned the role of Radha - beloved of Lord Krishna - plunging himself into a pool of Krishna Bhakti. Dressed in female attire and sporting a Mangtika (jewellery adorning the female head), a nose ring, besides wearing the vermillion (Sindoor), Panda reportedly spent time dancing and singing bhajans supposed to have been sung by Radha for her beloved.

Commenting on the intriguing plaque on Panda's official residence in 5/2 IPS Colony Vibhuti Khand in Gomti Nagar of Lucknow - reading "Doosri Radha" instead of D.K. Panda (IPS), the national and international media lapped up Panda's claim that in 1991 he got the divine glimpse of Lord Krishna, who told the cop he was in reality his beloved Radha. Since then Panda has played the romantic character of Radha, much to the dismay of his own estranged wife Veena - who went to court and secured a judicial separation with maintenance; which we learn was arbitrated further in her favour recently by the All India Women's Council's intervention.

Things actually came to a head when Panda turned up in court to face his wife's petition, in a yellow dress and dark red lipstick! TV news channels flocked to record this 'strange behaviour' on the part of a senior police officer, and then to his home to film him worshipping Lord Krishna in the form of the peepal (holy fig) tree in his garden, chanting mantras to his beloved Lord - for whom he had reserved his private bedroom "only for Krishna to enter" kept totally sacred and secret!

While there is nothing unusual in a Hindu ascetic getting up early and quoting from scriptures as Panda does, nor is it uncommon for Hindu sects to worship deities as lovers, or for men to live like women devotees - Panda's position as a senior police officer naturally and invariably got viewed as a tricky one, raising eyebrows and more! In the past month we have witnessed a considerable lot of tongue in cheek coverage on the issue - on television and in the written media, even an editorial in a leading national daily - all of which I believe has not enhanced the IPS image.

The officer's wife even while going to court on the one hand, had voiced apprehension over any action against her husband, for fear of him losing his job - which in turn would affect her maintenance. A comment in one of the newspapers I read, further mused that under the IPS Rules nothing can be done to penalise the officer for his 'strange behaviour' since restrictions in the Rules on wearing jewellery or other embellishments were specific to female officers alone, while being silent in respect of male officers.

Then there was this disclosure that his colleagues kept his penchant for ladies' clothes a secret for years, but must now decide what to do with a man who has become a figure of ridicule. More specifically was the reaction of the State DGP Yashpal Singh, who while finding his officer's appearance and behaviour quite strange and attributed it to "maybe he is suffering from some mental problem", was wary of any disciplinary action which "may precipitate things."

RIDICULOUS……! is my own response to all this! To begin with, it is not a non-issue! Then there is such a thing called All India Services Conduct Rules which behoves an officer of the related service to refrain from conduct unbecoming of a member of the service. If this was not conduct unbecoming of a senior police officer, then what is, I ask!! It is essential for an official holding government office to conduct himself/ herself in a manner that does not invite public ridicule and in turn thereby sully the government's own image and credibility in the common man's eye.

A scene on the telly last week while watching Barka Dutt's "We The People" on the gender issue of a "person trapped in a different body" sums it all up. When asked for her reaction to the Panda-Radha episode, senior columnist and editor Renuka Narayanan minced no words: If ever the worthy came in her presence, she said, she wouldn't hesitate to "jootha maro" the individual. I salute Renuka for the explicit portrayal of her sentiment, which I totally endorse!

900words: 20.12.2005:Copy Right © Maxwell Pereira: 3725 Sec-23, Gurgaon-122002. You can interact with the author at http:// www.maxwellperira.com and maxpk@vsnl.com

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