An IPS officer who Tamed Criminals but Surrendered to Heritage

Patna: As a 27-year-old IPS officer, Vikas Vaibhav was posted at Bagaha in West Champaran in the harsh winter of 2006 when “organised crime” was rearing its head in this mofussil town of north Bihar.
The “mini Chambal”, the notorious epithet the place had earned it then, left him shocked initially, but his iron grit and determination to strike at the root of crime, eventually made some of the most dreaded criminals to surrender.

“By the time I joined as SP, the place already had a long history of crime. I was quiet young and had been recently married. So, there was a bit of initial unease, having been then quite well settled in Patna as City SP and upon hearing about its notoriety. But landing in Bagaha, I enjoyed some of the best days of my life explring wildlife in the forests and diaras in the process of chasing hideouts of naxals and criminals.”  Vaibhav told PatnaBeats in an interview.

But, the 2003-batch Bihar-cadre officer, hailing from Begusarai, says this wasn’t the most daunting task he has faced in career so far.

“The most physically challenging part perhaps would be when I was serving in Maoist-affected Rohtas with all the hilly terrain, and where I even had a close encounter once, and a bullet whizzed past just over my head,” recalls  Vaibhav, who served as SP Rohtas from 2008-2011.
After the 2008 encounter that day, Vaibhav and some of his teammates visited the ancient Mundeshwari Temple in Kaimur, the iconic octagonal Hindu shrine.
But, for this IIT-Kanpur graduate, who made history and heritage his pastime in the college days, the visit was more than casual, and a camera, as much his companion, as his gun.
Vikas Vaibhav, whose interest is primarily into ancient Indian heritage, the pastime has turned into a passion, and he runs a blog ‘Silent Pages‘ which has thousands of readers not just from Bihar but several parts of the world.
“Heritage consciousness in India, especially in Bihar is very low. We see things in front of us, but do not recognise its value, let alone do something about it. My policing job took me to some of the most historical places in Bihar. And, I always thought of somehow inculcating among people the love for their heritage,” Vikas Vaibhav said.
Born in 1979, and raised in Barauni Refinery township and later in Delhi and Noida, Vikas Vaibhav says, “Even in Rohtas, the famous Rohtasgarh Fort stood to us as a symbol of lost glory, and I somehow felt that police operations weren’t the route to lasting peace.”
“So, we thought of turning to the iconic and ancient Fort which had also once inpired the great ruler Sher Shah Suri . And, thus started the police-community project to make tourism as a way to earn peace for the Maoist-affected region, turning some of the Maoist- sympathisers into tourist guides. Called as ‘Sone Mahotsav’ the project intended to leverage the soft power for bringing in change,” Vikas Vaibhav said.
36-year-old cop, who earlier served as SSP Darbhanga in 2011 and SSP Patna for a while starting mid-2015, says policing and heritage researching, both give him the “same kick”.
“Policing is a very stressful life and so delving into culture and heritage, breaks the monotony of that stressful life,” Vikas Vaibhav said.

Ancient statues lying in the premises of the Math in BodhGaya

Asked what was the driving force behind to venture so deep into history, he says, “The bug had bitten him in college days only. I used to go to historical places nearby Kanpur and document them.
“But, blogging, I took up later, as I realised, I was seeing too many things, and that chronicling the journey was important to share it with people, to highlight not just their importance but, also throw a spotlight on their conditions.”
“And, that is why I named it ‘Silent Pages’, I wanted to give voice to these silent monuments, which we all should take pride in,” Vikas Vaibhav said.
Recalling his experiences of Bhagalpur, Vaibhav says, “I saw ancient rock-cut sculptures lying in neglect and in Gaya-Jehanabad Kauwa Dol hill where stone sculptures and artifacts are lying astrewn on the ground.”
“These places should be celebrated and be linked with tourism to boost not just our economy but also the image of Bihar in general,” he said.
On the present status of heritage in Patna, he says, “The core of the city should be preserved, and new constructions should come up in open areas a little away from the city, since Patna is a historic place, and the capital city’s old charm and character must be kept.”
“As a City SP (Patna), I lived in a bungalow, lining Gandhi Maidan, which was said to be home of famous Opium Agent Sir Charles D’Oyly, who, himself an amateur artist, contributed a lot to art in Bihar.
Vaibhav, who holds a B.Tech in Mechanical Engineering, is now deeply interested in Mahabharat, and through his blog also shares the experiences of his travel to places associated with the epic. A copy of illustrated Mahabharat in Sanskrit, published by Gita Press, shares space with police files at his desk in office.
“The same place now appears different, after having read Mahabharat. I am reading the Sanskrit version. Though I am not fully conversant with this ancient language but I can understand it mostly in this context. And, reading the epic in Sanskrit has a different feel altogether,” says Vikas Vaibhav .

Asked, if not civil services, what other career he would have chosen, he said, “Definitely engineering. I had started working with NTPC in UP, after finishing my BTech in 2001. And, I would have continued.”

“And, whether it is policing or researching on some historical thing, my science background only helped, and I always had and an investigative mind, and finding an ancient temple in some remote village or an old script on a stone gives a sense of discovery,” Vikas Vaibhav said.
“My affair with heritage, I would say, began with photography, and now I wish to continue this affair, besides doing my daily job. I am able to balance both,” Vikas Vaibhav says, with a smile.

You can follow him on his Facebook page by clicking here or you can read his blogs at Silent Pages.

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