Self-styled godman Dhirendra Shastri popularly known as Bageshwar Dham Sarkar attracts huge crowds who listen raptly as he claims to guess the problems his subjects are facing in life, apparently without them having told him about them. While he mostly writes down the person's problem 'on a piece of paper' just after looking at them, sometimes he also loudly proclaims personal details- like names of family members, events in their life - all having allegedly discerned it without prior knowledge.
Shastri recently did the same with a reporter from ABP news, who went on to endorse Shastri in the ABP news show. The reporter Gyanendra Tiwari later spoke about it on the channel's Facebook page, claiming he was genuinely surprised that the godman was able to "reveal all this information since he never revealed it to him."
The event happened in Raipur, Chattisgarh on January 20, 2023, where Shastri was conducting a Divya Darbar. While speaking on stage, Shastri suddenly asked, "Can anyone from the media tell me what is my chacha's (paternal uncle) name? If you cannot, after this, stop calling me superstitious?"
He then goes on to say, "whoever has an uncle named Bhrigunath Tiwari should come to the stage". The ABP news reporter Gyanendra Tiwari then walks up to the stage and admits that the name mentioned by Shastri is his uncle's name. Shastri then asks him if his brother 'Raghunath Tiwari' recently held a housewarming ceremony; Tiwari nods yes to this too. He then asks if his niece is named Abhishi, to which Tiwari excitedly responds with a yes.
Having convinced the journalist of his "skills", Shastri then asks Tiwari if he had a question for him. Tiwari tells him he has been contemplating his future path in journalism and how he could help society better. In a quick reply, Shastri offers a solution by asking him to recite a set of mantras (chants). He also hands over to Tiwari a piece of paper claiming "it has all his secrets that the world is unaware of"
While this is all baffling, what followed on the channel was even more so. ABP reporter Gyanendra Tiwari in his piece to camera from the event gave a ringing endorsement to Shastri, claiming he was surprised that the godman was able to discern all his personal details, without prior knowledge about it.
He also adds, that there is a "thin line between belief and superstition..." which everybody needs to understand.
The whole thing can be seen from the 1.25.00 minutes timestamp. ABP News is running continuous coverage of Shastri's Divya Darbar.
While this blind belief by his subjects in him is common for Shastri, watching a news channel offer a ringing endorsement, singing his praises has come at a time when the self styled godman has been accused of promoting superstition and challenged to display his miraculous powers by the Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmulan Samiti. MANS was founded by the late Narendra Dabholkar, a prominent rationalist and anti-superstition advocate.
Dabolkar was shot dead by two gunmen near Omkareshwar temple in Pune on August 23, 2013, while he was out on a morning walk.
ABP News, now having termed Shastri's theatrics as not "superstition" did more shows on him, including running continuous LIVE coverage of Shastri's Divya Darbar.
The same events from the Divya Darbar were carried by the channel in an exclusive segment titled, "What is the truth about Bageshwar baba?"
Another show was aired on January 20, 2023, in their special segment Inside Story. The show was titled, "What disease ails a person, how does Baba come to know this information : Bageshwar Dham Sarkar"
This segment does ask relevant questions, but leaves most of them unanswered and with clickbait headlines.
ABP News also carried the exchange between journalist Tiwari and the godman Shastri in the show. Presenting it as a litmus test with catchy headlines like 'Chamatkar ka Live' (rough translation - The Miracle Presented Live).
View it here
In this show, Journalist Tiwari is presented as a special guest and asked by the anchor if there are miracles. Tiwari replies that the information revealed by Shastri about his life and family is not a miracle, but he was "in complete awe of the godman".
"What happened today was troubling, surprising. I have interviewed Dhirendra Shastri before, but never revealed those details about myself to him..." says Tiwari. Then adds, "I do not think it is a big miracle to find out about somebody, but when you are sitting there surrounded by a crowd, hearing your uncle's name being called, being told about my brother's housewarming..." Tiwari also explains the piece of paper given to him by Shastri.
"He asked me to ask him any question. Then he handed me a piece of paper. In which he had already answered the question, before I had even asked it."
Here the reporter adds, "We at ABP news are showing both sides of the debate. But this experience of mine was surprising."
The tryst between ABP News and Shastri though did not end here. The channel did a Facebook LIVE with the reporter Tiwari where he addressed criticism that all the information allegedly revealed by Shastri about the reporter were publicly available on his social media accounts.
He replies to the doubts and questions with, "All these things come up later. When you look into someone's eyes and talk... I was looking into his eyes... He was sad and did not seem like an ordinary person while talking..."
Shastri, who is based in the Chhatarpur region of Bundelkhand in Madhya Pradesh, has made several communal and controversial statements in the past and alleged forced "religious conversions" in the country.
How Did Dhirendra Shastri Reveal Personal Information About The ABP Reporter? He Used Facebook.
While the ABP News reporter was surprised how did the godman know his uncle's name, his brother's new house, and his niece's name, the answer to it not very difficult ot find- Tiwari's personal Facebook account has revealed most of this information in publicly viewable posts.
This was pointed out by several users in the replies to the ABP news segment on Shastri.
BOOM checked Tiwari's Facebook profile and found that all this information was available just at a glance through his posts and bio on Facebook.
Brother's name and housewarming
Tiwari's 'About' section on Facebook, reveals his brother - Raghavendra Tiwari listed as his brother in the Family and Relationships section.
A scroll through Tiwari's timeline shows a Facebook live video shared on January 18, 2023, with a caption in Hindi that translates to, "It is the day of the housewarming of my elder brother's house. God is being remembered"
Click here to view
Neice's name and Uncle's name
A scan through Tiwari's brother's profile - Raghvendra Tiwari shows him posing with his daughter in the cover photo.
One of the replies is by a user named Bhrighunath Prasad Tiwari, where he calls the girl cute adding her name - Abhishi.
Below is a reply to Bhrighunath by Raghavendra saying, "Thank you Chachaji"
Shastri used the same name to invite the ABP news reporter Tiwari on stage asking, "If anyone has an uncle named Bhrighunath"
"If a person feels something is astonishing, then that is what they feel": Sant Prasad Rai, Senior VP, News and Production, ABP News
BOOM contacted Sant Prasad Rai, senior vice president, News and Production, ABP News regarding this who first said, "Where have we claimed that something astonishing happened? The information is available on Facebook, there is nothing astonishing about this..."
When asked why the reporter Gyanendra Tiwari calls it astonishing in his news story, Rai said, "If the person feels something is astonishing then that is what they feel..." He then adds, "This is not something astonishing. We are trying to break misconceptions."
Rai did not respond to BOOM's query why ABP News did not disclose that the information revealed by Shastri to Tiwari was publicly available on Facebook.
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