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‘Satsang’ Organisers Among 6 Arrested, ‘Bhole Baba’ Questioning “If Needed”

‘Satsang’ Organisers Among 6 Arrested, ‘Bhole Baba’ Questioning “If Needed”

Six people, including some of the organisers, have been arrested in a ‘satsang’ or prayer meeting that ended in a deadly stampede in Uttar Pradesh.

A former police constable-turned-preacher Bhole Baba’s prayer meeting in Hathras, some 200 km from Delhi, saw the deaths of 121 people, the vast majority women, after a rush to the exits among the 2,50,000 devotees who came to watch him preach.

Officials initially blamed a dust storm for sparking panic, while police later said the stampede began when “followers started to collect earth” from the ground where the preacher had passed.

“All six persons who have been arrested worked as ‘sevadars’ (volunteers) at the ‘satsang’,” Inspector General of Police (Aligarh Range) Shalabh Mathur told reporters.

“A reward of Rs 1 lakh will be announced soon and non-bailable warrant (NBW) will also be issued against key accused Devprakash Madhukar,” he added.

The self-styled godman, in his early 60s, has not been seen in public since the incident. He issued a statement on Wednesday declaring he will take legal action against “anti-social elements” that allegedly engineered the horrific chaos.

The cop clarified that the ‘godman’ has not been questioned yet. 

“We will make arrests based on what the investigation reveals… We will question the baba if necessary, it is too early to say or comment whether he has a role. He has not been named in the FIR, which has held the organisers responsible. The permission was taken by the organising committee and members of the panel have been arrested,” the cop further said.

Originally Suraj Pal Singh, he later changed his name to Narayan Sakar Hari or “Bhole Baba”. He has expressed “deepest condolences to the families of the deceased”.

Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, who visited the accident site on Wednesday and met the injured, was asked why the preacher was not named in the FIR as an accused.

“Prima facie, the case has been filed against those who applied for permission for the event. Whoever is responsible for this will come under its purview,” said the Chief Minister.

The bodies of all victims of the Hathras stampede have been identified and handed over to their families, District Magistrate Ashish Kumar said today.

“The last body was identified by the family over a video call. They are on their way to Aligarh hospital (to get the body),” the district magistrate added.

The Uttar Pradesh government has announced a monetary relief of Rs 2 lakh to the family members of the dead and Rs 50,000 for those injured.

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