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Police arrest two more ‘satsang’ organisers, but silence still on Bhole Baba | Mio Kitchen


A comment by the head of the judicial commission of inquiry suggested no immediate plans to question Suraj Pal aka Bhole Baba. However, some of those who deposed before the commission told reporters they had held the ‘godman’ and his bodyguards responsible for the tragedy

Devotees with a picture of Suraj Pal aka Bhole Baba at his ashram in Mainpuri on July 4.: PTI picture

Piyush Srivastava, TT, Lucknow, 09.07.24  : Police have arrested two more organisers of Bhole Baba’s satsang at Phulrai village in Hathras where a stampede on Tuesday took 126 lives amid allegations of overcrowding and a single, narrow exitway.

A comment by the head of the judicial commission of inquiry suggested no immediate plans to question Suraj Pal aka Bhole Baba. However, some of those who deposed before the commission told reporters they had held the “godman” and his bodyguards responsible for the tragedy.

Eyewitnesses and victims’ families have said the Baba’s 100-odd bodyguards had sole control of the venue — with the police and administrative officials watching from a distance — and their shoving and pushing was partly responsible for the stampede.

However, the FIR only blames the members of a socio-religious organisation, Manav Mangal Milan Committee, that organised the congregation and allegedly let in 2.5 lakh people after obtaining permission for an attendance of 80,000. The organisers are also accused of destroying evidence.

A total 11 people — all Manav Mangal members — have now been arrested. Local police said Dalvir Pal and Durgesh Kumar were picked up on Sunday night from Hathras railway station while allegedly about to board a train.

Brajesh Kumar Srivastava, retired Allahabad High Court judge and head of the judicial commission, on Sunday sidestepped a reporter’s question on whether the Baba might be summoned.

“We will record the statements of all those whose testimony is necessary,” he said.

A local source said the commission had recorded the statements of 34 people so far.

“All those who deposed were chosen by the local police. Most of them told the commission that the Baba’s security guards and the organisers were both responsible for the stampede,” a police officer in Lucknow said.

“The commission had called some administrative and police officers besides some other eyewitnesses. Most of them said there was a single, narrow exit at the venue,” he added.

“While the devotees were trying to get close to the Baba to touch his feet or the earth on which he had trodden, the security guards and sevadars (organisers) violently pushed them back.”

Sudhir Pratap of Mugalgarhi village, who deposed before the commission, told reporters: “Suraj Pal came out of the same gate through which the devotees had to exit. The sevadars and the Baba’s security guards mindlessly pushed the devotees away from him and created complete chaos.

“As a result, people started running helter-skelter. Many of them died after falling into an adjoining nallah, or getting trampled on.”

Pratap said he had made the same statement before the commission.

Mukesh Kumar of village Mursan, another eyewitness who deposed before the commission, told reporters he had confirmed that the Baba and his bodyguards had fled the scene after the tragedy instead of staying back to help.

“So many dead bodies piled up within a few minutes. There was nobody to help the poor people. I took some of them to hospital,” Kumar said.

The three-member commission, which includes former IAS officer Hemant Rao and former IPS officer Bhawesh Kumar Singh, is to submit its report in two months.

Chief minister Yogi Adityanath has been silent on the Baba’s possible culpability, and Opposition leaders Rahul Gandhi and Akhilesh Yadav too have evaded reporters’ questions on the subject.

Politicians and governments in Uttar Pradesh seldom dare act or speak out against “godmen” with large followings.

A few days ago, asked whether the Baba may be questioned, Agra zone inspector-general of police Shalabh Mathur had said: “We may interrogate him if we think it necessary.”

rasasalsa166@gmail.com

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