Bhole Baba Reappears After Hathras Stampede Tragedy: Promises Justice and Accountability

A Calamitous Event

Four days after a catastrophic stampede resulted in the deaths of 121 people in Hathras, Uttar Pradesh, Surajpal Singh, popularly known as Bhole Baba, has resurfaced. The disaster struck when an overwhelming crowd gathered for a ‘satsang’ (spiritual discourse) organized by Bhole Baba. The police have since arrested six individuals linked to the event, but Bhole Baba was conspicuously absent until now.

Bhole Baba’s Public Statement

On July 6, Bhole Baba emerged with a video statement, expressing his grief over the incident, which stands as one of the most devastating stampedes in recent Indian history. “I am deeply saddened after the incident of July 2. May God give us the strength to bear this pain. Please keep faith in the government and the administration,” he said, attempting to console the public.

He continued, “I have faith that anyone who created the chaos would not be spared. Through my lawyer, AP Singh, I have requested the committee members to support the bereaved families and the injured throughout their lives.” Despite his public display of concern, Bhole Baba’s name was noticeably missing from the FIR filed in the wake of the tragedy, which has ignited outrage among the families of the deceased.

The Controversial Persona

Surajpal Singh, alias Bhole Baba, is no stranger to controversy. He has a history of legal troubles, with five criminal cases against him, including serious allegations of molestation. Formerly a head constable in Etawah, he was dismissed from the police force 28 years ago following rape accusations, although he claims he voluntarily retired.

Bhole Baba has built a reputation around his contentious ‘satsangs’ and has faced legal challenges in various locations, including Agra, Etawah, Kasganj, Farrukhabad, and Dausa in Rajasthan. He is also known for his alleged political connections, with viral photographs suggesting meetings with prominent figures such as Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and Samajwadi Party leader Akhilesh Yadav.

Arrests and Legal Proceedings

In a crucial development, the main accused in the stampede case, Devprakash Madhukar, surrendered to authorities in Delhi on Friday. Madhukar, who was the chief organizer of the ‘satsang’, is now in the custody of the Uttar Pradesh police. Inspector General of Police (Aligarh Range), Shalabh Mathur, confirmed that six ‘sevadars’ (volunteers), including two women, have been arrested in connection with the stampede. “All six persons who have been arrested worked as sevadars at the ‘satsang’,” Mathur stated.

Despite the ongoing arrests, the primary accused named in the FIR remains at large. There is mounting pressure for a thorough investigation and for Bhole Baba to be questioned, given his central role in the event. A senior police officer indicated that Bhole Baba might be interrogated if deemed necessary during the investigation.

The Search for Accountability

The Hathras stampede has cast a harsh spotlight on the organizational lapses and potential negligence that led to such a significant loss of life. The victims’ families are demanding justice and accountability, and many are frustrated by the slow pace of the investigation and the absence of Bhole Baba’s name in the FIR.

The incident has also sparked wider concerns about the regulation and safety of large religious gatherings in India, especially those organized by controversial figures like Bhole Baba. The lack of proper crowd management and emergency response measures has been cited as a critical failure in this tragic event.

Public Outcry and Legal Actions

Public sentiment is increasingly critical of both the organizers and the authorities responsible for ensuring the safety of such gatherings. The fact that Bhole Baba, a figure with a checkered past, was able to organize such a large event with minimal oversight raises serious questions about regulatory failings and accountability.

Moreover, Bhole Baba’s resurfacing and subsequent statements have done little to quell the public’s anger and grief. His expression of sorrow, while significant, has not absolved him in the eyes of those who lost loved ones in the stampede.

As the investigation continues, the focus remains on ensuring that justice is served for the victims of the Hathras stampede. The authorities face a significant challenge in not only holding those responsible to account but also in restoring public confidence in their ability to manage such events safely in the future. The coming days will be critical in determining the outcomes of the investigations and what steps will be taken to prevent such tragedies from occurring again.

(With inputs from agencies)

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