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Police Investigating Political Connections of Bhole Baba

Police Investigating Political Connections of Bhole Baba

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Manas Dasgupta

NEW DELHI, July 6: On hints from the Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath about the self-styled godman Bhole Baba’s alleged relations with the Samajwadi Party leaders, the police has launched an investigation into “potential political conspiracies” surrounding the Hathras stampede incident in which 121 people, mostly women and a few children, were killed and over 30 injured.

Yogi Adityanath even before his visit to the site of the incident had expressed doubts about a “conspiracy” surrounding the incident and had also tasked the judicial inquiry commission to probe from this angle too. After arresting several accused in the case, police have uncovered that Bhole Baba’s organisation had been getting funding from several political parties.

The Hathras Superintendent of Police, Nipun Agarwal, on Saturday revealed that the main accused Devprakash Madhukar, the “mukhya sevadar” of Bhole Baba, had recently been in contact with several political parties. This has prompted investigations into potential political conspiracies surrounding the incident. Madhukar, who was arrested in Delhi, was known to manage fundraising activities for events organized by the self-styled godman.

Mr Agarwal emphasized that financial transactions, money trails, and call records associated with Madhukar are currently under scrutiny. The police are also planning to seek his remand for further questioning.

An initial probe into the stampede had revealed that the godman had received permission to host an event for 80,000 people, but 2.5 lakh people were allowed to enter the venue. After the gathering, when the ‘godman’ was leaving, there was a rush among his followers to collect dust stirred up by his car’s tyres. According to officials, the godman’s private security guards started pushing his followers and some people fell and were trampled.

In the chaos, many others fled towards the open field and slipped, and others ran over them. Many of those killed in the stampede were women and children. According to eyewitnesses, only about 40 police personnel were on duty to ensure safety at this massive gathering and they were overwhelmed when the stampede broke out.

The family members of the stampede victims have demanded a swift probe and action against Bhole Baba aka Suraj Pal Singh who organised the ‘satsang’ where the stampede occurred. Madhukar was the ‘mukhya sevadar’ (chief of security) of the ‘satsang’ where the stampede occurred. He is the only accused named in the FIR lodged at Sikandra Rao police station in Hathras in connection with the incident, and Suraj Pal Singh hasn’t been named.

Initially, Madhukar’s lawyer, AP Singh, had asserted that his client had voluntarily surrendered to the Delhi police for medical treatment. However, Hathras police said they arrested Madhukar through technical surveillance, offering a reward of one lakh rupees for information leading to his arrest.

On Saturday afternoon, amidst tight security arrangements, Madhukar was brought to the Bagla Combined District Hospital in Hathras for a medical examination. He appeared with his face covered by a handkerchief and a stole wrapped around his head.

A three-member judicial commission team has arrived in Hathras to investigate administrative lapses that may have contributed to the tragedy. Statements from multiple officials have been recorded, and the team visited the site of the incident to gather further evidence.

Authorities plan to delve deeper into Madhukar’s association with Bhole Baba’s trust, scrutinizing funding sources and bank accounts. They intend to collaborate with other agencies to probe potential political links to the case. Should it be deemed necessary, a summons may also be issued to Bhole Baba for questioning.

“We are conducting a thorough investigation into Madhukar’s background and his role in the incident,” stated SP Nipun Agarwal. “If any political is found to be associated with (Bhole Baba’s) organisation, we will take action against them,” he added.

Asked if the self-styled godman may be arrested, state police chief Prashant Kumar said, “Right now, everything is a matter of investigation. We do not want to influence the investigation by drawing any immediate conclusion. The ambit of the investigation is open. Action will be taken based on the facts that come to light during the investigation.”

Top UP police officers said Madhukar was taken into custody after he surrendered in Delhi on Friday night. Less than 24 hours later, preacher Bhole Baba on Saturday issued his first statement saying he was “extremely pained” by the deadly incident on July 2, which claimed 121 lives. He said he was “with the victims” and has “full faith in the state authorities that culprits will not be spared.”

“We are distressed after the incident of July 2. May God give us the strength to overcome this sorrow. We should have faith in the government administration. Culprits will not be spared. We told through our lawyer that we stand with those who are going through this sorrow, with our body, money and mind,” he said.

Suraj Pal alias Narayan Sakar Hari alias Bhole Baba, through his lawyer, has already agreed to cooperate with the state administration and police while seeking an investigation into the matter. This statement came days after he went incognito in the aftermath of the stampede that took place during one of his religious congregations.

The preacher, however, was not named in the FIR registered in connection with the incident while Madhukar, the mukhya sevadar of the satsang where the stampede took place, is the only accused named in the FIR lodged at Sikandra Rao police station in Hathras.

In a video message, Madhukar’s lawyer AP Singh said his client surrendered in Delhi, where he was undergoing treatment. “Today, we have surrendered Devprakash Madhukar, who has been called the main organiser in the FIR in the Hathras case, after calling the police, the SIT and the STF in Delhi since he was undergoing treatment here,” he said.

“We had promised we would not apply for anticipatory bail since we did no wrong. What is our crime? He is an engineer and a heart patient. Doctors said his condition is stable now and so we surrendered today to join the probe,” the lawyer said.

He said police may now record his statement or question him but they must take into consideration his health condition and ensure that “nothing wrong happens with him”. “We did not do anything like filing anticipatory bail or moving court, which would have been viewed as an effort to save ourselves and being scared… questions were being raised about his (Madhukar) whereabouts and if he had run away,” he added.

Singh further said Madhukar would join the probe and share information about the “anti-social elements” at the event. On July 3, the Supreme Court lawyer said he also represents Bhole Baba and that some “anti-social elements” were behind the tragedy. He said Suraj Pal was ready to cooperate with the state administration and police and had sought an investigation into the entire matter.

Till July 4, six people, including two women volunteers who were members of the organising committee of the satsang, were arrested in the case. The FIR was lodged on July 2 under the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS) sections 105 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder), 110 (attempt to commit culpable homicide), 126 (2) (wrongful restraint), 223 (disobedience to order duly promulgated by the public servant) and 238 (causing disappearance of evidence).



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