Controversial preacher Bhole Baba equated himself to God, has biggest ashram in Mainpuri

Police stand guard outside of Ram Kutir Charitable Trust, the ashram of preacher Baba Narayan Hari, also known as Saakar Vishwa Hari Bhole Baba, at Bichhwa, in Mainpuri district, Wednesday, July 3, 2024.
Police stand guard outside of Ram Kutir Charitable Trust, the ashram of preacher Baba Narayan Hari, also known as Saakar Vishwa Hari Bhole Baba, at Bichhwa, in Mainpuri district, Wednesday, July 3, 2024.

Kasganj (UP) | Tens of thousands of his dedicated followers would attend his 'satsang' in Uttar Pradesh and neighbouring states, but on Wednesday controversial preacher Bhole Baba who equated himself to God in his sermons chose not to make a public appearance as families of over 100 people who died in the stampede at his congregation in Hathras mourned their loss.

The self-styled godman, who is called Baba Narayan Hari and Saakar Vishwa Hari Bhole Baba, is not named in the list of the accused in the FIR filed in the incident though his name is in the complaint.

Over two decades after he quit the police department and became a religious preacher, Bhole Baba is presiding over several ashrams, the biggest of them in Mainpuri which was surrounded by police on Wednesday though it was not clear whether he was inside.

"I go to temples, gurdwara, mosques and churches. I reach wherever I am called from. And if I am not called, I don't go," he says in one of the videos of his sermons and claims is an incarnation of God.

In another clip claimed to be of his cavalcade, a large posse of men attired in black and claimed to be his security escort are seen running with his vehicle as he leaves a sermon site.

A preliminary inquiry report said chaos - caused after the followers were pushed by the godman's security - and a "slippery slope" resulted in the stampede that killed 121 people in Hathras on Tuesday.

In a brief statement on Wednesday in which he condoled the loss of lives, the godman claimed that "anti-social elements" were behind the stampede which occurred after he left the satasang and named a Supreme Court lawyer for "further legal action" in the matter

His two upcoming congregations in Agra have now be cancelled by authorities.

In his native village Bahadurnagar in Kasganj district, locals say Baba is more than 60 years of age and does not have any children.

They said he had adopted a girl, who died around 16-17 years back. Baba had kept her body at home for two days hoping she would come alive, they claimed

The police had to intervene and the girl was cremated thereafter, the locals claimed.

Many villagers praised him for never asking for any donation or "chadhava" (offerings) from anyone.

When the PTI Videos team asked how Baba made a 'Bhavya Dham', the villagers said it was built out of the voluntary donations he received from the devotees.

The women residents of his village said Baba's conduct was good and he only talked about things related to God.

Dhan Singh and Mohit Kumar said Baba lives near the ashram. Jay Kumar, another villager, heaped lavish praise on Baba and said they and other people were frequent visitors to Baba's 'satsang'.

Police personnel, pooled from several police stations, have been deployed outside the ashram at Bichhawan here and no one, including the media, is allowed inside.

The Uttar Pradesh Police on Wednesday lodged the FIR against the organisers of the religious congregation in Hathras, accusing them of hiding evidence and flouting conditions with 2.5 lakh people gathering for the event in which only 80,000 were permitted.

'Mukhya sevadar' Devprakash Madhukar and other organisers have been named in the first information report (FIR) filed at the Sikandar Rau police station late Tuesday, a senior officer told PTI.

In his FIR, complainant Brijesh Pandey said the 'satsang' programme of the baba was organised between Fulrai and Mugalgarhi on GT road in Sikandar Rau area by Devprakash Madhukar and others on Tuesday.

The organisers sought permission for about 80,000 people for which police and administration made arrangements.

However, over 2.5 lakh people gathered in the event. By not following the conditions of the permission, GT road witnessed traffic jam and police and administration officials were working to clear it, the FIR said.

Meanwhile, the baba, who was the main speaker of the satsang came out at about 2 pm in his vehicle and devotees started collecting mud from the site as a memento.

Due to the heavy rush of devotees, those who had bent to pick the mud started getting trampled.

Those running out from the spot were stopped by stick-wielding helpers of the baba standing on the other side of a three-feet deep field filled with water and slush due to which women, children and men got crushed, it said.

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