Hathras tragedy: Cop-turned-preacher Bhole Baba attracted large number of followers in western UP

Narayan Hari alias Saakar Vishwa Hari 'Bhole Baba
Narayan Hari alias Saakar Vishwa Hari 'Bhole Baba

Lucknow | The deadly stampede in Hathras on Tuesday that claimed over 100 lives occurred at a congregation of Baba Narayan Hari alias Saakar Vishwa Hari 'Bhole Baba', a former policeman who turned into a religious preacher and gained a following, especially in western Uttar Pradesh.

The real name of Bhole Baba is Surajpal. He is a native of Bahadur Nagar in Kasganj district, a retired IPS officer said.

Circle Officer (CO) of Patiyali Vijay Kumar Rana told PTI that Surjpal left his job as a policeman in the late 1990s and turned to spirituality. He started conducting 'satsang' (religious sermons).

One of Surajpal's three brothers died and he set up a Trust and appointed a caretaker for his property in Bahadurgarh where his ashram is located, the CO said.

He has no children and takes his wife along with him to 'satsang'. Surajpal belongs to the Scheduled Caste (SC) community. After he established his ashram in Bahadur Nagar, Bhole Baba's fame grew rapidly among the poor and deprived sections and lakhs of people became his followers, according to locals.

A person from Hathras said, "Baba conducts sermons and keeps his own volunteers for security who take care of the arrangements of his satsang."

The stampede, which occurred as people headed home after a ‘satsang’ in the district’s Phulrai village conducted by Bhole Baba, killed 116 people on Tuesday, in the worst such tragedy in recent years.

According to Sikandra Rao sub divisional magistrate Ravendra Kumar, the tragedy occurred when devotees tried to get a glimpse of Bhole Baba as the event ended. They also wanted to collect some soil from around the Baba’s feet.

District Magistrate Ashish Kumar said the satsang was a private function for which the sub-divisional magistrate had granted permission. The local administration provided security outside the venue while the arrangements inside were made by organisers, he added.

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