Hathras stampede: Bhole Baba, in his first public response, says he is ‘deeply distressed’

The former police officer-turned-spiritual leader has not been seen in public since, while seven others involved in staging the event have been arrested.

Updated - July 06, 2024 02:19 pm IST

Published - July 06, 2024 11:53 am IST - New Delhi

A portrait of former police constable-turned-preacher Bhole Baba is displayed on the terrace of his ashram.

A portrait of former police constable-turned-preacher Bhole Baba is displayed on the terrace of his ashram. | Photo Credit: AFP

The preacher whose latest sermon ended in a deadly stampede said on July 6 morning he was “deeply distressed” in his first public response to the disaster.

Bhole Baba’s prayer meeting at Hathras, in Uttar Pradesh on July 2 saw the deaths of 121 people, the vast majority women, after a rush to the exits among the 250,000 devotees who came to watch him preach.

Bhole Baba says he is ‘deeply distressed’

The former police officer-turned-spiritual leader has not been seen in public since, while seven others involved in staging the event have been arrested.

A police report issued after the stampede named several organisers of the prayer meeting sought for arrest, but Baba’s name was not among them.

In a video statement aired by broadcasters, Bhole Baba said that he had faith that those responsible for the disaster would be punished.

“May God give us the strength to bear this pain,” he added.

It was not immediately clear where the former police constable-turned-preacher, dressed entirely in white in keeping with all his public appearances, was speaking from.

His lawyer told AFP on July 4 that he was not hiding from the police, but declined to disclose his whereabouts.

Baba’s lawyer blamed “anti-social elements” in the crowd for the stampede.

Local media reports suggested he had retreated to his nearby monastery, the gates of which have been chained shut by supporters inside to bar public access.

Around 20 police officers were on guard outside the monastery after the stampede but had not entered the sprawling premises, which are also ringed by a five-metre-high (15-foot-high) wall.

Police have arrested seven organisers of the prayer meeting and a judicial probe is investigating the circumstances of the incident.

0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in

Comments

Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.