News Brief

121 Killed In Stampede At 'Religious' Event Of Self-Styled Godman In Hathras: Here's All That Has Happened So Far

Kuldeep Negi

Jul 03, 2024, 08:50 AM | Updated 08:51 AM IST

Self-styled godman
Self-styled godman

A deadly stampede at a religious event organised by a self-styled godman resulted in the deaths of at least 121 people, including over 100 women and seven children, on Tuesday (2 July).

The event was held in Phulrai village of Hathras district in Uttar Pradesh.

The victims were part of the crowd of thousands that had gathered near Phulrai village in the Sikandrarau area for the 'satsang' by religious preacher Narayan Saakar Hari, also known as, Bhole Baba.

President Droupadi Murmu and Prime Minister Narendra Modi have expressed their condolences to the families of the victims.

According to an eyewitness, thousands of people were there at the venue and when Baba was leaving, many of them rushed to touch his feet.

As they were returning, people slipped and fell over one another as parts of the ground had turned boggy with water overflowing from a nearby drain.

This tragic incident has drawn attention to the enigmatic figure at its centre.

Born in Bahadur Nagari village in Uttar Pradesh's Etah district to a farmer, Nanne Lal, and Katori Devi, the self-styled godman's original name is Suraj Pal.

He had two brothers, one of whom is dead, and completed his initial studies in the village.

He was a head constable with the Local Intelligence Unit of the UP police.

Pal claims he began working for the Intelligence Bureau after college and turned towards spirituality during his time there.

He left his police job in 1999 and then changed his name to Narayan Saakar Hari.

One of the distinguishing features of Narayan Hari as a guru is that he does not wear saffron clothes, preferring a white suit and tie.

His other preferred attire is a kurta-pyjama.

During his sermons, he says that he does not keep any amount from the donations that are given to him and spends it all on his devotees. His wife, Prem Bati, usually accompanies him.

Narayan Hari calls himself a disciple of Hari and has a sizeable following in western Uttar Pradesh.

He has lakhs of followers in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and Rajasthan.

Pal has also established a large ashram in his ancestral village, Bahadurnagar, where a satsang is held on the first Tuesday of every month.

Whether Baba is present at the ashram or not, there is always a large crowd of devotees. Due to his background in the police force, Baba is familiar with police procedures. This has enabled him to assemble a large contingent of uniformed volunteers.

Police said the place where the event was held was too small to accommodate the crowd that had gathered there.

The police are on the lookout for Pal, who has not been found after the stampede incident.

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi, who is expected to visit the site today, has expressed deep sorrow on the death of people in the Hathras incident.

He has conveyed his deep sympathy to the bereaved families and wished the injured a speedy recovery.

The Chief Minister announced financial assistance of two lakh rupees each to the families of the deceased and fifty thousand rupees each to the injured, and directed that immediate relief be provided to the affected families.

He also instructed the district administration to ensure better treatment for the injured. Following the incident, the Chief Minister immediately dispatched Chief Secretary Manoj Kumar Singh and DGP Prashant Kumar to the site.

Additionally, the Chief Minister ordered the formation of an investigation team led by ADG Agra and Divisional Commissioner Aligarh to probe the causes of the incident and submit a report within 24 hours.

He also directed that an FIR be filed against the event organisers.

Also Read: Uttar Pradesh: Stampede Breaks Out At Hathras During A Satsang Leaving At Least 87 Dead, Includes Women And Children

Kuldeep is Senior Editor (Newsroom) at Swarajya. He tweets at @kaydnegi.

Get Swarajya in your inbox.