Hathras stampede: Who is Bhole Baba, the preacher?

Suraj Pal alias 'Bhole Baba' left his job in the Uttar Pradesh state police to become a preacher around two decades ago.
 Devotees at the religious gathering where a stampede broke out, in Hathras district, Tuesday, July 2, 2024. At least 27 people were killed and several injured in the stampede, according to officials.
Devotees at the religious gathering where a stampede broke out, in Hathras district, Tuesday, July 2, 2024. At least 27 people were killed and several injured in the stampede, according to officials. PTI Photo

LUCKNOW: Religious preacher Narayan Vishwa Hari Bhole Baba, who had organised the 'satsang sabha' (religious congregation) which ended in a massive stampede claiming hundreds of lives including women and children, while leaving scores injured in Hathras district of Uttar Pradesh on Tuesday afternoon, is not new to controversy.

According to local sources, Suraj Pal or 'Bhole Baba', as he is called by his followers, hails from Bahadur Nagari village in the Patiyali area of Kasganj district. He left his job in the state police to become a preacher around two decades ago. The Baba also enjoys following in other states like Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh and Haryana as well.

 Devotees at the religious gathering where a stampede broke out, in Hathras district, Tuesday, July 2, 2024. At least 27 people were killed and several injured in the stampede, according to officials.
117 dead, scores injured in stampede at religious congregation in UP

According to local sources, Bhole Baba claims to have had a divine vision after leaving his job in the police force, which inspired him to start organizing large religious gatherings ('sabhas') that attract huge congregations of followers. He holds these 'satsangs' every Tuesday and recently conducted a similar event in Mainpuri district a week before the tragic incident in Hathras.

Bhole Baba had courted controversy during the pandemic period when he sought permission for a such a Satsang Sabha in Farrukhabad district in May 2022 to be attended by only 50 people. However, the congregation grew to over 50,000.

 Devotees at the religious gathering where a stampede broke out, in Hathras district, Tuesday, July 2, 2024. At least 27 people were killed and several injured in the stampede, according to officials.
Hathras Stampede: Bodies on ice blocks, kin wait for autopsy; others look for missing loved ones

After the Hathras stampede, Bhole Baba is absconding and the UP police has launched a hunt for him. Even none of the organisers of the Satsang Sabha which devoured so many lives are at large with their mobile phones going switched off.

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