All eyes on Hathras havoc report amid collective tragedy amnesia

LoP Rahul Gandhi met victims of Hathras stampede last week

Image credit X @RahulGandhi

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Political hobnobbing with Babas perpetuates cult of preachers

By Manish Anand

New Delhi, July 9: In a narrow lane outside Banke Bihari Temple in Vrindavan, a swelling crowd sweated for over an hour for the door of the religious place to open. During that one hour, girls and women, as well as the children and elders, were crushed and pushed.

An hour later, an old man emerged in white robe with a stick in hand and a whistle stuck in his mouth at the front of the crowd. Another man took position with a mic to make an announcement.

A couple of police men stood there with looks of an audience to the two temple persons doing the ‘crowd management’. They showed least interests in intervening in the affairs of the crowd management, and appeared on the scene just five minutes ahead of the opening of the temple door.

The judicial committee report on the Hathras stampede in which 121 people lost their lives is learnt to have submitted its report to the Uttar Pradesh government. The state chief minister, Yogi Adityanath, had vowed that “all will be held accountable” for the stampede.

Also Read: Hathras stampede FIR blames rush for ‘dhul’ of Baba 

The police constable turned godman, Suraj Pal, is yet to be arrested. The police have arrested the organisers of the Hathras satsang (religious congregation).

“We do not learn any lessons. The people have already forgotten the Hathras stampede. It is the High Court which has said that the crowd management at religious places will be with the temples or the organisers,” said a policeman at the Banke Bihari Temple.

Pal has issued statements to wash his hands off the Hathras stampede. His followers largely consisted women from the Dalit community.

The national outcry has now almost subsided. Hathras stampede was a breaking news while Prime Minister Narendra Modi stood to reply to the debate on the motion of thanks to President’s address to parliament.

Azad Samaj Party Chief, Chandrashekhar Azad ‘Ravan’, has said that he will take up the issue in parliament if no action is taken against the main accused in the Hathras stampede.

Except for a section of the media spotlighting dark alleys of Pal in the past, the political class has almost stayed away from commenting on the ‘godman’. He had pulled a crowd of over two lakh people against a permission for 80,000 people in Hathras.

Also Read: Yogi vows to hold all accountable for Hathras stampede 

The political patronage of the self-styled godmen is credited for mushrooming of Babas in Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, and western Uttar Pradesh. They preside over a staggering wealth of land holdings, properties, and other assets.

In the last year’s Madhya Pradesh Assembly elections, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress top guns competed to make their appearances in ‘satsangs of Babas’. Thus, they legitimise the self-styled godmen and also help in perpetuating their cult.

Bhopal-based political observers who have tasted the cocktails of Babas and Netas for past two decades underline that the people from the lower income groups flock to such preachers for ‘chamtkar (magical solutions)’ to their problems.

Pal has a massive following among the Dalit men and women in western UP, and parts of Rajasthan. The existing laws and accompanying regulations may allow him to duck accountability. The Hathras stampede may also be forgotten until the next mishap.

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