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Hathras Stampede: A Tragic Tale of Blind Faith

Hathras Stampede: A Tragic Tale of Blind Faith

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This is a death warrant written in the soil. People rushed for the soil and ended up being buried in it. This isn’t just about faith; it’s a madness that has crossed the line from belief to frenzy. Otherwise, why would people scramble for the dust of a baba’s feet? And how did a stampede that claimed over 120 lives occur? What happened in Uttar Pradesh, and why did people lose their minds to this extent?

Traditions and rituals that have been passed down for generations are understandable. But when these are combined with innocence, illiteracy, and blind faith, situations like Hathras arise. Otherwise, why would people rush for the soil where a baba’s car passed? And how did a stampede that claimed over 120 lives happen? This is not merely a tragic accident but a series of murders. The culprits are the organizers who didn’t manage the event properly, Bhole Baba, who thought more about fame than the lives of people, and the government systems that didn’t even glance at the situation despite the massive crowd. Their negligence has now resulted in the loss of so many lives.

So, who is this Bhole Baba, with such a massive following? Where did he come from, and why are so many devotees offering their reverence to him? Bhole Baba’s real name is Narayan Sakar Vishwahari, and before taking on the avatar of a baba, he was known as Suraj Pal Singh. Singh came from a Dalit family and previously worked as a constable. After 17 years of service, he voluntarily retired and established an ashram. With the increasing number of devotees, the ashram became his empire. Declaring himself a self-made deity, Bhole Baba wears a white suit and tie while preaching. After his preaching, his followers distribute water and soil, which his devotees consider sacred.

The Baba effect, which started in Uttar Pradesh, quickly spread to Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. Bhole Baba’s followers strongly believe that a deity appears to him and that he resolves their issues based on her instructions. However, a few years ago, Bhole Baba moved his base to Rajasthan, suspecting a conspiracy against him.

Bhole Baba was already embroiled in controversy. During the COVID-19 pandemic, he organized an event for 50,000 people despite having permission for only 50, leading to a spike in COVID-19 cases. Authorities were left in a bind. Bhole Baba holds his satsangs every Tuesday, and it was during one such satsang in Hathras that the stampede occurred, leading to the loss of many lives.

Let’s focus on yesterday’s satsang. The organizers had taken permission for the event, expecting around 80,000 people. However, approximately 250,000 people showed up, and the arrangements were inadequate. After the people entered, the gates were closed and only reopened after Baba’s convoy left. Some people tried to leave, either for the sacred soil or to escape the suffocating heat, leading to the deadly stampede. Many lost consciousness and subsequently their lives.

Despite everything, it is reported that Bhole Baba’s name isn’t mentioned in the police FIR. This has led to severe criticism, and there is a possibility his name will be added later. UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has ordered an investigation. The police have been directed to probe the incident. An ex-gratia of Rs. 2 lakh has been announced for the families of the deceased and Rs. 50,000 for the injured. While this is commendable, can it bring back the lost lives? Such incidents have happened before, so what lessons have the governments learned from them? There seem to be no answers to these questions. Whenever lives are lost, there is a flurry of activity for a few days, followed by forgetfulness.

Regarding the devotees, why this blind faith in babas? For your information, we do not intend to hurt anyone’s beliefs here. But isn’t there a need for discretion? If you cannot distinguish between faith and superstition, how will you avoid such tragedies? Can’t you see how they are cashing in on your hardships and building their empires? Never forget the saying, “Excess of anything is bad.” So, change, if not now, then when?

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