Hathras stampede: Neighbours divided over main accused's 'fault'

The locals, several of whom claimed to media that they are not followers of the preacher, said Baba taught people to follow good path and do good deeds.
Last Updated : 04 July 2024, 16:52 IST

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Hathras (UP): Devprakash Madhukar, the key accused in the Hathras stampede case that claimed 121 lives, has not returned home since the deadly event took place while his family members have also gone incognito.

Madhukar, they say, worked as a junior engineer and was also an ardent devotee of Surajpal, who is known as Narayan Sakar Hari and Bhole Baba.

A lock hung at the main door of his two-storey corner home in New Colony of Damadpura in Sikandra Rau area when PTI visited it Thursday afternoon.

It is predominantly a Dalit neighbourhood and is a five-minute ride away from Fulrai village -- the site of stampede along the National Highway 91, which is also known as GT Road.

Located opposite the Sikandra Rau station, New Colony residents who knew Madhukar are divided over the idea if it really was his fault that led to the stampede.

Madhukar, the 'mukhya sevadar' of the July 2 'satsang' (religious congregation) of Bhole Baba, is the only named accused in the police FIR.

Akhilesh, a student of law who lives in the same neighbourhood, feels Madhukar is being falsely framed in the case as the main accused while the Baba went scot-free.

"Did he go to the homes of all the participants to call them for the 'satsang'? Baba is the one because of whom people came but he is the one who fled the spot," Akhilesh told PTI.

The locals, several of whom claimed to media that they are not followers of the preacher, said Baba taught people to follow good path and do good deeds.

But did that change people's life for the better? Some locals believed it did.

"Why else would people in such large numbers go to his programmes then," said another neighbour, shying from revealing his name.

However, he felt his following would wane after this stampede.

Vikas, another young man living close by, said he knew Madhukar as a neighbour.

"It's being said that he is absconding. But what if he has lost his relative and is with their family at the moment? An illusion is being created around his role in the 'satsang'. He was just a member of the organising committee who was leading the locals," Vikas said.

On Madhukar evading accountability of the episode as an organiser, Vikas questioned whether it was not the responsibility of the police and government officials to inform the district administration about the size of crowd exceeding the permitted limit of 80,000.

He also claimed that there was scarcity of ambulance at the venue and of health care facilities at the nearest Community Healthcare Centre in Sikandra Rau.

Also standing outside Madhukar's house is Sarla Devi, 70, who attended the 'satsang' with several folks from her neighbourhood and came back unhurt.

"If his teachings are not helping us then why do we go?" she countered, when this reporter asked if Baba's 'satsang' made her life better.

"He talks about doing good deeds such as living with others unitedly and in harmony. I have benefited from his teachings," the woman claimed.

However, not everyone in the Dalit neighbourhood is a supporter of Madhukar.

"When you won't allow government officials or police inside the venue and your volunteers think they can do anything, what else do you expect," a woman neighbour said.

Another woman said, "Why don't you allow government officials or police inside the venue. Does it not mean you are hiding something?" The locals in New Colony Damadpura now wait to see how the situation unfolds.

Meanwhile, the police announced a Rs 1 lakh reward for the arrest of Madhukar and said it is trying to get a non-bailable warrant also against him even as it arrested six organising committee members on Thursday.

Published 04 July 2024, 16:52 IST

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