Hathras stampede: Key accused held; police say he was contacted by political parties

NOIDA: Devprakash Madhukar, the main accused in the July 2 Hathras satsang stampede, was arrested from Delhi by Uttar Pradesh Police which claimed he was recently contacted by some political parties and suspected that self-styled godman Bhole Baba’s events were “funded” by a political party.

Two more suspects — Ramprakash Shakya, 61, and Sanju Yadav, 33, were held in Hathras in connection with the stampede that left 121 people dead, according to the police.

Madhukar, 42, was arrested late Friday from Delhi’s Najafgarh area by a Special Operations Group of Hathras police, Hathras Superintendent of Police Nipun Agarwal said.

The officer said Madhukar worked as a fundraiser for events of self-styled godman Surajpal alias Narayan Sakar Hari alias Bhole Baba and collected donations. The police will apply for remand of Madhukar, he said.

“His financial transactions and money trails are being looked into, and call detail records are also being checked,” Agarwal added.

However, on Friday night, Madhukar’s lawyer A P Singh had claimed he had surrendered to the police in Delhi, where he had come for medical treatment.

Around 2.15 pm on Saturday, Madhukar was brought by the police to the Bagla Combined District Hospital in Hathras for a medical examination amid heavy security deployment in and around the government hospital.

Madhukar had his face covered with a handkerchief and a stole tied around his head.

Madhukar, the ‘mukhya sevadar’ of the satsang where the stampede occurred. He is the only accused named in the FIR lodged at Sikandra Rao police station in Hathras in connection with the incident.

Agarwal said the investigation also revealed that some political parties had contacted him some time back.

“A detailed investigation is being conducted regarding the collection of funds to see if such programmes and other resources are being funded by any political party. From the investigation so far, it appears that some political party is connected with them for its political and personal interests,” the police officer said.

“All the bank accounts, movable and immovable properties, money trail, related to the accused Devprakash Madhukar are being investigated, in which assistance will be taken from other agencies as per the need,” he added.

The IPS officer said after preliminary interrogation, accused Madhukar said he had been working on contract as a junior engineer in MNREGA in Etah district since 2010. He has been associated with the (Bhole Baba’s) organisation for years and organises programmes and collects funds for it.

“Madhukar was the main organiser of the satsang programme in Fulrai village on July 2 and the permission for this programme was taken by him. Thus, two roles of Madhukar have come to light — the main organiser and fundraiser,” he added.

Agarwal said the accused and the sevadars/organising committee members working under his direction were “fully responsible” for the barricading, entrance gate, exit gate, seating arrangements, parking and other facilities around the pandal of the satsang.

“Madhukar and other sevadars prevented the police administration from any kind of interference inside the event venue. At the event venue, his sevadars were looking after all the arrangements in the form of commandos in different costumes,” he said.

“No person was allowed to do videography or photography at the venue. Thus, the arrangements were not done properly and the traffic system etc was affected by violating many conditions mentioned in the permission letter issued by the administration,” the SP said.

The police’s statement on Saturday about the SOG contradicts Madhukar’s lawyer’s claim that he had surrendered before police.

“Today, we have surrendered Devprakash Madhukar, who has been called the main organiser in the FIR in the Hathras case, after calling the police, the SIT and the STF in Delhi since he was undergoing treatment here,” Singh claimed in a video on Friday night.

“We had promised we would not apply for anticipatory bail since we did no wrong. What is our crime? He is an engineer and a heart patient. Doctors said his condition is stable now and so we surrendered today to join the probe,” the lawyer said.

Singh said police may now record his statement or question him but they must take into consideration his health condition and ensure that “nothing wrong happens with him”.

“We did not do anything like filing anticipatory bail or moving court which would have been viewed as an effort to save ourselves and being scared… questions were being raised about his (Madhukar’s) whereabouts and if he had run away,” he said.

Madhukar will join the probe and share information about the “anti-social elements” at the event, he added.

Uttar Pradesh Police had announced a reward of Rs 1 lakh for information leading to Madhukar’s arrest.

On July 3, the Supreme Court lawyer had claimed that he also represents Surajpal alias Narayan Sakar Hari alias Bhole Baba, the self-styled godman at whose satsang the stampede occurred, and that some “anti-social elements” were behind the tragedy.

Surajpal was ready to cooperate with the state administration and police and had sought an investigation into the entire matter, Singh had said.

Till Thursday, six people, including two women volunteers, who were members of the organising committee of Bhole Baba’s satsang, had been arrested in the case.

An FIR was lodged in the matter on July 2 under Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS) sections 105 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder), 110 (attempt to commit culpable homicide), 126 (2) (wrongful restraint), 223 (disobedience to order duly promulgated by the public servant) and 238 (causing disappearance of evidence).

On July 3, the Uttar Pradesh government formed a three-member judicial commission headed by a retired high court judge to probe the Hathras tragedy and to look into the possibility of a conspiracy behind the stampede. (PTI)

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