After Hathras Stampede, Son Calls Mother’s Phone And A Stranger Replies

A son’s desperate search for his mother – one of many heartbreaking stories from Uttar Pradesh’s Hathras after 121 people were killed in a stampede at a poorly-planned public meeting by ‘godman’ Bhole Baba, who preached divinity from a swank ‘ashram’ built on 13 acres of land worth Rs 4 crore.

Meenesh Kumar’s plight mirrors those of hundreds – friends and families of those who died, crushed under the feet of panicked fellow worshippers – who, hours after the tragedy, run from one hospital to another, and back again, praying, ironically, their father, mother, son, or daughter is alive.

READ | Suffocation, Chest Injuries: Agra Doctor On UP Stampede Deaths

For many those prayers will fall on deaf ears. For the rest, and a tearful Mr Kumar is hoping to be among them, relief awaits. And if he is so lucky, he told NDTV, “I will never let her to any ‘satsang’.”

Meenesh Kumar’s Story

“My mother said this ‘baba’ says good things in his ‘satsang’. I went once or twice… but she used to go to all… from Madhya Pradesh to Rajasthan, and in UP also. I told her, ‘you are too old… don’t go.’ But she did not agree. Now, if I find my mother, I will never let her go…” he told NDTV.

“I don’t know much about this baba…” he said and called on the state government – led by the Bharatiya Janata Party – to identify those whose negligence led to this disaster.

READ | “Organisers Tried To Cover Up Incident”: Yogi Adityanath

“The administration should know whose mistake this was… and they should correct it,” he said.

Meenesh Kumar lives in a village in UP’s Mainpuri district.

His mother, Ramkali Devi, 54, was among the 2.5 lakh people who trooped dutifully into a small open field in Hathras to listen to Bhole Baba, who has blamed “anti-social elements” – and not negligent organisers and aggressive private security, which includes an ‘army of women’, for this tragedy.

Ramkali Devi left her home on Monday. The ‘prayer meet’ was on Tuesday.

She has not been seen or heard since. And then, amid the gloom, there seemed to be a ray of light for Meenesh Kumar, whose search led him to the district hospital in Hathras.

READ | In Killer Stampede, One Entry, One Exit For Crowd Of 2.5 Lakh

Ramkali Devi, like you and I, and almost everyone else, has a mobile phone. Meenesh Kumar had been ringing it incessantly, hoping, almost against hope, she would eventually pick up.

And eventually a woman did… but it wasn’t his mother.

A stranger did. She said she would arrange for him to speak to his mother. Only she did not. When he called back, stranger things lay in store. “She told me my mother had gone to Agra,” he said.

“When I called again (a third time) she said, ‘Why are you troubling me?’ and switched off the phone,” a puzzled and even more worried Mr Kumar said.

“If Baba Has Powers…”

For many, even Bhole Baba‘s most ardent followers, this tragedy has hit hard.

READ | Siblings, Aged 3 And 9, Among Children Killed In Stampede

Binod, a resident of Hathras, said he had shredded posters of the ‘godman’ that once adorned his home… a home that was filled with his wife, his mother, and his daughter. Today all three are dead.

“I was away, I came to know about the stampede in the evening. I rushed home to find they are all dead,” he said, breaking into tears.

READ | “If Baba Has Powers…”: Victims Mourn, Pick Up Pieces

From the many who were injured, and the families of the dead, there is one loud message to Bhole Baba… a demand, now, for proof of his divinity. “If the baba really has powers and cares about us, he should come here and heal us…” is the resounding cry to the ‘godman’ and his many crores.

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