Social distancing went for a toss as thousands of people, including BJP lawmakers, paid their last respect to Swami Viraktananda alias Shobhan Sarkar in Uttar Pradesh’s Kanpur town, about 90 kilometres from Lucknow, on Wednesday (May 13) defying commands by the police and the administration.
Shobhan Sarkar, who had hit the headlines, when on the instructions of the union government, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) had undertaken an excavation at an old fort in UP’s Unnao district in 2013 after the saint had dreamt that one thousand tonnes of gold lay buried under the ruins.
The government was left red-faced after the ASI had to abandon the excavation after nothing was found there.
Such was the influence of the saint that BJP MP Devendra Singh Bhole, saffron party MLAs Pratibha Shukla and Nilimia Sankhwar and other leaders paid their respect to him at the latter’s ashram.
Thousands of his disciples, defying the ban on large gatherings, thronged the Ganga bank, where the saint was cremated. The police remained a mute spectator as the disciples jostled with each other to have a glimpse of the seer’s mortal remains.
Senior officials expressed their helplessness in controlling the surging crowds.