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Friday, July 19, 2024

2.5 Lakh Crowd, Patchy Prep, A ‘Dust Rush’: What Led To Killer UP Stampede

A total of 121 people have died in the stampede at the ‘satsang’ of self-styled godman known as Bhole Baba; 28 are in hospital

Hathras (UP, India): The stampede in Uttar Pradesh’s Hathras that killed 121 people was triggered by a mad rush for dust. Men, women and children fell over each other, getting crushed, just to collect dust stirred up by the car of a self-styled godman. The organisers’ laxity and inadequate police force contributed to the tragedy. 

The stampede took place at a ‘satsang’ addressed by self-styled godman Suraj Pal aka Narayan Saakar Hari, whose followers called him Bhole Baba.

According to the FIR, the organisers of the ‘satsang’ sought permission for a gathering of 80,000-odd people, but a crowd of over 2.5 lakh turned up.

After the gathering, when the ‘godman’ was leaving, there was a rush among his followers to collect dust from his car’s tyre trail. This triggered a killer stampede in which scores of people, including women and children, were trampled.

The FIR states that Suraj Pal’s aides, known as sevadars, were carrying sticks and stopped the crowd from approaching the ‘godman’ and the rushing people fell on each other, suffocating the ones below.

According to eyewitnesses, only about 40 police personnel were on duty to ensure safety at this massive gathering and they were overwhelmed when the stampede broke out.

A total of 121 people have died in the stampede and 28 are in hospital. Although Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has assured that the state police will get to the bottom of this, there have been no arrests yet. Significantly, the ‘godman’ has not been named an accused in the case and is now missing. The FIR names his aide and main organiser of the event, Devprakash Madhukar, and other unidentified accused.

The FIR says the organisers concealed the number of people expected to attend the event and traffic management conditions were also not met. The organisers’ actions led to the stampede and attempts were also made to dispose of key evidence such as clothes and footwear of the victims, the FIR says.

The accused has been booked under multiple sections of the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita relating to culpable homicide not amounting to murder and wrongful restraint, among others.

The Chief Minister is likely to visit Hathras today, a senior official has told news agency PTI.

“Our government will get to the bottom of this incident and give appropriate punishment to the conspirators and those responsible. The state government is investigating this entire incident. We will see whether it is an accident or a conspiracy,” Mr Adityanath said yesterday.

Akhilesh Yadav, former Chief Minister and president of main Opposition Samajwadi Party, has said there is a need to identify the human errors that led to his tragedy and draw lessons for the future. “A thorough probe and action can stop a recurrence of such mishaps,” he said.

Asked if the self-styled godman may be arrested, state police chief Prashant Kumar yesterday said, “Right now, everything is a matter of investigation. We do not want to influence the investigation by drawing any immediate conclusion. The ambit of the investigation is open. Action will be taken based on the facts that come to light during the investigation.”

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