117 dead, scores injured in stampede at religious congregation in UP

Over 15,000 devotees thronged venue packed to brim; 2 UP cabinet ministers, Chief Secy, DGP rush to spot; two-member team to probe incident; CM seeks report within 24 hours
Victims of the Hathras' stampede at a Trauma Centre, at Sikandra Rao in Hathras, Tuesday, July 2, 2024.
Victims of the Hathras' stampede at a Trauma Centre, at Sikandra Rao in Hathras, Tuesday, July 2, 2024. PTI Photo

LUCKNOW: A major tragedy struck a 'Satsang Sabha' (religous event) claiming around 117 lives and leaving scores injured in a stampede in Phulrai village of Ratibhanpur locality under Sikandrau tehsil area of Hathras district of UP on Tuesday afternoon at around 3 pm.

Among the dead were several women and children. The dead were taken to hospitals in Hathras and neighbouring districts including Etah, Aligarh, Agra and Mathura. Aligarh Range IG Shalabh Mathur confirmed 117 deaths. The toll is likely to go up. Seventeen bodies were identified till the filing of this report.

According to Etah SP Rajesh Kumar Singh, as soon as the satsang got over, people, packed in a small hall, rushed to get out and fell over each other leading to a stampede resulting in several casualties. Police said there was a huge congregation of around 15,000 devotees who had thronged the venue from adjoining districts like Badaun, Aligarh, Agra, Etah, etc. to attend the ‘satsang sabha’ of Bhole Baba.

As per local sources, the venue was packed beyond the brim with devotees much more in number than permitted by the district administration. “The number of attendees exceeded the administration’s permitted limit at the venue, leading to a stampede during Bhole Baba’s satsang,” a statement released by the state government said.

Victims outside the Trauma Centre after a stampede broke out at a religious gathering, in Hathras district.
Victims outside the Trauma Centre after a stampede broke out at a religious gathering, in Hathras district.Photo | PTI

However, taking cognizance of the incident, UP CM Yogi Adityanath rushed UP cabinet minister Chaudhury Lakshmi Narain, Minister Sandeep Singh, UP Chief Secretary Manoj Singh and Director General of Police Prashant Kumar to the spot. CM Yogi assured the people that the state government would go into the root of the tragedy to ascertain “if it was a tragedy or a conspiracy” and take action against those found involved in it. He condemned political rivals for doing politics over such a tragedy instead of empathising with the victims in this difficult hour.

Both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath announced financial assistance of Rs 2 lakh each to the families of the deceased and Rs 50,000 each to the injured. The CM also constituted a team, including the Additional Director General of Police (ADG) Agra zone Anupam Kulshreshtha and Aligarh Divisional Commissioner Chaitra V, to inquire into the tragedy and ascertain the reason for the mishap. The CM has sought the probe report with 24 hours. State government sources said the CM may visit Hathras to take stock of the arrangements made for the treatment of those injured in the stampede.

Victims of the Hathras' stampede at a Trauma Centre, at Sikandra Rao in Hathras, Tuesday, July 2, 2024.
Hathras Stampede: Bodies on ice blocks, kin wait for autopsy; others look for missing loved ones

As per sources in the local district administration, permission was given for the event organised by the Manav Mangal Milan Sadbhavna Samagam Committee for self-styled godman Narayan Sakar Hari, also known as Sakar Vishwa Hari Bhole Baba. “The congregation was much bigger than what was permitted. In the stampede, several women, children and elderly died,” said UP minister Chaudhury Lakshmi Narayan.

He said the injured were being given medical attention in both private and government hospitals in Hathras, Etah, Agra and Aligarh.

Local sources claimed that the stampede took place when the crowd rushed to take the blessings of the godman and were suddenly stopped to give an exit to the preacher. “The exit was narrow and in order to have a glimpse and blessing of the preacher, people stumbled and started falling over one another as the road outside the pandal was built at a height with a drain below. One after the other, people started falling into it and some got crushed, many others died due to suffocation as they had come under each other," said an eyewitness. However, a Sikandra Rau police station officer said that the tragedy occurred due to overcrowding.

While accepting that the permission for the event was given by a sub-divisional magistrate (SDM), Hathras DM Ashish Kumar said the local administration provided security outside the venue while the internal arrangement was of the organisers.

Local sources claimed that despite inputs by the local intelligence unit, the police administration failed to provide adequate facilities required at such congregations, which led to the loss of so many lives.

The scene at the venue was heartrending as the bodies of devotees were strewn across with people trying to identify their kin among the dead. At the Sikandra Rau Trauma Centre, ambulances, trucks and other vehicles were coming incessantly laden with bodies—some dead, others lying unconscious. Many injured were lying at the gate of the local government hospital with anxious relatives running helter-skelter to look for their dear ones. Children were crying looking for their parents after getting separated during the stampede.

Following the stampede, the Hathras District Administration issued helpline numbers for the general public. "In view of the tragedy, the district administration, keeping an eye on the situation of the incident, has issued helplines 05722227041 and 05722227042 for the general public," Hathras DM Ashish Kumar posted on X.

A 40-member NDRF team was rushed to Hathras from Ghaziabad to help carry out the rescue operation. Meanwhile, the preacher Bhole Baba and the organisers were absconding and the district police have launched a search for them.

An FIR was registered against Bhole Baba and the organisers of the congregation. Local people were agitated over the lack of facilities at hospitals. There were only a few doctors available to cater to the huge number of injured, said an agitated local youth.

Meanwhile, Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav held the state government responsible for the tragedy. BSP chief Mayawati took to X to express grief over the loss of lives seeking an in-depth probe into the incident.

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