Overcrowding, Bhole Baba's bodyguards blamed in FIR as Hathras stampede toll rises to 121

A surviver described how "after Babaji left, people followed and tried to pick up the mud from his footsteps. The rush led to people falling on top of each other."
Victims outside the Trauma Centre after a stampede broke out at a religious gathering, in Hathras district, Tuesday, July 2, 2024. At least 27 people were killed and several injured in the stampede, according to officials.
Victims outside the Trauma Centre after a stampede broke out at a religious gathering, in Hathras district, Tuesday, July 2, 2024. At least 27 people were killed and several injured in the stampede, according to officials.Photo | PTI

LUCKNOW/HATHRAS: Police accused organisers of the satsang in Hathras, where 121 lives have been lost in a stampede, of hiding evidence and flouting safety norms by letting 2.5 lakh people cram themselves into a venue in where only 80,000 were permitted.

The Hathras district administration laid the charges in an FIR against organisers including chief Sewadar Devprakash Madhukar and several other unnamed key figures behind the event.

The FIR has been registered under Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita 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), 238 (causing disappearance of evidence), according to reports by PTI.

The FIR also says the bodyguards of the Bhole Baba stopped devotees who were rushing to get his blessings in the field and that led to them falling into a ditch over one another leading to the loss of so many lives. UP Chief Secretary Manoj Kumar Singh had also confirmed overcrowding at the venue as a reason for the tragedy.

Godman Bhole Baba has not been named in the FIR. Cops were, however, hunting for him and were trying to locate his whereabouts by talking to his followers at his ultra-luxurious ashram in Mainpuri.

The stampede occurred in Phulrai village, around 47 km from Hathras town.

'People tried to pick up the mud Bhole Baba had set foot on'

Almost all of the dead are women.

Sixty-two-year old Kusum Devi, who attended the Satsang, recounted that things had gone well till the very end.

"When we tried to walk towards the exit after the aarti, the situation suddenly turned chaotic. People started pushing and pulling each other in all directions. I fell down and people started walking over me. A few people helped me and I managed to survive," she told The New Indian Express.

Her sister, who was accompanying her, sadly could not make it and passed away late on Tuesday.

Shanti Devi, another surviver, described how "after Babaji left, people followed him and tried to pick up the mud from his footsteps. The rush led to people falling on top of each other."

Six of the victims from other states

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath on Wednesday announced a judicial probe into the incident by a retired HC judge.

"Retired administration and police officials will be part of judicial inquiry committee to probe Hathras stampede," he said.

The CM confirmed that six of the victims were from other states: one each from MP and Rajasthan, and four from Haryana.

Yogi had earlier met those injured in the stampede, which took place at around 3.30 pm when the Baba was leaving the venue, with some accounts saying people slipped in the slush as they ran after the preacher's car.

Three ministers, UP Cabinet minister Chadhury Laxmi Narayan, UP MoS Sandeep Singh and Asim Arun along with UP Chief Secretary Manoj Singh and UP DGP Prashant Kumar, are already staying put in Hathras evaluating the situation.

Victims outside the Trauma Centre after a stampede broke out at a religious gathering, in Hathras district, Tuesday, July 2, 2024. At least 27 people were killed and several injured in the stampede, according to officials.
Hathras stampede: Who is Bhole Baba, the preacher?

On Tuesday, when 116 deaths were confirmed, it emerged that all victims, except for seven children and one man, were women. The bodies of the victims were sent to Etah, Aligarh, Agra and Mathura where the autopsy was carried out the whole night.

PIL demands CBI inquiry

Meanwhile, Advocate Gaurav Dwivedi filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the Allahabad High Court demanding a CBI inquiry into the Hathras Stampede accident. Vishal Tiwari, another advocate has also moved the Supreme Court of India seeking a five-member panel, led by a retired Supreme Court judge, to hold the probe. He has also appealed to the apex court to initiate legal action against the organisers and the lax district administration officials responsible for such a huge tragedy.

A team consisting of ADG Agra and Aligarh Divisional Commissioner has been constituted to inquire into the cause of the incident.

The report is to be submitted within 24 hours, the government said in a statement on Tuesday.

Victims outside the Trauma Centre after a stampede broke out at a religious gathering, in Hathras district, Tuesday, July 2, 2024. At least 27 people were killed and several injured in the stampede, according to officials.
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Speaking to reporters at his residence on Tuesday, Adityanath had said, "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."

He also slammed the political parties indulging in politics over the tragic incident and said, "Doing politics on such an incident is extremely unfortunate and condemnable. This is the time to heal the wounds of the victims, to sympathise with the victims. The government is sensitive in this matter and no culprit will be spared."

The Chief Minister said that whoever is found guilty will not be spared.

According to the statement, lakhs of devotees gathered in the programme of Bhole Baba, famous as Narayan Sakar Vishwa Hari, in Hathras district.

More devotees arrived at the event than the permission given by the administration.

In the worst such tragedy in recent years, 116 devotees suffocated to death and their bodies piled atop each other in the stampede that took place in the district's Phulrai village.

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