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Hathras Stampede: Organisers Claim Conspirators Sprayed “Poisonous Substance” Triggering Stampede

Hathras Stampede: Organisers Claim Conspirators Sprayed “Poisonous Substance” Triggering Stampede

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Manas Dasgupta

NEW DELHI, July 7: Giving a new twist to the “conspiracy” theory behind the Hathras stampede in which 121 people, mostly women and children, were killed, the organisers of the self-styled godman Bhole Baba’s “Satsang” have claimed that the “conspirators” had sprayed “poisonous substance” on the crowd triggering the stampede.

Addressing a press conference in Delhi on Sunday, Mr AP Singh, the lawyer representing Bhole Baba the preacher, claimed that the mishap occurred as a group of around 15-16 people sprayed poison during the event. He further claimed that these people soon fled the venue after triggering the cause for the stampede.

Mr Singh claimed that witnesses told him some people opened cans containing a poisonous substance in the crowd during the July 2 Hathras ‘satsang’ triggering the stampede. He attributed the “conspiracy” to disrupt the ‘satsang” to Bhole Baba’s “rising popularity.”

The stampede after the ‘satsang’ of self-styled godman Surajpal Singh alias Narayan Sakar Hari Bhole Baba in Uttar Pradesh’s Hathras left 121 people, mostly women, dead. “Witnesses have reached out to me and said there were 15-16 people carrying cans of a poisonous substance that they opened in the crowd. I have seen post-mortem reports of those killed and it showed that they died of asphyxiation and not because of injuries,” Mr Singh claimed.

Alleging a conspiracy behind the stampede, he said, “There were vehicles parked at the site to help the men escape. We have proof and we will submit it. This is the first time I am speaking about it.” Mr Singh claimed the witnesses who reached out to him requested anonymity. “We will demand security for them.” So far, nine people, including key accused Devprakash Madhukar, have been arrested in connection with the stampede.

While claiming that the stampede was planned, the lawyer said, “A heart-wrenching incident happened. 15-16 people were involved in the conspiracy. The permission was taken. The map was attached to the permission. Some unidentified vehicles were there at the spot of the stampede. 10-12 people sprayed poison. Witnesses had said the women were falling and many died due to breathlessness. They fled from the spot. The SIT and SP Hathras are investigating. The CCTV footage should be seized, so that those vehicles can be identified.”

As per initial investigation reports, the organisers had reportedly got a permission for the event with a maximum turnout of 80,000. The number of people attending, however turned out to be over 2.5 lakh.

According to initial reports, the stampede occurred when devotees rushed to seek blessings from Bhole Baba after his sermon concluded on July 2 afternoon, leading to chaos and tragic consequences.

On Saturday, Hathras police said it was also probing into the suspected funding of the congregation by a political party and warned of the “strictest possible” action against it. Mr Madhukar was the main organiser and fundraiser of the ‘satsang.’

The preacher Bhole Baba on Saturday issued his first statement saying he was “extremely pained” by the deadly incident on July 2, which claimed 121 lives. He said he was “with the victims” and has “full faith in the state authorities that culprits will not be spared.”

“We are distressed after the incident of July 2. May God give us the strength to overcome this sorrow. We should have faith in the government administration. Culprits will not be spared. We told through our lawyer that we stand with those who are going through this sorrow, with our body, money and mind,” he said.

Surajpal alias Narayan Sakar Hari alias Bhole Baba, through his lawyer, had agreed to cooperate with the state administration and police while seeking an investigation into the matter. This statement came days after he went incognito in the aftermath of the stampede that took place during one of his religious congregations.

Bhole Baba, also known as Narayan Sakar Hari, whose real name is Surajpal, is a former government employee turned spiritual leader with a significant following across UP and neighbouring states. During his sermons, he claimed that he had previously worked in the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and also served in the Uttar Pradesh Police, asserting that he retired from service and then became a spiritual leader.

He quit his government job 26 years ago and began delivering religious sermons in various villages and towns across Uttar Pradesh. He had initiated his sermons during his tenure and later resigned and established an ashram in Patiyali. Bhole Baba has millions of followers across the country, including Western Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Haryana, Rajasthan, and Delhi.

Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha Rahul Gandhi has urged Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath to increase the amount of compensation for the victims of the Hathras stampede and demanded that those responsible for the incident be given severe punishment. In a letter to Mr Adityanath, the former Congress chief said the compensation should be given as soon as possible and the injured be given proper treatment.

Mr Adityanath earlier announced that the families of the deceased would receive ₹2 lakh each and the injured would receive ₹50,000 each in compensation. In his letter to Mr Adityanath dated July 6, Mr Gandhi said, “The compensation announced by the Uttar Pradesh Government is very inadequate. I urge that the amount of compensation be increased and it should be given as soon as possible.” At the same time, the injured should be given proper treatment and they should also be given proper compensation, the Congress leader said.

“I am shocked by the news of the death of more than 120 people in the stampede incident in Hathras. I am writing this letter to you with pain in my heart and I know that you too must be feeling the same pain,” he said. Mr Gandhi said he had met many aggrieved families of Aligarh and Hathras districts and tried to share their pain.

“The incident is so tragic that I fell short of words of consolation while meeting the family members [of victims]. It is not possible to compensate for what many families have lost in this incident in any way, but we can definitely try to reduce their suffering by helping the affected families in every possible way,” Mr Gandhi said in his letter in Hindi.

“The victim families also shared with me that the negligence and insensitivity of the local administration is responsible for this entire incident. A proper and transparent investigation in this case will not only be a step towards preventing such incidents in the future, but it will also restore the faith of these victim families in the justice system,” the Congress leader said. From the viewpoint of justice, it is also necessary that the guilty persons be given “severe punishment”, Mr Gandhi said.

“In this hour of grief, it is the responsibility of all of us to support the affected families. All the workers of the Congress Party and I myself are available to provide you every possible support in this matter. It is hoped that seeing the seriousness of this entire matter, you will give special priority to the work to be done in relation to the assistance,” Mr Gandhi said.

The Uttar Pradesh Government on July 3 formed a three-member judicial commission headed by a retired High Court Judge to probe the Hathras tragedy and to look into the possibility of whether there was a “conspiracy” behind the stampede.

Simultaneously, a Special Investigation Team (SIT) headed by Additional Director General of Police (Agra Zone) Anupam Kulshreshtha is also filing a detailed report on the episode, to be submitted to the U.P. Government. He had said on Friday that the police did not rule out the conspiracy angle in the stampede and added that the culpability of the incident was on the organisers of the event.

So far, nine people, including two women and three senior citizens, have been arrested in the case, in which “several unidentified sevadars [volunteers]” of the satsang are mentioned as accused. The ‘godman’ is not an accused in the case.

The three-member judicial commission, also including former IAS officer Hemant Rao, on Sunday interacted with locals in Hathras, besides officials and witnesses of the tragedy. The panel reached Hathras on Saturday and visited the stampede site near Phulrai village along National Highway 91. On Sunday morning, the team camped at the PWD Guest House along the Aligarh Road in the district and continued its inquiry.

“We have been mandated to file our inquiry report within two months,” the chairperson of the panel the retired Allahabad High Court judge Brijesh Kumar Shrivastava said after reviewing the incident site. Hathras District Magistrate Ashish Kumar and Superintendent of Police Nipun Agarwal accompanied the team.



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