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Judicial Probe Ordered in Hathras Stampede, Toll Mounts to 121

Judicial Probe Ordered in Hathras Stampede, Toll Mounts to 121

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Manas Dasgupta

NEW DELHI, July 3: As the death toll in the Hathras stampede tragedy went up to 121 on Wednesday, the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath ordered a judicial probe into the tragic incident in which the most victims were women and children.

Yogi said among those killed, six were from other states: four from Haryana, and one each from Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. Along with the organisers, the UP CM held the “sevadars” (helpers) responsible for the death of devotees. “They (sevadars) should have helped manage the crowd. But what happened instead was devotees died one by one as the sevadars eloped from the stampede site,” he said.

“We have formed an SIT, led by ADG Agra. It has submitted a preliminary report. They have been told to investigate this deeply. There are several angles that need to be investigated. The state government has decided to go for a judicial inquiry which will be led by a retired High Court judge,” he said.

On Wednesday, police filed an FIR against the organisers, accusing them of hiding evidence and flouting conditions with 2.5 lakh people crammed into a venue in which only 80,000 were permitted. Without naming anyone, the UP CM said, “Some people have the tendency to politicise such sad and painful incidents.”

“These people have the nature of ‘chori bhi aur seenazori bhi’. Everyone knows with whom the gentleman’s (preacher) photos are and with whom he has political connections. You must have seen that during the rallies in the past days, where was the stampede and who was behind it? It is necessary for us to know about it. Those who play with the lives of innocent people will be held accountable for this,” he added.

Chaos caused after Narayan Sakaar Hari’s followers, who tried to reach near his vehicle to seek darshan, were pushed by the godman’s security and a “slippery slope” resulted in the stampede that killed 121 people in Hathras,

A preliminary report of the Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM) Sikandra Rao on what led to the stampede was submitted to the district magistrate (DM). The SDM, who gave permission for the ‘satsang’ (religious congregation), was also present at the venue when the incident occurred, according to the report. It said when the godman was leaving the venue, his followers started running towards him for a ‘darshan’ and collect soil from around his feet. “Satsangi women/men/children etc. started applying the dust of Baba’s feet on their foreheads (while trying) to get his darshan, touch his feet and take his blessings,” reads the report dated July 2.

The situation worsened when more people waiting on the divider of the road ahead began running towards his vehicle, it said. “A large number of people were already standing on the dividers in the middle and on the sides of GT road, who started jumping from the dividers and started running towards Baba’s vehicle to get his darshan.

“Then Baba’s personal security personnel (Black Commandos) and sevadars started pushing and shoving the crowd themselves to stop the crowd, due to which some people fell down,” the report states, adding this led to a panic and the crowd went out of control.

“Due to which the crowd ran towards the open field in front of the venue to get relief, on the other side of the road, where most of the people slipped and fell due to the wet slope while descending from the road towards the field,” the report said.

The UP chief minister while announcing a judicial probe, also did not rule out the possibility of a “conspiracy” behind the stampede. He also said the “sevadars” (volunteers working for the ‘satsang’ organisers) should have taken the victims to the hospital. People were dying and the “sevadars” fled, he claimed.

“A judicial probe by a retired high court judge will be conducted into the incident,” he said. “If this is not an accident, then whose conspiracy is this? All of these will be probed. Retired officials of the police and civic administration will be part of the judicial inquiry and action will be taken against those found responsible.”

Yogi Adityanath said the organisers of the “satsang” had “tried to cover up” the incident. “The culprits won’t be spared,” the Chief Minister declared. “We cannot deny this stampede is not an accident… (but), if not accident, then it was a conspiracy by whom? We will conduct a judicial inquiry under a retired High Court judge.”

Yogi Adityanath confirmed what reports this morning that the stampede had been triggered by a tug-of-war – between parts of the massive crowd pushing to touch the godman’s feet and those trying to leave the venue after the ‘prayer meeting’ was completed.

“I spoke to some of the witnesses… they said that during the ‘satsang’, when women wanted to touch the godman’s feet, a sea of people pushed forward and security (Bhole Baba’s private detail) pushed back. Then they tried to cover up the issue,” he said. “And, when people were being taken to hospitals, the security team ran away.”

A day after the stampede in Phulrai village, stunned families tried to come to terms with their loss. Crowds gathered around hospitals, some looking for those missing, some there to identify bodies and others tending to the injured. A team consisting of ADG Agra and Aligarh Divisional Commissioner has been constituted to inquire into the cause of the incident.

The report is likely to be submitted on Wednesday. According to the Office of the Relief Commissioner, the number of people injured stands at 28. Only four of the 121 bodies remained to be identified. Of the 116 who died on Tuesday, except for seven children and one man all others were women. A pile of slippers at the spot were mute testimony to the tragedy that had befallen so many.

While the state police lodged an FIR against the organisers, the name of Bhole Baba, the preacher, was not in the list of accused though it is there in the complaint. Giving a sense of what took place, the FIR alleged that the organisers hid the actual number of devotees coming to the ‘satsang’ while seeking permission, did not cooperate in traffic management and hid evidence after the incident. The FIR apparently gave a clean chit to the police and administration, saying they did whatever possible from the available resources. The FIR also said 2.5 lakh people crammed into a venue in which only 80,000 were permitted.

Baba is said to be present in an ashram in Mainpuri. A large number of police personnel has been deployed outside the ashram a day after a stampede at his satsang in Hathras. As most of the officials remained tight-lipped when asked if Baba was inside the ashram, some police sources confirmed that the Baba was indeed inside. Police personnel, pooled from several police stations, have been deployed outside the ashram at Bichhawan and no one, including the media, was allowed inside.

A video that has gone viral on social media shows the self-styled godman Suraj Pal Singh, known as Bhole Baba to his followers, leaving the venue in his car and hundreds of devotees running behind his car to gather the dust as a token of blessings.

Suraj Pal, alias Bhole Baba, has been known for his controversial ‘satsangs’ and has a history of legal troubles, including allegations of sexual assault. Despite multiple cases filed against him in various jurisdictions including Agra, Etawah, Kasganj, Farrukhabad, and Rajasthan, he continues to command a considerable following, drawn to his promises of spiritual enlightenment and blessings.

Born in Bahadurnagar in Kasganj district, Suraj Pal had a stint in the police department before facing legal troubles in 1997 related to allegations of sexual assault, for which he served time in prison. Upon his release, he reinvented himself as ‘Saakar Vishwa Hari Baba’, attracting devotees to his ashram in his ancestral village.

The residents of Bhole Baba’s native village Bahadurnagar praised him for never asking for any donation or chadhava (offerings) from anyone. Baba Narayan Hari, also known as Saakar Vishwa Hari Bhole Baba, used to work in the police department. However, he left his job and became a religious preacher after he discovered that the people got attached to his ideas and congregated for his satsang (religious congregations).

Earlier, he used to conduct satsang at his village Dham under Patiyali tehsil but he stopped after the programmes started getting crowded and the poor people’s crops were getting ruined. The residents of his village said the preacher never asked for donations or chadhava from anyone.

Uttar Pradesh Congress chief Ajay Rai met the victims of the Hathras stampede accident and said the government should immediately shift the injured to another hospital for better treatment, as their condition is idle. He further demanded ₹1 crore and a government job as compensation to the bereaved.

He said, “The incident that occurred was very tragic and I feel that this government (Yogi Government) is insensitive, as they just granted the permission for the event without knowing the number of attendees. As per my estimates, the government is responsible for the incident. There should be strict actions against the administrators who granted the permission for the event along with the organisers.”

The Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra hit out at the BJP over the stampede saying such incidents keep happening but accountability was not fixed by the government, which instead is only interested in “whitewashing” these matters.

In a post in Hindi on X, Ms Gandhi said, “Three times more crowd than permitted, no administration on the spot, no crowd management arrangements, no way to escape from the scorching heat, no medical team, no ambulance after the incident, no one for help, no doctors and facilities in the hospital … such a long list of negligence but no one is accountable.” Who is responsible for the tragic incident that happened in Hathras, the Congress general secretary asked.

“Sometimes hundreds of people die due to a bridge collapse, sometimes due to train accidents, sometimes due to stampedes. Instead of whitewashing, it is the responsibility of the government to take action and prepare a plan to prevent such accidents,” she said.



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