Conspiracy or accident: CM Adityanath announces judicial inquiry into Hathras stampede

Bags and other belongings lying at the scene a day after a massive stampede that took place during a 'satsang' (religious congregation), in Sikandara Rao area in Hathras district, Wednesday, July 3, 2024.
Bags and other belongings lying at the scene a day after a massive stampede that took place during a 'satsang' (religious congregation), in Sikandara Rao area in Hathras district, Wednesday, July 3, 2024.

Hathras (UP) | Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath on Wednesday announced a judicial inquiry into the Hathras tragedy, saying it will also look into the possibility of a “conspiracy” behind the stampede that killed 121 people at a religious gathering here.

The police also filed a First Information Report (FIR) against the organisers of the ‘satsang’ Tuesday near Phulhari village, accusing them of cramming 2.5 lakh people into the venue when they had obtained permission for only 80,000.

'Satsang' preacher Bhole Baba’s lawyer A P Singh said the preacher is ready to cooperate with the state administration and the police probing Tuesday's stampede. "Some anti-social elements hatched a conspiracy,” he claimed.

'Mukhya sevadar' Devprakash Madhukar and other organisers are named as the accused in the FIR filed at the Sikandra Rau police station late Tuesday. The preacher Jagat Guru Saakar Vishwahari Bhole Baba is not in the list.

The chief minister said the judicial probe team will include retired police and administration officials. “If this is not an accident, then whose conspiracy is this? All of this will be probed,” he told reporters during his visit to Hathras, where he met the injured.

At least two pleas were filed in courts Wednesday over the tragedy.

An advocate filed a PIL in the Supreme Court seeking the appointment of a five-member expert committee under the supervision of a retired apex court judge to probe the incident. In the Allahabad High Court another PIL sought a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

But Adityanath and the FIR appeared to give a clean chit to the local administration, seemingly laying the blame on the ‘sevadars’ looking after the arrangements at the ‘satsang’.

The organisers tried to hide the actual number of people coming to the event by concealing evidence and throwing slippers and other belongings of the devotees in nearby fields, the FIR alleged.

The FIR said police and administration officials did everything possible with available resources and sent the injured to hospitals but the organisers and 'sevadars' did not cooperate.

According to the FIR and a preliminary report by the Sikandra Rau sub divisional magistrate, the stampede took place as the preacher left the venue.

People rushed towards him – apparently to have a 'darshan' and to collect some soil from the spot he had walked upon – and the 'sevadars’ shoved them away. The SDM’s report said many slipped while descending a slope next to the highway.

The CM said the "sevadars" should have taken the victims to hospital. People were dying and the sevadars fled, he claimed.

Asked why the preacher was not named in the FIR as an accused, Adityanath said, "Prima facie, the case has been filed against those who applied for permission for the event. Whoever is responsible for this will come under its purview."

The government has formed a special investigation team led by Agra's additional director general of police Anupam Kulshreshtha.

Asphyxia due to compression was the leading cause of death, a senior doctor at an Etah hospital said.

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), an official said.

A day after tragedy, family members tried to come to terms with their loss.

Among them was them was 29-year-old Satyendra Yadav, a taxi driver from Delhi who lost his three-year-old son Rovin, affectionately called Chhota. He was in Hathras with his entire family, including his mother, wife and two children.

The anguished father, who performed Chhota's last rites on Tuesday night, said he doesn’t remember much of what happened.

And Rajkumari Devi from Unnao said, "It's only the poor who meet this fate, not the rich."

Sitting in an ambulance besides the body of her sister-in-law Ruby, Rajkumari said she is worried about Ruby’s five-year-old son who is missing. "We are yet to find him. More of our family members are on their way to Hathras."

Asked if she had any demands from the government, Rajkumari told PTI, "What do we say now? There's nothing (to ask for).”

Anti-social elements behind stampede, Bhole Baba never lets people touch his feet: Lawyer

Hathras (UP) | A lawyer representing Bhole Baba claimed Wednesday that "anti-social elements" were behind the stampede at the preacher's 'satsang' here in which 121 people died a day back, and contradicted preliminary reports that the tragedy struck when his followers rushed to collect the soil touched by his feet.

According to preliminary government reports, the stampede occurred when a large number of his followers, mostly women, rushed towards Baba Narayan Hari alias Saakar Vishwa Hari Bhole Baba when he was leaving to get a closer glimpse of the preacher and collect his "charan raj".

"Some anti-social elements hatched a conspiracy. When Narayan Saakar Hari left the venue, his vehicles left, our volunteers and followers failed to understand what was happening due to the conspiracy. This was done as per a plan and should be investigated," lawyer A P Singh told PTI.

Singh said Bhole Baba is also ready to cooperate with the state administration and the police probing Tuesday's stampede and has demanded an investigation into the entire matter.

Asked about the claims made in the FIR and a preliminary report made by the local sub-divisional magistrate, the Supreme Court lawyer denied the charges and said, "Narayan Saakar Hari never lets followers touch his feet. The mention of the 'charan raj' is also false. There is no video or picture of such an act."

Singh added that he was representing Baba Bhole and the key organiser of the 'satsang' held in Phulrai village in the Sikandar Rau police station area. The preacher is not mentioned as accused in the FIR registered in connection with the stampede.

On his legal steps, he said, "We will visit the incident spot, consider other factors and take a decision accordingly. During his programmes, maps are made, permissions are taken and arrangements are made in adequate area."

Singh added that Bhole Baba has condemned what happened after his 'satsang'.

He claimed that the preacher's 'sevadars' and followers were extending support to the victims of the stampede and offering them food and medicines.

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