Adityanath announces judicial probe into Hathras stampede, doesn't rule out conspiracy

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath on Wednesday announced a judicial probe into the Hathras tragedy while not ruling out the possibility of a "conspiracy" behind the stampede that killed 121 people.
Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath visits the victims of Stampede in hospital
Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath visits the victims of Stampede in hospital

Hathras (UP) | Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath on Wednesday announced a judicial probe into the Hathras tragedy while not ruling out the possibility of a "conspiracy" behind the stampede that killed 121 people.

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.

Adityanth met those injured in the incident at the venue of the religious congregation here and obtained information from the eyewitnesses about the course of events preceding the tragedy.

Asserting the government will ensure that such incidents do not recur, the chief minister said a standard operating procedure might be put in place for religious congregations.

"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." Adityanath said the government had formed a Special Investigation Team led by the additional director general (ADG) of police, Agra, which has given its preliminary report.

"She (ADG, Agra, Anupam Kulshreshtha) has been asked to get to the bottom of this incident, he said.

The chief minister said among the 121 killed in the stampede on Tuesday, six were from other states -- four from Haryana and one each from Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.

Asked why religious preacher Saakar Vishwa Hari Bhole Baba has not been named in the FIR as an accused, Adityanath said, "Prima facie, the case has been filed against those who had applied for permission for the event. Whoever is responsible for this will come under its purview." The Uttar Pradesh Police on Wednesday registered an FIR against the organisers of the congregation, accusing them of flouting conditions with 2.5 lakh people gathering for the event in which only 80,000 were permitted.

It also alleged the organisers did not cooperate in traffic management and hid evidence after the stampede that occurred as people gathered there stopped to collect soil from where the religious preacher's vehicle passed.

The chief minister met the injured at the district hospital and enquired about the condition. At the police lines, he met the eyewitnesses of the stampede and gathered information about the sequence of the incident.

BJP state president Bhupendra Chaudhary, Uttar Pradesh ministers Lakshmi Narayan Chaudhary, Asim Arun and Sandeep Singh as well as the local MLA, Chief Secretary Manoj Kumar Singh and Sanjay Prasad, the principal secretary to the chief minister, were also present.

After meeting the injured, Adityanath reached the stampede spot in Sikandrarau where the divisional commissioner of Aligarh briefed him about the accident.

At a press conference, the chief minister said "When the gentleman's (Saakar Vishwa Hari Bhole Baba) preaching was over, he came down from the stage and his convoy moved forward, a group of women moved towards him to touch him. A crowd followed them and started climbing on top of each other."

Adityanath said, "The 'sevadars' kept pushing people leading to the accident. It is sad that the 'sevadars', who do not allow the administration to enter such events, tried to hush up the matter. But when the administration started taking the injured to hospital, most of the 'sevadars' fled." Action is being taken to fix accountability, he said, adding some special teams have been formed and after initial investigation, "we will take further action."

Asked about opposition parties trying to corner the government over the stampede, the chief minister said, "Some people have a tendency to dig up politics in such tragic incidents." Apparently referring to Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav, he said, "Everyone knows with whom that gentleman has a photo and who are his political connections... I think it is necessary to get to the bottom of it." "Those who play with the lives of innocent people will also be held accountable," the chief minister said.

A photo of Vishwa Hari Bhole Baba with Akhilesh Yadav has gone viral on social media.

Asked why the "sevadars" do not allow the administration to enter the venue, Adityanath said, "The administration assumes that it is a religious event and the 'sevadars' will take the responsibility." "Big events are organised this way. Police are deployed in the outer ring for security. Wherever people attend religious events, they remain disciplined. But when such events become tools in the hands of vested selfish elements, then it leads to indiscipline," Adityanath added.

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