States & UTs

    Hathras stampede: FIR says 2.5 lakh people in venue of 80,000

    The Hawk
    July3/ 2024
    Last Updated:

    Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has met the injured and ordered an inquiry into the incident. Amidst the chaos, families search for their missing loved ones and mourn the tragic loss.

    Relatives mourn of Hathras stampede victims

    Hathras: The death toll in the stampede that broke out in a ‘satsang’ here rose to 121 on Wednesday and 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.

    A day after the stampede in Phulrai village at a congregation by religious preacher Bhole Baba snuffed out the lives of their loved ones, stunned families tried to come to terms with their loss – dazed at how an afternoon out could have ended in such tragedy. Crowds gathered around hospitals, some looking for those missing, some there to identify bodies and others tending to the injured.

    Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath 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.

    "The chief minister held a meeting with officials in the circuit house and met the injured in district hospitals," a government official said.

    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, all were women, except for seven children and one man.

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    A pile of slippers at the spot were mute testimony to the tragedy that had befallen so many.

    Where was Baba Narayan Hari, also known as Saakar Vishwa Hari Bhole Baba, the preacher who conducted the ‘satsang’? That was the question as he remained missing and police launched a search for him.

    While the state police lodged an FIR against the organisers, his name is 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.

    'Mukhya sevadar' Devprakash Madhukar and other organisers have been named in the first information report (FIR) filed at the Sikandar Rau police station late Tuesday, a senior official told PTI.

    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), the official said.

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    The organisers sought permission for about 80,000 people for which police and administration made arrangements. However, over 2.5 lakh people gathered, it said.

    The Baba, who was the main speaker of the satsang, came out at about 2 pm in his vehicle and devotees starting collecting mud from there. Due to the heavy rush of devotees, those lying down (for taking the mud) started getting trampled.

    Some running away from the spot were stopped by the Baba’s stick-wielding helpers standing on the other side of a three-feet deep field filled with water and slush due to which women, children and men got crushed, it said.

    According to the FIR, police and administration officials did everything possible and sent the injured from the available resources to hospitals but the organisers and 'sevadars' did not cooperate.

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

    Asphyxia due to compression was the leading cause of death, a senior doctor in an Etah hospital said. The hospital performed four times the usual number of autopsies in a day in the aftermath of the stampede, he said.

    Twenty-seven bodies were taken to the mortuary of the district hospital.

    "Asphyxia due to compression was found to be the cause of death in almost all the cases," Etah's Additional Chief Medical Officer Dr Ram Mohan Tiwari told PTI. A majority of the victims were women in the 40-50 age group.

    As the administration and the medical fraternity coped with the crisis, families tried to piece together what had happened, and count their losses.

    Amongst them was 29-year-old Satyendra Yadav, who works as a driver in Delhi, and lost his three-year-old son Rovin, affectionately called Chhota. He had reached here with his entire family, including his mother, wife and two children.

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

    Chhota was not the only three-year-old killed.

    Kaavya and her elder brother, nine-year-old Ayush, took a bus with their family from Jaipur on Monday evening. It was to be their last.

    Ramlakhan, their uncle, said he hasn’t told their father – and his brother Anad.

    "I came to know about the tragic incident around 5 pm. They (Kaavya and Ayush) had gone to the 'satsang' along with my wife, who is their paternal aunt. The children, along with other family members, had left Jaipur on Monday evening and they had reached the programme venue by 6 am," Ramlakhan told PTI.

    "It's only the poor who meet this fate, not the rich," is how Rajkumari Devi from Unnao put it.

    Sitting in an ambulance besides the body of her sister-in-law Ruby 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," she said, sitting outside the mortuary of the government hospital here, around 400 km away from home.

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