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Varanasi: Day after stampede, another religious gathering passes off peacefully

The police seemed to have learnt their lesson after Saturday’s tragedy and crowd control was much better.

india Updated: Oct 16, 2016 17:56 IST
A gathering of  Jai Gurudev followers at Domri village on Sunday, a day after a stampede  broke out during a religious gathering  in which 25 people lost their lives.
A gathering of Jai Gurudev followers at Domri village on Sunday, a day after a stampede broke out during a religious gathering in which 25 people lost their lives.(HT Photo)

A day after 25 people were killed in a stampede, head of Jai Gurudev Dharma Pracharak Sanstha, Pankaj Maharaj, addressed a huge gathering at Domri village along the Ganga, on Sunday.

Referring to the massive crowd that triggered the deadly stampede, the religious leader said, “We sought permission for the event. Around 3,000 followers were expected to attend the event. But what we can do if more and more followers turned up from different parts of the country?”

The organizers had sought permission for the event to be attended by only 3,000 followers. Pankaj Maharaj said that in coming days number of followers would only grow exponentially. An estimated one lakh people showed up on Sunday for the address.

The police seemed to have learnt their lesson after Saturday’s tragedy and crowd control was much better. The administration also drafted in the Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) to reinforce security arrangement around the area.

Before the discourse, Pankaj Maharaj observed a four-minute silence and held a condolence meet for those lost their lives in the stampede.

He also appealed people to turn vegetarian for the welfare of humanity, family, society, country which would help them attain peace.

“Go vegetarian and be kind to creatures. This will result in good health and longevity. Promote vegetarianism all around. Motivate people for going vegetarian.”

Late Saturday night, the Uttar Pradesh government cracked the whip suspending five police officials following the tragedy.

Those suspended included Varanasi’s SP (City) Sudhakar Yadav, SP (Traffic) Kamal Kishore, Station Officer Ramnagar Anil Singh, CO (City Kotwali) Rahul Mishra and SHO Mughalsarai Vinod Yadav.

UP DGP Javeed Ahmed also said lapses in crowd management were being investigated and action would be taken against those responsible for the stampede. He also conceded that the number of police personnel deployed for managing such a huge crowd was insufficient

The stampede broke out when thousands of devotees rushed to cross the bridge on the Ganga. The deceased included 15 women.

Read| 24 killed, 50 injured in stampede at religious gathering in Varanasi

Police said the death toll could go up.

The district administration also launched a helpline number (0542-2508464).

On Sunday, President Pranab Mukherjee condoled the death of the devotees. “I am sad to learn about the stampede in Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh in which a number of persons have lost their lives and others are injured. I understand relief and rescue operations are currently underway,” he said in his message to the Governor of Uttar Pradesh.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who represents Varanasi in the Lok Sabha, expressed grief over the incident and announced compensation of Rs two lakh each for the families of the dead and Rs 50,000 each for the injured.

“Deeply saddened by the loss of lives in the stampede in Varanasi. I have spoken to officials and asked them to ensure all possible help to those affected due to the stampede,” the PM tweeted.

Chief minister Akhilesh Yadav also announced an ex-gratia of Rs 5 lakh each to the kin of the deceased and Rs 50,000 for the injured. He also ordered a magisterial probe into the tragedy.

Additional director general Daljit Chaudhary asked the district magistrate, Varanasi, to deploy three station officers at the mortuary to ensure the bodies were taken to the native places of the deceased.

Read| Varanasi stampede victims followers of affluent ‘godman’ Jai Gurudev