Five women devotees were killed in a stampede early Friday during a religious gathering at the Dera Sacha Sauda sect headquarters near this Haryana town, police said. Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda has announced a grant of Rs 2 lakh to the victims' next of kin.
Civil and police authorities later described the incident as "an accident".
The stampede took place around midnight when a congregation of the sect ended and 'prasad' and gifts were being distributed to followers of sect chief Gurmit Ram Rahim Singh, officials said.
The stampede broke out when a squall hit the venue and people ran in different directions to take cover. About 100,000 people had gathered for the founder's day celebrations of the sect just outside the sprawling sect headquarters in Sirsa, about 300 km from Chandigarh Thursday night.
Addressing the media at the Civil Hospital, Sirsa Deputy Commissioner Yudhvir Singh Khyalia said that the stampede took place outside gate No 3 of Dera Sacha Sauda around idnight in which five women were killed and two people, including one woman, sustained injuries.
The dead included Bimla Rani and Kamla Rani of Bathinda (Punjab), Parkash Devi of Fatehabad (Haryana), Bateri Devi from Hisar (Haryana), Mukhtiar Kaur from Sirsa (Haryana).
"The incident occurred as followers of a sect were coming out after attending a satsang (religious sermon). In the stampede, five women between the age-group of 56 to 60 years were killed," Kulbhushan Arora, security in-charge of Sirsa police, told IANS.
Sect spokesperson Aditya Insaan claimed that there was no mismanagement of the event that led to the stampede and the deaths.
"The event had ended before 11 pm. There were some devotees who were still at the venue when the unfortunate incident took place. We have contacted the families of the victims," he said.