Sixteen people were crushed to death and 60 injured in a stampede during a religious ceremony near the banks of the Ganga in Haridwar on Tuesday morning.
It is not clear what led to the accident but two versions have been put forward.
According to government spokesperson Amit Chandola, some pilgrims tripped and fell on their way to Shantikunj Ashram, where some rituals were being performed, and those behind continued to push forward.
Around 400,000 devotees were in the temple town for a five-day prayer meet — which started Sunday — organised to mark the birth centenary of Ram Sharma Acharya, the founder of the Akhil Vishwa Gayatri Pariwar, which has a following across the country. “There was a rush and it led to a stampede,” said Pranav Pandya, head of the Gayatri Pariwar.
According to the other account, many devotees fainted from hunger (they were fasting) and suffocation — the ashram was packed beyond capacity.
The police said the ashram authorities had not involved them or the administration in managing the event.
The organisers were told to wind up the ceremony that was to end Thursday.
Crowd management at such gatherings continues to be a problem. Nearly 1,000 lives have been lost in stampedes at religious places in India in the last 10 years.
With agency inputs