Hathras stampede: Absconding Bhole Baba alleges conspiracy; CM orders inquiry | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Hathras stampede: Absconding Bhole Baba alleges conspiracy; CM orders inquiry

Jul 04, 2024 02:52 PM IST

At least 121 people, mostly women, were killed and over a hundred injured in the stampede at the religious congregation as Pal was leaving the venue

HATHRAS: Self-styled godman Suraj Pal, also known as Narayan Sarkar Hari and Bhole Baba, on Wednesday blamed “anti-social elements” for the stampede at his congregation in Hathras district, hours after Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath announced a judicial probe into the incident without ruling out the possibility of a “conspiracy”.

Mainpuri: Police personnel outside Ram Kutir Charitable Trust, the ashram of preacher Baba Narayan Hari, also known as Saakar Vishwa Hari Bhole Baba, at Bichhwa, in Mainpuri district on July 3 (PTI)
Mainpuri: Police personnel outside Ram Kutir Charitable Trust, the ashram of preacher Baba Narayan Hari, also known as Saakar Vishwa Hari Bhole Baba, at Bichhwa, in Mainpuri district on July 3 (PTI)

At least 121 people, mostly women and children, were killed and over a hundred injured in the stampede at the religious congregation as Pal, a former Uttar Pradesh police constable, was leaving the venue in the Phulrai Mughal Garhi village. This was the biggest stampede in India since 2008.

Supreme Court lawyer AP Singh, authorised by Pal to represent him and take legal action in the incident, said: “There were some anti-social elements who probably conspired at the event site and this led to stampede. Baba had left the venue when the incident took place. We offer condolences to the family of the deceased and wish speedy recovery for those injured.”

Singh confirmed Pal has also issued a statement expressing condolences over the incident.

Earlier in the day, Adityanath hinted at a “conspiracy” angle in the incident and said a detailed investigation was underway. He met some of the injured people in a Hathras hospital and also visited the stampede site at Sikandra Rao.

“A judicial probe by a retired high court judge will be conducted into the incident,” he told reporters at the Hathras police lines on Wednesday afternoon. “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.”

He said that of the 121 people killed in the stampede, six were from other states — four from Haryana and one each from Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.

Later in the day, the UP government formed a three-member judicial inquiry commission to probe the incident on the recommendation of state’s Governor Anandiben Patel. The commission will be headed by retired judge of Allahabad high court, Justice Brijesh Kumar Srivastav (II), and also comprise retired IAS officer Hemant Rao and retired IPS officer Bhavesh Kumar Singh as the two members. The commission has been tasked to complete the probe within two months, according to the official order.

Meanwhile, a case of culpable homicide has been registered against Pal’s chief sewadar (volunteer) Devprakash Madhukar and the organisers of the congregation at the Sikandra Rao police station, officers said.

The first information report (FIR), registered suo motu (on its own) by the Hathras police, has slapped sections 105 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder), 110 (offences on any road, or street or thoroughfare, or any open place etc, causing inconvenience or danger to residents or passers-by), 126(2) (voluntary obstruction), 223 (voluntarily disobeying order promulgated by public servant) and 238 (causing disappearance of evidence) of the newly enforced Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS).

Asked why the religious preacher 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.”

He added: “…The sewadars were managing the internal cordon and fled when stampede happened and people died. The organisers will be questioned in due course… We will take strict action, and teams have been formed to take up action in nearby districts in coming time.”

No arrest has been made in the incident so far, a police officer said.

“There have been no arrests so far in the case and our teams are trying to trace the six organisers/sewadars who obtained permission for the satsang event. There were reports that the godman was in Etawah. We sent teams there but it was not the case. We are trying to trace him and also the organisers,” a senior officer from Hathras police said, requesting anonymity.

The officer added that four people were being questioned by the police, but did not divulge their details.

HT on Tuesday night found that names, addresses and mobile numbers of the six organisers were written on the main hoarding at the consecration event. HT tried to contact those named as organisers — Devprakash Madhukar, Anar Singh, Sanju Yadav, Mahesh Chandra, Chandra Dev and Ram Prakash, all residents of Sikandra Rao — but their mobiles remained switched off.

Meanwhile, the sub-divisional magistrate (SDM), who had given permission to the organisers for the congregation at the Phulrai Mughalsarai village, on Wednesday submitted a report to the Hathras district magistrate.

“The report mentioned that the organisers had obtained permission for a gathering of about 80,000, but we had asked them to reduce the numbers. On the day of the event, the gathering swelled to more than 2 lakh (200,000). The devotees were trying to get close to Baba’s vehicle while his sewadars were pushing them backwards. This led to stampede. Amid this, Baba in his vehicle fled towards Etah on NH-91. We tried to communicate with him but there was no response thereafter,” SDM Ravindra Kumar Singh told HT.

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