5 killed in Sirsa dera stampede
A stampede at the headquarters of the religious sect, Dera Sacha Sauda, late on Thursday night left five women devotees dead and several others injured.
The Haryana police said about hundred thousand devotees from different parts of Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan had gathered to celebrate
the sect’s foundation day at Sirsa, about 240 km from Chandigarh.
Although Sirsa district police chief Satinder Gupta said the exact cause of the stampede was still not known, Sirsa deputy commissioner Yudhvir Singh said that the reason
could be a rumour about the presence of a snake at the venue.
But eyewitnesses said the incident occurred when a small platform erected to give away gifts collapsed, as women rushed to take gifts from the controversial sect chief, Gurmit Ram Rahim Singh.
Some others said the stampede was caused by people running aimlessly in the darkness, as a storm hit the venue.
Kulbhushan Arora, in-charge of the Sirsa police, said, “It could be due to heavy rush and chaos.”
But Dera spokesperson Aditya Insaan denied the charge of mismanagement. “The event ended before 11 pm. Some devotees were still at the venue when the incident occurred.”
The five killed were identified as Vimla and Kamla from Bathinda, Renu Bhateria from Hisar, Parkash Devi from Fatehabad and Mukhtiar Kuar from Sirsa — all in the age group of 40 to 60 years.