“Organisers Tried To Cover Up Incident”: Yogi Adityanath On Hathras Stampede

The organisers of a ‘prayer meet’ – held by godman Bhole Baba in Uttar Pradesh’s Hathras, which ended in a stampede that killed over a hundred – “tried to cover up the incident”, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath said after visiting the site. “This will not happen again… there will be SOPs (standard operating protocols)… we will ensure that,” he declared Wednesday.

The Chief Minister said a high-level judicial committee, to be led by a retired High Court judge, will investigate potential lapses, of which several, including questions over permission and a possible lack of crowd control and safety measures, have already been flagged.

“The culprits won’t be spared,” the Chief Minister declared.

NDTV Live | Hathras Stampede Death Count At 121, Hunt On For Godman

“We cannot deny this stampede is not an accident… (but), if not accident, then it was a conspiracy by whom? We will conduct a judicial inquiry under a retired High Court judge.”

Yogi Adityanath confirmed what reports this morning that the stampede had been triggered by a tug-of-war – between parts of the massive crowd pushing to touch the godman’s feet and those trying to leave the venue after the ‘prayer meeting’ was completed. 

“I spoke to some of the witnesses… they said that during the ‘satsang’, when women wanted to touch the godman’s feet, a sea of people pushed forward and security (Bhole Bala’s private detail) pushed back. Then they tried to cover up the issue,” he said.

“And, when people were being taken to hospitals, the security team ran away.”

Children were among 121 crushed to death by a frenzied crowd – by some estimates over 2.5 lakh – in Hathras Tuesday afternoon. The crowd had gathered to attend a ‘satsang’, or ‘prayer meet’, by a Suraj Pal Singh, a self-styled religious leader calling himself Bhole Baba.

Six of the dead were from Haryana, Rajasthan, and Madhya Pradesh, while the rest were from various parts of UP, the Chief Minister said today as his government scrambles to identify and arrest the guilty in the face of growing political pressure from the opposition.

Over 30 people were injured and are in hospitals, and are out of danger, he said.

READ | No Emergency Exits, Lack Of Cops: Focus On Stampede Lapses

Meanwhile, tough questions are being asked of local government and police officials, including who permitted such a large rally and why no safety measures were in place.

The police have filed a case against a close aide of Baba Bhole, whose real name is Suraj Pal Singh, and event organisers. The FIR, however, does not mention the godman.

READ | Bhole Baba, Who Held Hathras Event, Faced Sexual Assault Cases

No arrests have been made so far, and state police chief Prashant Kumar was non-committal when asked if Bhole Baba will be arrested, saying, “Action will be taken based on facts.”

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