Two Days After Killer Stampede Left 123 Dead, No Arrests And Few Answers

Two days after the killer stampede at a religious gathering in Uttar Pradesh’s Hathras left 123 people dead, police are yet to make any arrests. Self-styled godman Narayana Sakar Hari, who addressed the ‘satsang’, is still at an unknown location, but his lawyer has said he will cooperate in the probe.

Deputy Chief Minister Brajesh Pathak told NDTV that the investigation report is expected soon and no one who is guilty will be spared. “We are committed to taking strict action,” he said.

The Deputy Chief Minister has said the autopsy of 118 bodies has been done so far, and five are yet to be identified. “We have sent the bodies to their families after post-mortem. Twenty injured are being treated in hospitals here,” he said.

Asked why the FIR does not mention Narayan Sakar Hari, also known as ‘Bhole baba’, “Let the report come, no one will be spared, no matter how well-connected they are,” he said.

On the factors that led to the killer stampede, the Deputy Chief Minister said, “We will be able to tell anything after the report comes.”

The stampede on Tuesday afternoon was triggered by a mad rush for dust. According to the FIR, about 2.5 lakh people had turned up for the ‘satsang’ even though police had sought permission for a gathering of 80,000.

When the godman was leaving after the satsang, a large group of followers approached his car to collect the dust stirred up by the tyres. According to the subdivisional magistrate’s report, the godman’s private security guards started pushing his followers and some people fell and were trampled. Many others fled towards the open field and slipped, and others ran over them.

Devprakash Madhukar, Narayan Sakar Hari’s close aide and main organiser of the event, has been named accused in the FIR. Police conducted raids at many locations across Hathras, Etah and Mainpuri to arrest the accused. 

The preacher’s lawyer AP Singh said in a statement last night that Narayan Sakar Hari is ready to cooperate with the state administration and the police. “Some anti-social elements hatched a conspiracy,” he alleged.

A three-member judicial commissioned, headed by Allahabad High Court’s retired judge, Justice Brijesh Kumar Srivastav, is investigating the tragedy. The panel is likely to submit its report in two months.

Announcing the judicial panel probe, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath raised a big question. “If this is not an accident, then whose conspiracy is this? All of this will be probed,” he told the media during his visit to Hathras, where he met those injured and visited the spot where the stampede took place.

The Chief Minister, when asked why the ‘godman’ has not been named an accused, said, “Prima facie, the case has been filed against those who applied for permission for the event. Whoever is responsible for this will come under its purview.”

Besides the judicial panel, a special investigation team led by Agra’s Additional Director General of Police Anupam Kulshreshtha is probing the incident.

The Uttar Pradesh government has announced a compensation of Rs 2 lakh for the families of those killed in the stampede. Many families, reports say, are still looking for their own who attended the ‘satsang’. Rajkumari Devi from Unnao told news agency PTI, “It’s only the poor who meet this fate, not the rich.”

She was seated in an ambulance, next to her sister-in-law Ruby’s body. The dead woman’s five-year-old son is missing (as on last night). Asked if she had any demands from the government, she replied, “What do we say now? There’s nothing (to ask for).”

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