Ashram in the dock over stampede

Ashram in the dock over stampede

Relatives gather for a mass cremation of Thursday's stampede victims at Manikpur Raj Ghat, on Friday. AP

Uttar Pradesh police has registered a case against the managers and organisers of the “Bhandara” (religious feast) at the Kripaluji Maharaj ashram where a stampede killed 63 people on Thursday, even as the godman, who has dubious antecedents, remained untraceable a day after the tragedy.
“Though no arrests have yet been made a case has been registered under Section 304 (A) (causing death by negligence) against Kripaluji Parishad which had organised the function,” Pratapgarh police chief Mahesh Kumar Misra told reporters.
Sixty-three people, including women and children, were killed and over 200 injured in a stampede at the ashram during a religious feast there on Thursday.
Swami Kripaluji Maharaj, who is 88 and currently confined to bed following a fracture in the legs, said that he was saddened by the incident but blamed the people for the tragedy.
“We never invited so many people... the programme is organised eery year but never in the past so many people had gathered in the ashram,” the godman told local reporters over telephone. He announced a compensation of Rs 1 lakh each to the next of kin of the victims and Rs 10,000 each to those injured.
The ashram officials refuted the police charge that they had not been informed about the programme.
“We had informed the local administration about the programme,” claimed Radhika Saran, a spokesman for the ashram.
The officials put the death toll at 63 but many people still remained missing. Several people visited the ashram premises on Friday looking for their near and dear ones, who did not return home after the tragedy.
Kripalu ji Maharaj, a familiar face on religious TV channels, has dubious antecedents.
In 2008 he was accused of rape by one of his own disciples in Trinidad. An FIR had been lodged against the godman charging him with four cases of kidnapping and raping in the 1980s but he was acquitted of all the charges.
DH News Service

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