Probe blames ashram management for UP stampede

Probe blames ashram management for UP stampede

Relatives of sisters Vandana, 12, and Sanjana, 8, victims of Thursday's temple stampede, mourn at Piranagar village near Kunda, about 180 kilometers (112 miles) southeast of Lucknow on Friday. AP

In the report submitted to the state government, the Allahabad divisional commissioner noted that the ashram administration not only failed to assess the extent of the crowd that actually converged at the venue, but also did not put up a public address system that could be used to handle the crowd.

Disclosing the findings at a press conference, state Principal Secretary Home Fateh Bahadur said: "Ashram trust manager Hrinmay Chatterjee did inform Pratapgarh's additional superintendent of police about the March 4 event, but he sought deployment of just about 10 to 15 policemen, who proved to be far short of the actual requirement as the ashram had made arrangement for hosting the proposed feast for at least 10,000 people.

"While the ashram authorities had mentioned noon as the time for commencement of the programme, crowds started pouring in at the venue from 9.30 a.m. itself, and became unmanageable by noon when the entry gate crashed, triggering a stampede that took 63 lives and left 64 injured," he added.

The ashram, founded and run by spiritual guru Kripaluji Maharaj, is spread across six acres in Mangarh village near Pratapgarh district's Kunda town, about 160 km from here. It draws huge crowds on the day of the annual feast - held to mark the death anniversary of the guru's wife.

Without indicting any local police or government officials, Fateh Bahadur said that had the ashram management put up a public address system, the tragedy could have been minimised.

Asked why the local administration had been absolved of any responsibility, he said the government had "no intention to save anybody's skin. What we have so far is only the preliminary report. Once the final report is ready, the picture will become clearer and perhaps bring out more facts to light".

The home secretary dismissed contentions that the guru enjoyed the patronage of a number of politicians and influential bureaucrats. "No one howsoever high or mighty, would be allowed to go scot free in case he was found to be even remotely responsible for the tragedy," he said.

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