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Hathras stampede: Amid frantic search for loved ones, many recount horror at 'satsang'

As the death toll in the stampede during a religious congregation at Phulrai village in Hathras district crossed 100, eye witnesses recounted the horror.
Last Updated : 02 July 2024, 14:59 IST

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Lucknow: As the death toll in the stampede during a religious congregation at Phulrai village in Hathras district crossed 100, eye witnesses recounted the horror stating how the women and children were trampled upon as the devotees scampered to leave the venue after it was over.

One of the eye witnesses said that around one lakh devotees thronged the congregation where a well known ‘kathavachak’ (priest narrator) Sarkar Vishwahari Bhole Baba was to deliver his sermons. ‘

’The venue was too small to accommodate such a large gathering,’’ she said.

She said that devotees from Haryana, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh had also arrived to attend the congregation.

Another eyewitness said one could make out that a large number of devotees had arrived at the ‘satsang’ (religious congregation) as the vehicles carrying them were parked in a radius of about two kilometres.

He further went on to say that bodies of victims were lying on hospital floors and the ambulance sirens could not be heard among the wails of the relatives. Many were seen frantically searching for their near and dear ones.

There were different accounts as to how the stampede occurred. Some eyewitnesses said that the organisers closed one of the exits to allow the cavalcade of the ‘kathavachak’ to pass and as a result there was more pressure on other exits.

Others said that the stampede was caused after many people tried to leave the venue owing to excessive heat.

‘’Many devotees fainted during the satsang...causing panic among the others and many tried to go out of the hall resulting in the stampede,’’ said another eyewitness.

Reports said the district administration was caught napping as the relief and rescue operations were not launched immediately.

Though permission had been granted for the event, it was not clear if other essential arrangements were also made. The local administration had no clue as to the number of devotees likely to attend the event.

‘’The cause of the stampede can be ascertained only after a proper investigation into the incident,’’ said a senior district official in Etah, the neighbouring district of Hathras.

Bhole Baba was quite popular among the people in the region, reports said adding that he organised such congregations every Tuesday in which thousands of devotees took part.  He is reported to have connections with many leading politicians. His photographs with senior politicians are now viral on social media.

Reports said that Bhole Baba hailed from Etah and that he had an ‘army’ of bodyguards. He was earlier in the UP police but later on took VRS and became a ‘kathavachak’.

Sources said that the priest narrator had left the venue after the event and his whereabouts are not known. Many of the organisers are also not traceable.

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Published 02 July 2024, 14:59 IST

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