Hathras Stampede: SIT Report Cites Mismanagement, Six Officials Suspended For Negligence - Vibes Of India

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Hathras Stampede: SIT Report Cites Mismanagement, Six Officials Suspended For Negligence

| Updated: July 9, 2024 18:51

The Uttar Pradesh government has suspended several officials following a stampede in Hathras that resulted in 121 deaths. The suspension includes a sub-divisional magistrate (SDM), a tehsildar, a circle officer, a station officer, and two police outposts in charge.

The SDM – who neither inspected the venue nor informed his seniors, according to a SIT report submitted to Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath on Tuesday morning – is one of six district officials, including a Circle Officer and a Tehsildar, who have been removed from active duty.

The SIT report also said the organisers and local officials, including the police, were negligent and “failed to make adequate arrangements”. They did not take the event “seriously”, it declared.

The fact that the organisers – who have been held “primarily responsible” – involved, or hired, individuals without police verification has been held up as an example of that negligence.

And, in a lapse of protocol, local police did not inform, as soon as they should have, their seniors of the stampede and the deaths, the report said. The probe team also echoed the Chief Minister in suggesting the “possibility of a major conspiracy”, and recommended a more detailed investigation.

The SIT, which includes Additional Director General of Police (Agra Zone) Anupam Kulshrestha and Aligarh Divisional Commissioner Chaitra V, also flagged overcrowding as a cause of the stampede.

In earlier police reports it was said the organisers said they expected 80,000 people at the ‘satsang‘, but the final (estimated) headcount was over 2.5 lakh. The cops believe the organisers deliberately underplayed the number, possibly to face fewer restrictions in hosting the event and circumvent additional crowd safety measures; in any case, it appears even those were not ensured.

Other reports indicate this is not the first time a ‘prayer meet’ organised for Bhole Baba, has deceived the authorities about expected attendances; in May 2022, during the COVID pandemic, permission was sought for a rally for 50 in Farrukhabad district but it entertained over 50,000.

The report is based on statements from 125 people – from eyewitnesses and survivors to police and district officials. In addition, news reports and photographs and video footage were also examined.

Bhole Baba has not been named as an accused or questioned. Born in Bahadur Nagari village in UP’s Etah district to a farmer – Nanne Lal – and Katori Devi, the self-styled guru’s original name is Suraj Pal. He was a Head Constable for the state police force

The police have also said there were no ambulances or medical stations at the site. Emergency exits and evacuation routes were either not made available or not clearly marked, which added to the chaos once the stampede broke.

Police have also accused the organisers of not helping manage pedestrian and vehicular traffic and, crucially, destroying or hiding evidence after the stampede. In today’s report the probe team said organisers were guilty of “spreading chaos” and even tried to stop cops from inspecting the venue.

In addition, there was no ventilation in tents that housed Bhole Baba’s followers. The conduct of his private security guards has also invited criticism, particularly since the police believe they stopped people trying to escape so he could drive away.

The Chief Minister announced ₹ 2 lakh for the families of those killed and ₹ 50,000 to the injured. A top court lawyer has filed a plea asking for a five-member committee, to be led by a retired judge, to probe reasons for the stampede. Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud set it for a Friday hearing.

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