Adityanath orders judicial probe into Hathras stampede, hints at 'conspiracy'

Chief minister says standard operating procedure may be put in place for religious congregations

Yogi Adityanath meets victims of the Hathras stampede in hospital (photo: PTI)
Yogi Adityanath meets victims of the Hathras stampede in hospital (photo: PTI)


Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath on Wednesday announced a judicial probe into the Hathras tragedy, while not ruling out the possibility of a "conspiracy" behind the stampede which killed 121 people.

He also said the sevadars (volunteers working for the satsang organisers) should have taken the victims to hospital. People were dying while sevadars fled, he claimed.

Adityanth met those injured in the incident at a religious congregation in Hathras, and obtained information from eyewitnesses about the course of events preceding the tragedy.

Asserting that his government would ensure that such incidents do not recur, the chief minister said a standard operating procedure may be put in place for religious congregations.

"A judicial probe by a retired high court judge will be conducted into the incident," he said. "If this is not an accident, then whose conspiracy is this? All this will be probed. Retired police and civic administration officials will be part of the judicial inquiry and action will be taken against those found responsible."

Adityanath also said the government had formed a special investigation team led by the additional director general (ADG) of police, Agra, which has given its preliminary report. "She (ADG Anupam Kulshreshtha) has been asked to get to the bottom of this incident," he said.

The chief minister said among the 121 killed in the stampede on Tuesday, four were from Haryana and one each from Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.

Asked why religious preacher Saakar Vishwa Hari Bhole Baba has not been named in the FIR as an accused, Adityanath said, "Prima facie, the case has been filed against those who had applied for permission for the event. Whoever is responsible for this will come under its purview."

The Uttar Pradesh Police on Wednesday registered an FIR against the organisers of the congregation, accusing them of flouting conditions with 2.5 lakh people gathering for the event while only 80,000 were permitted.

It also alleged the organisers did not cooperate in traffic management and concealed evidence after the stampede, which occurred as people stopped to collect soil from where the religious preacher's vehicle passed.

The chief minister met the injured at the district hospital and enquired about their condition. At the police lines, he met eyewitnesses to the stampede and gathered information about the sequence of events.

BJP state president Bhupendra Chaudhary, Uttar Pradesh ministers Lakshmi Narayan Chaudhary, Asim Arun and Sandeep Singh, as well as the local MLA, chief secretary Manoj Kumar Singh and Sanjay Prasad, the principal secretary to the chief minister, were also present.

After meeting the injured, Adityanath reached the stampede spot in Sikandrarau where the divisional commissioner of Aligarh briefed him about the accident. At a press conference, the chief minister said "When the gentleman's (Saakar Vishwa Hari Bhole Baba) preaching was over, he came down from the stage and his convoy moved forward, a group of women moved towards him to touch him. A crowd followed them and started climbing on top of each other."

Adityanath said, "The sevadars kept pushing people, leading to the accident. It is sad that the sevadars, who do not allow the administration to enter such events, tried to hush up the matter. But when the administration started taking the injured to hospital, most of the sevadars fled."

Action is being taken to fix accountability, he said, adding that some special teams have been formed and after initial investigation, "we will take further action".

Asked about opposition parties trying to corner the government over the stampede, the chief minister said, "Some people have a tendency to dig up politics in such tragic incidents." Apparently referring to Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav, he said, "Everyone knows with whom that gentleman has a photo and who are his political connections... I think it is necessary to get to the bottom of it. Those who play with the lives of innocent people will also be held accountable."

A photo of Vishwa Hari Bhole Baba with Akhilesh Yadav has gone viral on social media.

Asked why the sevadars do not allow the administration to enter the venue, Adityanath said, "The administration assumes that it is a religious event and the sevadars will take the responsibility.

"Big events are organised this way. Police are deployed in the outer ring for security. Wherever people attend religious events, they remain disciplined. But when such events become tools in the hands of vested selfish elements, then it leads to indiscipline."

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