On Tuesday, a stampede occurred during a religious gathering that led by godman Bhole Baba also known as Narayan Saakar Hari, in Hathras, Uttar Pradesh. This event resulted in the loss of more than 100 lives including huge number of women and children.

Hathras Stampede: Over 100 Dead at Bhole Baba's Religious Congregation

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The stampede occurred on July 2, 2024, in a village in Hathras district, Uttar Pradesh, about 200 kilometers southeast of New Delhi.

The event was a satsang, a Hindu prayer meeting organized by Bhole Baba, whose real name is Suraj Pal.

Bhole Baba is known for drawing large crowds mainly composed of his followers from lower-caste communities particularly Dalits.

The event was a ‘satsang’ (religious congregation) organized by Bhole Baba in the village of Phulrai, located in the Sikandrarau area of Hathras.

Despite the organizers securing permission for a crowd of 80,000, the event attracted an huge number of devotees approximately 2.5 lakh devotees from Uttar Pradesh and neighboring states.

Bhole Baba, originally named Suraj Pal and he is a former policeman who turned towards spirituality, eventually founding the Ram Kutir Charitable Trust in Mainpuri.

As Bhole Baba was leaving the venue, his followers rushed to collect dust from his car’s tyre trail causing a surge of people that led to the stampede.

The overcrowding was combined with insufficient crowd control measures that led to the chaos. Many attendees fell over one another in the rush added by the muddy and slippery conditions at the site.

The stampede resulted in the deaths of 121 individuals with many more injured. The deceased primarily included women and children.

Authorities including the Uttar Pradesh Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC), National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) were deployed to manage the situation and provide aid.

Forensic teams and dog squads were present at the site to assist in identifying victims and investigating the cause of the stampede.

The Uttar Pradesh government announced a compensation of ₹2 lakh for the families of the deceased and ₹50,000 for the injured.

A First Information Report (FIR) was filed against the organizers under several sections of the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS) including charges of culpable homicide not amounting to murder and wrongful restraint.

A committee led by the Additional Director General of Police, Agra and the Aligarh Commissioner has been formed to investigate the incident.

Advocate Gaurav Dwivedi has filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the Allahabad High Court, calling for a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) inquiry into the incident.

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath visited the site, met with the injured and announced the formation of a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe the incident.

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed sorrow over the tragedy and announced ex-gratia payments for the victims’ families and the injured.

Authorities had permitted 80,000 attendees, but the actual turnout was approximately 250,000 people. The gathering was held in a tent set up in a muddy paddy field.

The venue had inadequate exits contributing to the chaos. The stampede began when Bhole Baba left the stage and headed towards his car.

Scores of devotees rushed out of the tent to touch his feet or collect soil from the ground he walked on leading to the crowd crush.

121 people died including 112 women and seven children. Over 80 individuals were injured and transported to various hospitals.

Disaster management experts pointed out that the tent had insufficient exits, which forced people to cram through a limited number of egress points.

The muddy field and the rain made the ground slippery causing people to fall and get trampled.

Disturbing images and videos circulated online showing injured individuals being transported in various vehicles to hospitals.

Many family members were seen desperately searching for their loved ones during the incident. A First Information Report (FIR) was lodged against the event organizers.

Bhole Baba reportedly fled the scene and has since been hiding with authorities are on their search for him.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed his condolences on social media and Uttar Pradesh’s Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath visited the site to meet with the victims’ families.

Bhole Baba has a history of organizing large gatherings. During the COVID-19 pandemic in 2022, he held an event with a turnout far exceeding the permitted number of attendees.

The FIR lists multiple charges against the organizers including culpable homicide. It also notes that the organizers destroyed evidence and provided no assistance to the affected individuals during the stampede.

Bhole Baba is currently absconding and authorities are actively searching for him to question him about the incident.

The Uttar Pradesh government has set up helpline numbers for those seeking information about their loved ones affected by the stampede. The helpline numbers are 05722227041 and 05722227042.

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