Ashram blamed for Uttar Pradesh stampede

Lucknow, March 6 (IANS) A preliminary probe into the Uttar Pradesh stampede has blamed the ashram management for the disaster that killed 63 people, mostly women and children, officials said Saturday.

In his report to the state government, Allahabad’s divisional commissioner said the ashram failed to estimate the number of people who would gather and didn’t put up even a public address system to handle the crowd.

Disclosing the findings, 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 the deployment of just 10-15 policemen.’

This number, Fateh Bahadur said, proved to be far short of the actual requirement because the ashram had made arrangements to host a feast for at least 10,000 people.

‘While the ashram authorities mentioned noon as the time for commencement of the programme, crowds started pouring in from 9.30 a.m. and became unmanageable by noon,’ he said.

That is when, he said, the entry gate crashed, triggering a stampede that took 63 lives and left 64 injured.

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 police or other government officials, Fateh Bahadur said that had the ashram put up a public address system, the tragedy could have been minimised.

Asked why the 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 many politicians and influential bureaucrats.

‘No one howsoever high or mighty would be allowed to go scot free in case he is found to be even remotely responsible for the tragedy,’ he said.

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