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‘My greed responsible for sons’ death in ashram stampede’

Mangarh (Uttar Pradesh), March 5 (IANS) Ram Kumar Milan is inconsolable after losing his three sons in Thursday’s stampede at the Bhakti Dham ashram here. He can’t stop blaming his own ‘greed’ for free food, clothes and utensils for their death and says there’s no point in living anymore.

‘They were not willing to accompany me…I had forced them to attend the Bhandara (free lunch) at swamiji’s ashram. Had I listened to them, all of them would have been alive and before my eyes today,’ Milan, who lost his wife nearly a year ago, told IANS Friday in his village, some eight km from Mangarh.

As many as 63 women and children were killed and 64 injured in a stampede Thursday in the ashram in this small town of Pratapgarh district run by popular godman Kripaluji Maharaj.

A religious feast organised by the godman to mark the death anniversary of his wife had drawn thousands of devotees – largely very poor people – due to the announcement that along with food, the visitors would also be given some cash and two utensils.

While Milan, a small farmer and native of Bhetua village in Pratapgarh, managed to survive, his three sons – Jeet, Rajju and Balkar aged 9-15 years – were not as lucky. They were trampled to death in the stampede.

Milan’s three sons were happily playing cricket outside their house in Bhetua, hours before accompanying their father to the ashram.

But the offer of sweets (laddu), utensils, food and some clothes tempted Milan to take his sons along for the ashram function.

‘I heard that those visiting the ashram would get free food, clothes, utensils and other daily need items. So to collect such things I forced my children to accompany me,’ Milan said in a choking voice.

‘My greed is responsible for their death…It happened all because of my urge to get more items from the donations…I thought along with my three children, I would get an upper hand in grabbing the items for our daily use, but all my plans just resulted in the tragic death of my sons,’ he added.

Now Milan is all alone and sees no point in living anymore as his wife had died almost a year ago.

‘She (my wife) had breathing problems and ultimately died…I don’t know how I will live all alone.’

‘What’s the use of life now…for whom I should now live? There is no one. I too would like to end my life….,’ said a teary-eyed Milan.

The ashram, which usually bustles with activity in the morning, wore an eerie look Friday, with more policemen than anybody else in and around the place.

The gate of the ashram that came crashing down Thursday under the pressure of the stampeding crowd was still lying on the ground. The open area around was strewn with broken bangles, shoes, slippers, caps and shreds of clothes worn by the victims who had converged to attend the bhandara (religious feast) organised by the godman.

Mangarh, in eastern Uttar Pradesh, is 180 km from state capital Lucknow.

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