UP Stampede: Over 120 Dead in Hathras 'Satsang' Tragedy | Explained

3 Jul 2024  Read 691 Views

Can you believe that 79% of stampedes in India happen at religious gatherings and pilgrimages? This is from a study in the International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction. A stampede is an impulsive mass movement of a crowd that often results in injuries and deaths. Stampedes can start due to rumors, poor planning, and overcrowding.

Recently, a tragic stampede in Hathras, UP, led to the deaths and injuries of over 120 people, mostly women and children, during a 'Satsang' gathering. This blog will explain everything you need to know about the Hathras stampede, including what happened, the aftermath, and what this means for managing crowds at religious events in India.

What has Happened?

On Tuesday, 2 July, a stampede at a religious event in Pulrai village, Uttar Pradesh's Hathras district, led to at least 121 deaths and 25 people injured.

The event was hosted by a self-proclaimed godman, Bhole Baba. Officials had permitted 80,000 people to attend, but about 2.5 lakhs showed up, causing severe overcrowding.

The chaos started when the preacher was about to leave. Thousands of devotees rushed towards his car, trying to collect dust from the path as a sign of devotion. In the surge, many people sitting or squatting on the ground were crushed.

Some attendees tried to escape to a nearby muddy field but were stopped by the organizers and also got crushed. Police have filed a case against the main organizer and a few others, charging them with several offenses, including culpable homicide.

Who is Bhole Baba?

The real name of Bhole Baba is Surajpal, and he is from Bahadur Nagar in Kasganj district. He left his job as a policeman in the late 1990s to follow his spiritual interests and began conducting 'satsang' (religious sermons).

Though the details of his rise to fame are unclear, Bhole Baba is known for his unique preaching style, which attracted many lower-middle-class followers in western Uttar Pradesh. After becoming well-known, Surajpal, also known as Bhole Baba, changed his appearance to fit his new status. He often wore white clothes, was clean-shaven, and sat on a high chair like a throne.

His influence extends beyond western Uttar Pradesh to parts of Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.

FIR in Hathras Accident

The UP police lodged an FIR against the organizers of the event, but Bhole Baba’s name is not on the list of accused, even though it is mentioned in the complaint.

The FIR has been registered under the following sections of the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita:

- Section 105: Culpable homicide not amounting to murder

- Section 110: Attempt to commit culpable homicide

- Section 126(2): Wrongful restraint

- Section 223: Disobedience to order duly promulgated by the public servant

- Section 238: Causing disappearance of evidence

Source: Deccan Herald

PIL in Allahabad High Court Regarding Hathras Satsang Stampede

A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) has been filed in the Allahabad High Court asking for a CBI investigation into the Hathras stampede.

PIL claims that district authorities were entirely responsible for the negligence that caused the stampede. The plea worries that such failures in maintaining law and order could make people lose faith in the government.

The PIL also mentions that despite the state government investing heavily in better administrative techniques to prevent such incidents, the tragedy still occurred.

PIL in Supreme Court Regarding Hathras Satsang Stampede

A Public Interest Litigation has also been filed before the Supreme Court, requesting the appointment of a five-member expert committee supervised by a retired Supreme Court judge to investigate the Hathras stampede incident.

The petition also urges the Court to direct the State of Uttar Pradesh to submit a status report on the incident and take legal action against individuals, authorities, and officials responsible for their negligent conduct.

In a bid to prevent future incidents, petitioner Vishal Tiwari has requested the Court to instruct State Governments to issue guidelines for managing large public gatherings effectively.

So what should be done? 

To prevent tragedies like the Hathras stampede, several proactive measures can be taken:

1. Crowd Limitation: Strictly control the number of people allowed into confined spaces to avoid overcrowding.

2. Exit Strategy: Ensure there are enough exits and they are strategically placed for quick and safe evacuation.

3. Organizer Vigilance: Maintain constant vigilance and real-time monitoring of crowd behaviour and conditions.

4. Inter-agency CoordinationI: Foster collaboration among temple authorities, local administration, and police to manage events effectively.

5. Risk Mitigation Framework: Implement a comprehensive framework that includes live crowd surveillance and quick response protocols.

6. Communication Protocols: Establish clear communication channels, such as public address systems, to disseminate information and dispel rumours promptly.

Moreover, ensuring different entry and exit points at venues, deploying sufficient police and security personnel, and utilizing a public address system to counter misinformation can prevent stampedes, ultimately preserving numerous lives.

By actively implementing these crowd control measures and ensuring effective coordination among all stakeholders, stampedes can be prevented, thereby saving numerous lives.

Conclusion

In such incidents, questions often arise about where to place blame—on the organizers, the religious leader (like Bhole Baba in this case), or the crowd itself.

The Hathras stampede tragedy, where over 120 people lost their lives during a religious gathering, highlights the urgent need for better crowd management at such events across India. 

Moving forward, authorities, organizers, and policymakers must learn from this incident and implement strong safety measures to protect lives and restore public confidence in event safety. 

About the Author: Anirudh Nikhare | 66 Post(s)

Anirudh did his Bachelor's in Law and has practical experience in IPR, Contracts, and Corporate. He is your go-to legal content writer turning head-scratching legal topics into easy-to-understand gems of wisdom. Through his blog, he aims to empower readers with knowledge, making legal concepts digestible and applicable to everyday life.

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