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Cannot rule out ‘big conspiracy’ behind Hathras stampede: SIT report

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LUCKNOW, July 9: The Uttar Pradesh government on Tuesday suspended the local SDM, a circle officer and four others based on the SIT report on the Hathras stampede that did not rule out a “big conspiracy” behind the incident.

The SIT report also flagged lapses on the part of the local administration that led to the incident that claimed 121 lives on July 2.

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The report held the organisers responsible for the stampede, claiming they did not make arrangements to manage the crowd and also fixed the responsibility of administration, according to official sources.

It said the local police and administration did not take the event seriously and failed to provide proper information to senior officers.

The stampede at the ‘satsang’ of self-styled godman Surajpal alias Narayan Sakar Hari alias Bhole Baba claimed 121 lives.

“In its preliminary investigation, the SIT has held the event organisers primarily responsible for the stampede on the basis of eyewitnesses and other evidence. The SIT did not rule out any big conspiracy behind the incident and has stated the need for a thorough investigation,” officials said.

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The lawyer of the ‘godman’ on July 6 claimed “some poisonous substance” sprayed by “some unidentified men” triggered the stampede.

The investigation committee also found the event organisers and the tehsil-level police and administration guilty. It said the local SDM, circle officer, tehsildar (revenue official), inspector, and outpost in charge were guilty of negligence in discharging their duties.

“The Sub-District Magistrate of Sikandrarau granted permission for the event without inspecting the venue and did not even inform the senior officials,” the report said, adding the official did not take the event seriously.

The SIT recommended action against the concerned officials posted in Sikdanararau, including the SDM, circle officer, SHO Sikandrarau police station, tehsildar, and police outpost in charge of Kachora and Pora.

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“The organisers took permission to organise the programme by hiding facts. The conditions applicable for permission were not followed. The organisers did not make adequate and smooth arrangements by inviting an unexpected crowd. Nor were the conditions of permission given by the local administration for the program followed,” the SIT report said.

People associated with the organising committee have been found guilty of creating chaos, it said, adding that they engaged volunteers without proper police verification.

“The organising committee misbehaved with the police. An attempt was made to stop the local police from inspecting the event venue,” it said.

The Satsangkarta or preacher (bhole baba) was allowed to meet the crowd without any security arrangements, it said.

Given the huge crowd, no barricading or passage arrangements were made and when the accident occurred, the members of the organising committee fled from the spot, it added.

The SIT comprised additional director general of police (Agra Zone) Anupam Kulshrestha and Aligarh divisional commissioner Chaitra V. It was formed immediately after the stampede. The SIT inspected the incident site on July 2, 3 and 5.

During the investigation, statements of 125 people, including administrative and police officials, the general public and eyewitnesses, were recorded.

Apart from this, copies of news published in connection with the incident, on-site videography, photographs, and video clippings were taken into cognisance.

A separate judicial commission headed by retired Allahabad High Court judge Brijesh Kumar Shrivastava, and retired IPS Hemant Rao is also probing the Hathras stampede case.

Earlier, government agencies, including police, had blamed the organisers for the mismanagement at the event, noting that the size of the crowd exceeded to over 2.50 lakh from the permitted 80,000.

So far, nine people, including key accused Devprakash Madhukar, have been arrested in connection with the stampede.

Madhukar was the main organiser and fundraiser of the July 2 ‘satsang’ of self-styled godman Surajpal alias Narayan Sakar Hari alias Bhole Baba at Phulrai village.

The godman was not mentioned as accused in the FIR lodged at the local Sikandrarau police station on July 2. (PTI)

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