July 13, 2024

India event organizer arrested after fatal crush

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The chief organizer of a religious gathering in northern India where 121 people were killed in a crush has surrendered to police, his lawyer says.

The incident in Uttar Pradesh state last week is one of the deadliest such disasters in the country in more than a decade.

Nearly all those killed were women and children who were attending the satsang — a Hindu religious gathering.

Chaos broke out at the end of the event as many in the crowd rushed towards the preacher leading the overcrowded congregation as he was about to leave in his car.

The tragedy has sparked outrage in India, leading to questions about lapses in safety measures and crowd management.

On Thursday, police said they had arrested six people who were part of a group that organized the event in Hathras district.

On Friday night, police said they had arrested Devprakash Madhukar, the main organizer of the event, in the Najafgarh area of the capital, Delhi, and handed him over to police in neighboring Uttar Pradesh state.

However, AP Singh, a lawyer for the preacher Bhole Baba who led the congregation, later said Madhukar had surrendered to the police.

“We told you that we would surrender Devprakash Madhukar, take him in front of the police, interrogate him, participate in the investigation, and take part in the inquiry,” he told ANI news agency.

“We have handed him over to the special investigation team and the Uttar Pradesh police. Now a thorough investigation can be done.”

Madhukar was produced before a local court and sent to 14 days in judicial custody.

He is a key suspect in the police complaint and is facing charges of attempted culpable homicide.

The complaint said officials had given permission for 80,000 people to gather, but some 250,000 people turned up to the event.

The police report says thousands of devotees ran towards the preacher’s vehicle as he was leaving and began collecting dust from the path in an act of devotion.

Singh, however, denied blame and told the us the crush occurred “due to some anti-social elements”. He blamed a “criminal conspiracy hatched against” his client.

He also denied reports that security guards at the festival had triggered panic by pushing away people who tried to get Bhole Baba’s blessing.

A three-member judicial inquiry commission has been established to investigate the incident.

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