Six arrested in connection with north India stampede


Indian police said on Thursday they had arrested six people in connection with the stampede at a Hindu religious event in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh this week in which 121 people were killed.

The stampede happened on Tuesday in Phulrai Mughal Garhi village of Uttar Pradesh's Hathras district, where about 250,000 people had gathered to listen to preacher Suraj Pal Singh, also known as 'Bhole Baba'.

The organisers of the event had taken permission for a gathering of only 80,000 people, an initial police report said.

Baba said in a statement on Wednesday that the stampede was caused by "anti-social elements" but did not elaborate.

The four men and two women arrested were aides of Baba and were involved in organising the event that culminated in the stampede, police said.

"When the stampede situation happened, all these people who organised (the event) fled from the spot," Uttar Pradesh police Inspector-General Shalabh Mathur told reporters.

A.P. Singh, the preacher’s lawyer, said he would also represent the six people who had been arrested.

"Police are doing their job but the people they have arrested are the people whose family members are victims of the stampede," Singh said. "Those who actually caused the stampede have run away."

The stampede broke out on Tuesday afternoon when attendees were exiting the canopied ground by a highway where the event was held, the initial police report said.

Several people ran towards the preacher's vehicle but were stopped by his aides, leading to commotion during which some of them fell to the ground and were trampled, officials said.

Others who tried to run to open fields to escape also slipped and fell on the uneven ground in the path of the rest of the crowd, and were unable to get up.

The dead, which included 112 women and seven children, have all been identified and their bodies handed over to their families, officials said on Thursday.

Stampedes and other accidents are not uncommon at religious events and places in India involving large crowds, and most of these are blamed on poor crowd management.

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