Hathras: What we know about crush that killed 121 in Uttar Pradesh

By Cherylann Mollan, BBC News, Mumbai • Dilnawaz Pasha, BBC Hindi, Hathras

Watch: Survivors recount the horror of India religious event crush

The number of people killed in a crush at a religious gathering in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh has risen to 121, making it one of the deadliest such disasters in more than a decade.

The incident took place during a satsang (a Hindu religious festival) in Hathras district on Tuesday.

Police said the number of people present at the venue was three times the permitted limit and most of those who died or were injured were women.

A case has been registered against the event’s organisers.

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

grey placeholderGetty Images People gather where a stampede killed people during a sermon at Hathras in India's Uttar Pradesh state on July 3, 2024. Survivors of India's deadliest stampede in over a decade on July 3 recalled the horror of being crushed at a vastly overcrowded Hindu religious gathering that left 116 people dead. (Photo by Arun SANKAR / AFP) (Photo by ARUN SANKAR/AFP via Getty Images)Getty Images

The site at which the event was held

What happened?

The crush took place in Pulrai village, where a self-styled godman called Bhole Baba was holding a religious gathering.

Officials said the event was massively overcrowded.

Authorities had given permission for 80,000 people to gather but around 250,000 people attended the event, according to the first information report (FIR) lodged by the police.

Chaos broke out at the end of the event as the preacher was about to leave in his car.

The police report said thousands of devotees ran towards his vehicle and began collecting dust from the path in an act of devotion.

As crowds swelled, several of those sitting and squatting on the ground got crushed.

The document added that some people tried running to a patch of mud-filled fields across the road, but were forcibly stopped by the organisers and were crushed.

Police have registered a case against a man who they say was the event’s main organiser and a few others on several charges, including culpable homicide.

grey placeholderGetty Images Shoes are pictured at the site of a stampede at Hathras in India's Uttar Pradesh state on July 3, 2024. Survivors of India's deadliest stampede in over a decade on July 3 recalled the horror of being crushed at a vastly overcrowded Hindu religious gathering that left 116 people dead. (Photo by Arun SANKAR / AFP) (Photo by ARUN SANKAR/AFP via Getty Images)Getty Images

Shoes lie scattered at the site of the disaster

On Tuesday, distressing images from the site were circulated online.

Some videos showed the injured being taken to hospitals in pick-up trucks, tuk tuks and even motorbikes.

Other clips showed distraught family members screaming outside a local hospital as they tried to find their loved ones among rows of bodies left at the entrance.

Bunty, who uses only one name and comes from the state’s Aligarh district, said he was devastated at the loss of his mother.

He saw her body lying outside a hospital on a news channel on Tuesday evening.

“But when I went there, I could not find my mother and have since been trying to locate her body,” he told BBC Hindi.

Others expressed anger over the incident.

Ritesh Kumar, whose 28-year-old wife was among those killed, said his life had been upended.

“My family has been destroyed. The government should see to it that we get justice,” he said.

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Families of the victims are devastated and in shock

Who is Bhole Baba?

The self-styled godman’s original name is Suraj Pal but he reportedly re-christened himself Narayan Sakar Vishwa Hari. His devotees call him Bhole Baba.

He hails from Bahadurpur village in Kasganj district, which is about 65km (40 miles) from Hathras.

Sanjay Kumar, a senior police officer in the state, told BBC Hindi that he was a constable in the police but was suspended from service after a criminal case was lodged against him.

He was reinstated in the force after a court cleared him but left his job in 2002, Mr Kumar added.

Details about his life are sketchy, but Mr Kumar says that after leaving the force, he began to call himself Bhole Baba.

He does not have much social media presence, but has hundreds of thousands of followers in Hathras and neighbouring districts.

Huge crowds attend his sermons where he is mostly seen in white clothes.

Since the tragedy, the preacher is believed to be hiding in his ashram in Mainpuri, about 100km (62 miles) from Pulrai village.

Shalabh Mathur, a senior official in Aligarh police, said a search was underway to find him and question him.

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Gomti Devi holds up a locket with the religious leader’s image

Police say he runs an organisation called the Ram Kutir Charitable Trust, which was also the main organiser of Tuesday’s event.

Satsangs are events where people gather to pray, sing devotional songs or listen to a preacher and they are often attended by a large number of women.

Gomti Devi, who was present at the event, said she had a lot of faith in the Bhole Baba.

She said she wears a locket with his photo because he “cures diseases, ends domestic troubles, and provides employment”.

Additional reporting by Abhishek Mathur in Hathras and Dinesh Shakya for BBC Hindi



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