A criminal negligence case was registered by the police today against the management of the ashram where 63 women and children were killed in a stampede while its head Kripaluji Maharaj remained untraceable.
“A case has been registered under Section 304 (A) (causing death by negligence) against Kripaluji Parishad, under the banner of which yesterday’s function was organised”, Pratapgarh Superintendent of Police Mahesh Kumar Mishra told PTI.
The stampede broke out yesterday at the ashram of Kripaluji Maharaj in Mangarh village, about 60 kms from here, where a feast had been organised for poor villagers in the memory of the Maharaj’s wife.
Circle officer Ikpal Singh said the 88-year-old Maharaj had fled some two hours after the stampede and is yet to be traced.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh condoled the deaths and announced ex-gratia payment of Rs 2 lakh to the next of kin of the deceased.
Singh, who was speaking in the Lok Sabha, also announced Rs 50,000 from the National Relief Fund to those seriously injured. 28 persons suffered serious injuries.
An FIR has already been filed against the organisers and managers of the function at the ashram at the Kunda police station. No one has been specifically named in the case.
Officials said all the deceased have been identified and their bodies handed over to family members after post-mortem.
The sprawling ashram, about 60 kms from here, wore a deserted look today even as a heavy police contingent was deployed there.
There were conflicting versions with regard to arrangements made for yesterday’s event with police saying the ashram management had not informed authorities about the gathering of thousands of people.
Superintendent of Police Mahesh Misra said no permission had been sought from district authorities while Rajneesh Puri of the ashram claimed the administration had been informed about it on February 25 itself but no arrangements were made for it.
The state government has blamed the ashram’s management for the tragedy, saying the local administration was never informed about the holding a function of a huge magnitude.
However, local MLA Raghuraj Pratap Singh alias Raja Bhaiya, who yesterday visited the site of the incident, rubbished the claim saying “everybody in Pratapgarh is aware that a gathering of this magnitude takes place here on this day”.
The victims were crushed in the stampede when around 10,000 people scrambled for free meals and to receive a stainless steel plate, Rs 10 in cash, a ‘laddoo’ and a handkerchief from the Ashram.
Some 50 families searching for their missing relatives have visited the ashram since yesterday. Though the ashram has been kept out of bounds by the police, families have been trickling there looking for their near and dear ones.
The administration has made preparations for the last rites of the victims at various ghats in the city.
The Uttar Pradesh government has ordered an inquiry into the stampede and asked the Divisional Commissioner of Allahabad to submit his report.