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Chief Organiser Surrenders After Deadly Crush at Indian Religious Gathering

The death of 121 people at a religious gathering has sparked outrage and raised questions about crowd management in India.

The chief organiser of a religious gathering in northern India, where 121 people were killed in a crush, has surrendered to police, his lawyer confirmed. The incident in Uttar Pradesh state last week stands as one of the deadliest such disasters in the country in over a decade.

Nearly all those killed were women and children attending the satsang—a Hindu religious gathering. Chaos erupted at the end of the event as many in the crowd surged towards the preacher leading the overcrowded congregation, who was about to leave in his car.

The tragedy has sparked outrage across India, with many questioning the lapses in safety measures and crowd management. On Thursday, police reported the arrest of six people involved in organising the event in Hathras district.

On Friday night, police announced the arrest of Devprakash Madhukar, the main organiser, in the Najafgarh area of Delhi, and handed him over to police in neighbouring Uttar Pradesh state. However, AP Singh, a lawyer for the preacher Bhole Baba who led the congregation, later clarified that Mr 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,” Singh 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.”

Mr Madhukar was presented before a local court and has been remanded in judicial custody for 14 days. He is a key suspect in the police complaint, facing charges of attempted culpable homicide. The complaint alleges that officials had permitted 80,000 people to gather, but the event saw a turnout of approximately 250,000.

The police report indicates that 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. However, Mr Singh denied blame and told the BBC that the crush occurred “due to some anti-social elements,” alleging a “criminal conspiracy hatched against” his client. He also dismissed reports that security guards at the festival had caused 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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