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India suspends police, government officials for deadly stampede

India stampede

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Indian authorities have suspended six police and government officials after a stampede that killed 121 people, accusing them of “negligence” in handling the event featuring a Hindu preacher.

One of India’s worst stampedes in recent years happened last week after about a quarter of a million people flocked to listen to a self-styled guru, far more than the 80,000 that authorities had permitted.

Tuesday’s preliminary findings of a panel investigating the incident held the event organisers responsible, saying they failed to meet conditions set for the gathering.

“The organisers obtained permission for the event by concealing facts,” the government of the northern state of Uttar Pradesh said on Tuesday.

“They did not make adequate and smooth arrangements despite inviting an unexpected crowd, nor did they comply with the conditions set by the local administration.”

In response, AP Singh, a lawyer for the preacher, denied wrongdoing by organisers, saying they did not conceal anything from authorities. Instead, he said, the stampede was part of a conspiracy by “anti-social elements” whom he did not identify.

Police had arrested nine people involved in organising the event, Singh said.

The government said the panel had not ruled out “the possibility of a major conspiracy behind the accident”, but it needed further investigation.

A senior district official in Hathras, the site of the incident, gave permission for the event without inspecting the venue, the state government said.

Local and police officials did not take the event seriously and did not inform senior officials about it, the government said.

“They have been held responsible for negligence in performing their duties,” it said.

The crush happened when devotees ran after the preacher’s departing car, trampling over one another to seek his blessings and get a closer look at him.

-Reuters

Topics: India
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