The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Stampede case against sadhus

Mumbai, Sept. 3: Police have registered a case of offence against 25 sadhus, including two mahants, for their role in the stampede in Kumbh Mela on August 27.

A special squad, led by inspector Anandrao Pathare, is leaving from Nashik for Vrindavan tonight, to identify and arrest the sadhus.

The stampede that claimed 33 lives reportedly started when this group of sadhus from Vrindavan, belonging to Jagannath Mandir Swami Ishwarpuri Ashram, illegally entered the Shahi Marg, a narrow lane leading to the bath, after the scheduled time.

The sadhus are said to belong to a bigger group called Chatur Sampradaya.

The accused sadhus, including ashram secretary Mukeshdas Maharaj and Swami Gyanprakash Maharaj, left Nashik that night. The squad will also try to trace three vehicles that were used as part of the illegal procession. They are three jeeps from Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, with the numbers DL 01CH7305, UP 854048 and MP 09HS 3038.

The offences against the sadhus have been registered under various sections of the IPC and the Bombay Police Act, which relates to vehicles, as it is being deemed as a case of illegal entry.

According to eye witnesses, when the stampede occurred, the sadhus’ bath time was over and the lane was only open for the general public, with no vehicles allowed, but these sadhus forced their way in with a posse of cars and an elephant and a camel and started to throw silver coins and prasad in a very crowded lane.

In the stampede that followed, around 30 people were trampled to death immediately.

The sadhus belonging to Ishwarpuri Ashram entered late because the mother group, Chatur Sampradaya, had initially boycotted the holy dip.

They were unhappy with the time slot allotted by the administration.

Due to rivalry between the four main sampradayas, Digambar, Nirmohi, Nirvani and Chatur, all wanted to take the holy dip first. The Chatur Sampradaya, unhappy with the time slot, ruled out the dip. But later sadhus from the Ishwarpuri Ashram decided to take the bath and they entered the lane after the scheduled time.

The Shahi Marg was already teeming with more than 50,000 people in its 200-metre long and 10-foot wide stretch. with a commotion starting every time someone bending down to pick up a chappal.

With the sadhus throwing the coins, there was no controlling the stampede.

The special squad is expected to return to Nashik in about a week’s time, after making arrests. On August 27, the local police had started an enquiry.

The state government has also ordered a magisterial level enquiry. But no magistrate has been appointed till date.

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