Eighteen people died and 45 were injured in a stampede that occurred in the small hours of Saturday outside the house of Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin in South Mumbai, where thousands of people had gathered to mourn the Dawoodi Bohra community’s spiritual leader.

The stampede occurred at 1.30 a.m. outside Saifee Manzil in upscale Walkeshwar area, close to the house of Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan.

Sources in the police said an unprecedented crowd had gathered for which neither the police nor community leaders were prepared. The Syedna passed away on Friday afternoon. While 4,000 people were expected at his residence by Friday evening, 40,000 arrived, resulting in a law and order situation.

Massive crowd

Commissioner of Police Satyapal Singh said the crowd was so large that some people started feeling suffocated. “The gate of the bungalow was closed, and this led to the stampede. The crowd was very emotional so we had to exercise restraint.” He said an extra force was deployed to handle the crowd at the funeral. The Rapid Action Force was also called in.

Those injured in the stampede, mainly men, were rushed to the Saifee and Cumballa Hill Hospitals, where 18 were declared dead. Pune resident Aamir Kololwala, 28, who was among the victims, “was standing with his father and two cousins. Suddenly, people started pushing one another, and the four of them got separated. His father reached the spot a few minutes later and found his son lying dead,” said Amir’s uncle Oni Kalolwala.

There was unprecedented security for the funeral procession later in the day, with 4,000 policemen deployed. The body of the Syedna was draped in the Indian flag, and the funeral procession was led by his 70-year-old son and successor Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin.

Around 1.5 lakh mourners joined the procession. Many burst into tears when the body was taken for burial. The Syedna was buried next to his father in the Raudat Tahera mausoleum, which has the Koran inscribed in gold.

Worldwide, the prosperous and highly educated Dawoodi Bohra community has a one million-strong following, of which over one lakh are in Mumbai. The members are mainly traders and businessmen.