Twelve-year-old Kishori was lost in a daze outside the ashram, unsure of the fate of her mother and two aunts who were separated from her in the stampede that left at least 65 people dead on Thursday.
The four were among thousands of people - the poorest of the poor - who had gathered to eat food at a community kitchen and collect a steel plate, Rs. 10, a laddu and a handkerchief - distributed by popular godman Kripalu Maharaj at his ashram on the “Shradh” (post-death rites) of his wife every year.
But this year, police claimed, the function saw an unprecedented crowd leading to the stampede. A mound of slippers on the site bore a grim testimony to the tragedy.
Eyewitnesses said there were separate lines for men and women leading to the ashram. But as a gate fell due to pressure from the surging crowd at around 9.30 a.m., the ashram officials allegedly started pushing back the crowd. The women panicked and ran with their children, triggering the stampede.
Locals claim there were no police personnel present during the function. However, Inspector General of Police (Allahabad Range) Chandra Prakash said it was an annual function and that an adequate deployment had been made but the turnout was much more than expected.
Police cordoned off the ashram site, 60 kms from here.
Unable to get any information about the fate of their loved ones, hapless family members were seen wailing outside the ashram long after the incident - their hope of seeing their relatives diminishing with every passing moment.
Though the district administration said it had released a list of those killed, people claimed it was not made available to them.