A pall of gloom descends on the six affected villages in Pratapgarh district of Uttar Pradesh
LUCKNOW: Even as the Pratapgarh police lodged an FIR against the organiser and manager of the ashram belonging to Pandit Ram Kripal Tripathi, also known as Kripalu Maharaj, in Mangarh in Uttar Pradesh, a pall of gloom has descended on the six affected villages situated within a radius of two to four kilometres from the ashram.
All the 37 children of the 24 BPL (below the poverty line) families killed in Thursday's stampede belonged to these villages.
A total of 63 persons died in the stampede caused after a portion of the entrance gate collapsed under the pressure of the surging crowd.
The victims were from the lowest rungs of society. While a compensation of Rs. 2 lakh each to the next of the kin of the deceased has reportedly been announced by the Centre, no compensation has been announced by the State government.
The ADG ( Law and Order), Brij Lal, told reporters here on Friday the FIR was lodged at the Kunda police station under Section 304A (causing death by negligence) of the Indian Penal Code against the organiser and manager of the ashram “campus,” spread over six acres.
Kripalu Maharaj has not been named in the FIR considering that the stampede occurred during the “shraadh” (death anniversary) ceremony of the godman's wife.
Mr. Lal said investigations are under way.
The ADG said the last rites of 47 victims were performed on Friday. All the victims were identified by their family members. Eight of the injured persons were undergoing treatment at the SRN Hospital in Allahabad, Mr. Lal added.
Regarding the absence of administrative measures, the U.P. police officer said as a routine the ashram is visited by many people, and moreover it is located at some distance from the police station.
The temple committee of the ashram on Friday claimed that information regarding the ceremony had been given to the Pratapgarh district administration in the last week of February.
Rahul visits villages
Congress general secretary and Amethi MP Rahul Gandhi visited the affected villages on Friday and offered condolences to the bereaved families.
Mr. Gandhi landed in Allahabad in the afternoon before going by road to Pratapgarh. He was accompanied by the Congress MLA from Allahabad, Anugrah Narain Singh, during his visit to the victims' families and no other party functionary was allowed to accompany him, informed party sources said. The Congress MP from Pratapgarh, Ratna Singh, and MLA from Rampur Khas, Pramod Tiwari, were asked to go to the ashram.
Sources said Mr. Gandhi visited ghat on the banks of the Ganga in Manikpur village where most of the stampede victims were being cremated. He stayed at the ghat for some time, talked to the people and offered them his condolences. He refused to talk to the media persons present.
Thereafter he left for the other villages, including Kashipur, Sabunoi and Ghazipur. Mr. Gandhi did not visit the ashram as was widely expected, sources said.
Mr. Gandhi's visit assumes significance as his parliamentary constituency borders Pratapgarh. The local MP, Ratna Singh, belongs to the Congress and the MLA from Rampur Khas, Pramod Tiwari, is the leader of the CLP.