Will question anyone required for Hathras stampede probe: Judicial panel on Bhole Baba

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Noida, Jul 7 (PTI) The judicial commission set up by the Uttar Pradesh government will speak to anyone required for its inquiry into the July 2 Hathras stampede, a probe panel member said on Sunday when asked if self-styled godman Bhole Baba will also be questioned.

The commission will also issue a public notice soon, asking local people and witnesses of the tragic incident to share any evidence related to the stampede, along with their statement, another member and chairperson of the panel retired Allahabad High Court judge Brijesh Kumar Shrivastava told reporters in Hathras.

"The commission will speak to anyone required for the Hathras stampede probe," former Indian Police Service (IPS) officer Bhavesh Kumar said when asked if the judicial panel will question the 'godman' as well.

The three-member judicial commission, also including former IAS officer Hemant Rao, on Sunday interacted with locals in Hathras, besides officials and witnesses of the tragedy that claimed 121 lives.

The panel reached Hathras on Saturday and visited the stampede site near Phulrai village along National Highway 91. On Sunday morning, the team camped at the PWD Guest House along the Aligarh Road in the district and continued its inquiry.

"We have been mandated to file our inquiry report within two months," Shrivastava told reporters on Saturday after reviewing the incident site. Hathras District Magistrate Ashish Kumar and Superintendent of Police Nipun Agarwal accompanied the team.

So far, nine people, including key accused Devprakash Madhukar, have been arrested in connection with the stampede.

On Saturday, Hathras police said they are also probing the suspected funding of the congregation by a political party and warned of the "strictest possible" action against it.

Madhukar was the main organiser and fundraiser of the July 2 'satsang' of self-styled godman Surajpal alias Narayan Sakar Hari alias Bhole Baba where over 2.50 lakh people had gathered, much beyond the permitted limit of 80,000, according to officials.

The godman was not mentioned as accused in the FIR lodged at the local Sikandra Rao police station on July 2.

Separately, a Special Investigation Team (SIT) formed by the Uttar Pradesh government is also probing the episode. The SIT is led by the Additional Director General of Police (Agra Zone) Anupam Kulshrestha.

Kulshrestha told PTI on Friday that they have not ruled out the conspiracy angle in the stampede and added that the culpability of the incident was on the organisers of the event. PTI KIS IJT