The police on Sunday said the number of mourners who reached Saifee Mahal following the death of Dawoodi Bohra spiritual leader Dr Syedna Mohammad Burhanuddin suddenly swelled due to a message sent out in the community, claiming that the funeral procession or janaza would be leaving before midnight on Friday.
The message turned out to be a rumour, but led to confusion and ultimately the stampede, which claimed 18 lives and left 60 injured early on Saturday. According to police, the message was circulated around 6.30 pm on Friday as a text message as well as on Whatsapp.
“The Bohra leadership was at the time debating whether to let people have a deedar or final glimpse of the Syedna. The decision to allow a deedar was taken at 9.43 pm, and that too was restricted only for those who had entered through the gate of the Saifee Mahal,” said Additional Commissioner of Police Krishna Prakash, South region.
The police said the original plan, which was ultimately followed, was to begin the janaza on Saturday morning.
The police had planned extensively for it, mapping out anti-sabotage strategies, said an officer. The religious leaders initially wanted to carry the Syedna’s body on their shoulders, but the police convinced them to place it on a truck, sources said.
Even the deedar was an impromptu decision taken after looking at the number of people who had entered the Saifee Mahal, and the police were not informed about it, officers said.
“We will submit a report to the home minister giving details of what transpired on Friday, and the sequence of events. As many as three meetings were held with the Bohra community leaders on Friday, and our senior officers were deployed to oversee the security,” Mumbai Police Commissioner Satyapal Singh said.