The toll in the stampede on an overcrowded bridge on Varanasi-Chandauli border during a religious procession rose to 25 Sunday with one more person succumbing to injuries in a hospital. No FIR has been lodged in this connection so far even as the Samajwadi Party government suspended two officials posted in Varanasi —- Additional District Magistrate Vindhyavasini Rai and City Magistrate Vijay Bahadur Singh.
Late in the evening, the state government also removed Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) of Varanasi, Akash Kulhary. SSP Bareilly, Nitin Tiwari, will replace Kulhary who has been directed to take charge as SP at the Traffic Directorate. The government had Saturday suspended five police officials, including two additional SPs, in connection with the incident.
Varanasi police Sunday said they have identified 23 of the 25 victims and informed their families. Most of the victims are from Uttar Pradesh, while others are from Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. Of the 25 victims, 20 were women, they said.
“Bodies of two victims are yet to be identified. Inquiry into the incident has been started and next course of action will be decided on the basis of its report. No FIR has been lodged so far,” said District Magistrate, Varanasi, Vijay Kiran Anand.
Circle Officer, Bhelupur, Rajesh Kumar Srivastava said that postmortem of 19 bodies was conducted in Varanasi and the remaining in neighbouring Chandauli district. “Families of deceased were informed and most of them reached Varanasi today and were handed over the bodies. The cause of the deaths would be ascertained only after autopsy report arrives,” the CO said. He added that efforts were being made to ascertain the identity of two remaining bodies.
The incident occurred in the Ramnagar police station area of Varanasi Saturday morning while thousands of followers of Jai Gurudev were crossing the Rajghat bridge on their way to Domri village in the district for a two-day congregation that concluded Sunday.
Varanasi DM said that they were making arrangements to send back people who had come to Varanasi to take part in the procession.
Jai Gurudev follower Bechu Prasad Gupta, who had taken the permission from the district administration for the procession in Varanasi, said, “A condolence meeting was organised at the Domri village today”. Meanwhile, President Pranab Mukherjee expressed condolences over the loss of lives in the stampede and called upon the authorities to provide all possible help to the victims.