India: Police Arrest 6 Following Deadly Stampede at Religious Event

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Police in northern India have arrested six individuals in connection with a deadly stampede at a religious event. Meanwhile, a lawyer representing the preacher who organized the event has stated that his client is not in hiding and denies any responsibility for the incident.

Six people have been arrested in connection with a stampede at a Hindu religious event in northern India earlier this week, during which 121 people lost their lives.

Police in Uttar Pradesh announced on Thursday that four men and two women, said to be aides of the preacher Suraj Pal Singh, also known as "Bhole Baba," are in custody. These individuals were reportedly involved in organizing the gathering in Phulrai Mughal Garhi village, Hathras district, on Tuesday.

"The detainees were primarily engaged as volunteers," said Uttar Pradesh police Inspector-General Shalabh Mathur during a press briefing. "Their responsibilities included crowd management and fundraising."

Despite authorities granting permission for 80,000 attendees, 250,000 people showed up, leading to the deadly stampede when it occurred. Police noted that the six aides fled the scene during the chaos.

The deceased, comprising 112 women and seven children, have been handed over to their families, officials confirmed.

Meanwhile, Suraj Pal Singh has not been seen since delivering his closing sermon on Tuesday, which coincided with the stampede. Reports suggest he may be at his nearby monastery, where supporters have secured the premises.

Around 20 police officers are stationed outside the monastery, though they have not yet entered. "If necessary, we will question him," Inspector-General Mathur stated. "It is premature to speculate on his involvement."

Singh's lawyer emphasized his client's cooperation with the investigation and denied allegations linking him directly to the disaster. "There is no reason for him to hide; he has always respected the law," the lawyer told AFP.

Furthermore, the lawyer suggested that "anti-social elements" in the crowd were responsible for the stampede, asserting that those arrested are victims' family members, not the instigators.

Prior to Tuesday's incident, Singh was relatively unknown nationally but enjoyed a substantial following in Uttar Pradesh, particularly among marginalized women.

Rahul Gandhi, leader of India's Congress party, plans to visit Hathras soon to meet with those affected by the tragedy.