At least 116 people are dead in India following a stampede at a religious event

 July 3, 2024

At least 116 people are dead and dozens injured after a religious event in India turned into a stampede Tuesday, ABC News reported. The panicked throng left bodies mangled as victims suffocated in the crush of the crowd.

The incident occurred as revelers were gathered in a tent to see Bhole Baba, a local Hindu guru. Police believe the oppressive heat and possible suffocation could have contributed to the event.

"People started falling one upon another, one upon another. Those who were crushed died," Shakuntala Devi, who witnessed the incident, told the news agency Press Trust of India.

"People there pulled them out," Devi added. Many of the casualties were women and children who came to venerate Bhole.

A Troubling Trend

Unfortunately, stampedes are not uncommon at these types of events in India. The sheer number of people who turn out, coupled with inferior infrastructure, has led to stampedes at other religious events.

A later report suggests Tuesday's tragedy began when the faithful had lined up to touch the guru's feet in a show of reverence. Some people slipped on the muddy ground and were trampled by others, which set off a chain reaction in the crowd.

More than 80,000 people were present that day, which was far more than the venue could accommodate. By Wednesday, the death toll had climbed to 121 people, and the bodies of the dead were brought to a government hospital and placed on ice blocks while families waited to claim their remains.

Meanwhile, there were calls for someone to pay for this senseless tragedy. "Look what happened and how many people have lost their lives. Will anyone be accountable?" Indian parliament member Rajesh Kumar Jha said to the press.

A Man of the People

According to a report in the Associated Press, Bhole Baba was a popular leader of the people. Born Suraj Pal, he quit his job as a police officer in the 1990s to become a religious leader.

He is part of the lowest group in the caste system in India. Because of this, he attracted those of the same lower status, primarily poor and female individuals who connected with the popular guru.

Bhole heads up a pair of ashrams that hold these types of gatherings, known as satsangs, every week. Dressed in white with aviator-style sunglasses, he preaches about living a moral and austere life to his followers.

In May 2022, Bhole held a similar gathering that drew upwards of 50,000 people and occurred without incident. His popularity, coupled with the shoddy makeshift event space this year, seemed to be an accident waiting to happen.

It's a terrible tragedy that these people are left to cope with now. Moreover, they must grapple with the fact that their loved ones are dead in what was likely a preventable incident.

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