Mar 12, 2010

Stampede: All three accused granted bail

Express News Service 
March 12, 2010 

Within 24 hours, all the three men, who were arrested in connection with the stampede at an ashram in Pratapgarh in which 63 people had died,walked free on Thursday after a local court granted them bail.

The manager of the Bhakti Dham Ashram, Hiranyamay Chatterji, contractor Shiv Kumar and Kripalu Maharaj’s secretary Amit Kumar were arrested from Mangarh and were booked under various sections of the IPC,including 304A (causing death due to negligence), 337 IPC (causing hurt to anyone by acting negligently) and 188 (violation of section 144 which deals against the gathering of people or organising any event without permission of the district magistrate).

Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate Kunda Arvind Kumar Upadhaya granted them bail on securities of Rs 20,000 each and two guarantors. The prosecution lawyer opposed the bail but in the absence of any valid ground to detain the accused under judicial custody,the court granted them bail, said A K Shukla,the counsel of the accused.

61 families receive compensation The Pratapgarh district administration on Thusrday distributed the compensation cheques of Rs 2.5 lakh announced by the state government to the kin of the victims who died in the stampede.
“Cheques of Rs 2.50 lakh each were distributed among kin of the 61 people killed in the stampede at Kripaluji Maharaj ashram on March 4,” said Additional District Magistrate Vansh Kumar Verma. Cheques were not given to two victim families due to a dispute over the heir,and would be distributed after legal help,he said.

“Financial assistance of Rs 75,000 each was provided to grievously injured,” Verma said. Nine persons who were grievously injured in the stampede were handed over cheques at Rani Medical Hospital in Allahabad where they were undergoing treatment,a district administration official said.

Mar 10, 2010

Editorial: Cast a wary eye on this swami scandal

The Province
March 10, 2010

One of the key qualities our public education system should help develop in children is a critical mind. No, we don't want our schools to raise a crop of cynics who mistrust everything they read or hear and wind up unable to support anything.

But we do want citizens who question things in a healthy manner so they don't fall prey to con artists who prey on the gullible — or exploit the basic human need to find spiritual enlightenment.

We may have progressed as a society in many ways. However, false prophets of every religious stripe remain. And it is often difficult to distinguish between them and the genuine article.

Certainly, the recent sex scandal involving Indian "godman" Swami Nithyananda, who has many followers in Greater Vancouver, and a Tamil actress has given one pause for thought. A video of the pair was reportedly shot by a disgruntled disciple out to expose the 32-year-old as a fraud.

Nithyananda, 32, has countered by assuring his devotees that he is not involved in anything illegal and is simply victim of a "false campaign" to discredit him.

Only time will tell, though, who the real victims are in this sordid affair. In the meantime, we should treat both him, and the allegations about him, with a healthy degree of skepticism.

Mar 6, 2010

Ashram stampede: Pratapgarh SP admits lapse on part of cops at outpost

Indian Express

Written by Vijay Pratap Singh

March 06, 2010 

While the district administration had tried to distance itself from the tragedy in which 63 women and children were killed in a stampede at the Bhakti Dham Ashram on Thursday,the fact is that there is a police post near the ashram which did nothing to control the crowds.

The police post,which is actually known as Bhakti Dham outpost and is under Kunda police station,has four policemen,including a sub-inspector. They watched the crowds swell,but did not do anything on their own,nor informed the higher authorities,it is learnt.
On Friday,Pratapgarh SP M P Mishra admitted that there had been negligence on the part of the policemen at the outpost and that action would be taken against them.
On Thursday,officiating District Magistrate Ashok Kumar Upadhyaya had said the administration had no advance information about the event organised by the ashram,otherwise they would have taken measures to regulate the crowds.
Allahabad Commissioner A K Upadhaya,who was asked to conduct an inquiry into the incident,and IG Chandra Prakash questioned Ram Kripal Tripathi alias Kripalu Maharaj at the ashram. Upadhyaya also recorded the statements of some victims and eyewitnesses,including men from the ashram.
Although the content of his interim report to the government could not be known,it is learnt that he has blamed the organisers and also the local police for the tragedy.
Meanwhile,in a statement,Kripalu Maharaj claimed that neither he nor any of his staff had invited the people who had gathered at the ashram on the occasion of his wife’s death anniversary.
On Thursday evening,ashram’s spokesperson Radhika Saran had told The Indian Express that keeping in mind the large number of gathering anticipated,the ashram had informed Kunda police and district administration on February 25.
The crowds from nearby villages had gathered to collect the ‘prasad’ of Rs 20,one utensil,one laddoo and one handkerchief that the ashram was to give to every visitor.
SP leader Ahikesh Yadav,Congress MP from Pratapgarh Ratna Singh,and Congress Legislature Party leader Pramod Tiwari visited the spot where the incident took place and met the injured in the hospital.
Who is Kripaluji Maharaj? Ram Kripal Tripathi (86),also known as Jagatguru Kripaluji Maharaj,was born into a poor farmer’s family in Mangarh. He participated in a religious competition in Allahabad and earned the title of ‘Jagatguru’ in 1957. * Tripathi holds a master’s degree in Sanskrit and was a purohit for some time. He has three daughters and two sons.
His Ashram * With help from his foreign disciples,Tripathi set up the Mangarh ashram 20 years ago. It is spread over 200 acres. He also has ashrams in Mathura,Nagpur and Trinidad. * He heads the Radha Madhav Society in Trinidad,which has around 300 centres worldwide. His followers believe him to be the fifth Jagatguru and the first in the last 700 years. * He owns a fleet of BMW and Mercedes cars. The Mangarh ashram has a helipad.
Under a cloud * Tripathi was charged with kidnapping two girls,and in 1991,cases of kidnapping and rape were registered against him in Nagpur. Another case of raping a minor was also lodged in Nagpur the same year. He was acquitted after the witnesses turned hostile * A 22-year-old Guyanese woman in South Trinidad filed a rape case against him in May 2007,which led to his arrest. He was in jail for over a month. ENS