World Bulletin / News Desk
In one of the worst religious stampedes in recent years, 18 were killed and 60 others injured in the wee hours of Saturday ahead of the funeral procession of Dawoodi Bohra spiritual leader Syedna Burhanuddin, who passed away at the age of 102 on Friday morning following a cardiac arrest.
Police sources told Anadolu Agency that the stampede occurred in posh Malabar Hill area in South Mumbai outside the residence of Burhanuddin, where people had gathered in thousands to pay their last respects to the spiritual leader.
An eyewitness told AA that the stampede happened at around 1.30 am after the gates of Saifee Mahal, Burhanuddin’s residence, were closed.
"People fell on each other as the crowd swarmed in thousands to catch a last glimpse of their leader causing pandemonium," he said requesting not be named.
Out of the 60 injured, 57 have been discharged after being treated in Saifee hospital.
Maharashtra state home minister RR Patil has asked for an official inquiry into the stampede.
Saturday’s tragic incident is the second biggest stampede in India in the last four months. In October 2013, at least 91 devotees were killed in a stampede at a Hindu temple in the central state of Madhya Pradesh.
The funeral procession commenced at 10 am from Malabar Hill as thousands of devotees dressed in white formed a human chain moving slowly towards Bhendi Baazar area where the last rites will be performed later on Saturday at Raudat Tahera mausoleum.
The body of the spiritual leader was put in a casket draped in Indian tricolor and carried in an open truck.
An estimated 100,000 people turned up for the funeral procession as police and law enforcement agencies diverted Mumbai’s heavy traffic to avoid traffic jam.
Mumbai Police Commissioner Satyapal Singh reportedly admitted to the lapses in security arrangement.
"Neither the police nor the organizers thought of the huge turnout of devotees. Eighteen people have died and most deaths due to suffocation. When the gate was closed, there was suffocation," Singh was quoted as saying by Press Trust of India.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said he received the news of the passing away of Burhanuddin with "deep sadness".
"Dr. Burhanuddin led the Dawoodi Bohra Community with wisdom and enlightenment. His appeal went beyond the community as his compassion and humanism inspired people of all faiths," Singh said in a statement.
The Dawoodi Bohra community announced on Saturday that Burhanuddin’s son Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin has succeeded him.
Burhanuddin, regarded as an ambassador of peace and goodwill, was born in Surat in western state of Gujarat. He took the mantle of leadership from his father in 1965. He is credited for promoting international brotherhood and harmony.
"Under his leadership, the community has achieved remarkable social, economic and educational success across the world," a spokesperson of the leader said in a statement.
Burhanuddin was honoured with many international awards including the Star of Jordan and Order of the Nile by respective governments of Jordan and Egypt. He was also conferred doctorate for his social and educational work by Al-Azhar University, Aligarh Muslim University and University of Karachi.Last Mod: 18 Ocak 2014, 10:57