Mismanagement by community leaders and their failure to anticipate the number of people arriving to pay their last respect to the spiritual head of the Dawoodi Bohras led to the stampede here this morning that claimed 18 lives, preliminary police probe has established.
Lack of proper management and wrong assessment on the parts of the community leaders about the crowd thronging to take the last glimpse of Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin, who passed away yesterday, at his residence in Malabar Hill, caused the stampede, a senior police official said.
"Bohra community leaders yesterday informed us that no crowd would be allowed to gather at Syedna's residence. They said community members will pay their last respect during the funeral procession today and accordingly security arrangements were made," he told PTI.
"However, at about 9 PM yesterday, the leaders, without consulting us, began sending text messages saying followers were being allowed to have a glimpse of Syedna at his residence Saifi Mahal. After this, people from the city and its outskirts started gathering," the officer elaborated.
"We were informed about this change in plan only after the messages were sent. We were told about 4,000-5,000 people would turn up at his residence and accordingly security measures were taken. But the figure quickly crossed over 60,000," the officer said.
As the gates of Saifi Mahal were opened and shut abruptly, the grieving crowd tried to barge into the house at the earliest, causing commotion, he said.
"Before police could make further security arrangements to manage the unexpected crowd, the unfortunate incident occurred. There were indications that some people died of suffocation and not due to stampede," he said.
Meanwhile, Mumbai Police Commissioner Satyapal Singh has ordered a detailed inquiry.
"I have ordered an inquiry to ascertain as to what exactly happened late last night. I appeal to the people to take glimpse of the Dr Syedna on television and not to come on the roads."