The police in Guntur, Andhra Pradesh, on Monday, 2 January, took a non-resident Indian (NRI) named Vuyyuru Srinivas — the man behind the event to distribute Sankranti gift kits where a stampede on Sunday led to the death of three women — into custody.
However, late on Monday, Srinivas was produced before the Guntur mobile court which granted him bail on a self bond.
Women who sustained severe injuries at the event are undergoing treatment.
Srinivas, who runs the Vuyyuru Foundation in association with another US-based organisation “NTR Fans USA”, organised the event at the Vikas Hostel grounds in Sadasivanagar of Guntur on Sunday to distribute Sankranti gift kits to women.
TDP chief N Chandrababu Naidu attended the event, launched the distribution of the kits, and left the venue after addressing the gathering.
Subsequently, there was a sudden commotion, jostling by the women for the kits that led to the stampede.
It was only last week when eight people — including two women — died in a stampede at a road show involving Naidu in Kandukur of the Nellore district.
The Sunday stampede
On Sunday, one woman died on the spot, while two others died after they reached the hospital.
The deceased have been identified as G Ramadevi (52), Syed Asiya (40), and Jaan Bee (50).
The Nallapadu police in Guntur registered a case against Srinivas under Sections 304 (II) and 174 of the IPC.
They subsequently detained Srinivas from a private hotel on Eluru Road in Vijayawada. Sources said he was trying to flee to Hyderabad from Vijayawada to escape arrest.
Vuyyuru Srinivas, a US-based NRI, has been organising several charity activities in Guntur by collecting funds from donors and also utilising his own money.
He is an aspirant for a TDP ticket from the Guntur West seat to contest in the 2024 Assembly polls.
In a show of strength, he made the grand announcement earlier to distribute kits of “Annagari Janatha Vasthralu” and “Chandranna Sankarnthi Kanuka” on Sunday.
These kits contained a saree, and essentials like cooking oil, flour, and even some onions.
It is learnt that while Srinivas made arrangements to distribute around 10,000 such kits and distributed slips initially to households that come under the Guntur West constituency, more than that number reached the venue.
Naidu launched the distribution, addressed the overwhelming crowds, and left.
The organisers started distributing the kits after some time.
“At some point, the organisers could not control the crowd. Also, the police suggested setting up 30 stalls but only six were set up. After some time, unable to control the crowd, they [the organisers] started throwing the kits, which led to a stampede,” said a woman who was at the venue.
Why Srinivas eyes Guntur West
Srinivas’ show of strength was his latest step in wooing Naidu so he might get a TDP ticket for the Gunter West seat in the upcoming Assembly seat.
Incidentally, the YSRCP won almost all the segments under the Guntur district in the 2019 polls. It was only in Guntur West that the TDP could register a win.
However, the segment’s sitting MLA Maddali Giridhar has been maintaining distance from the TDP, and has Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister and YSRCP chief YS Jagan Mohan Reddy, signalling a shift in allegiance.
Though he has not officially joined the YSRCP, he extended his support to the party.
As Giridhar is unlikely to contest from the Guntur West segment on a TDP ticket in the upcoming 2024 polls, Srinivas fancied his chances, and hence has been organizing several events to grab the attention of TDP central leadership.
The kit-distribution programme was such a show of strength, and Naidu being invited to such an event was an attention-grabbing activity that was also meant to be a show of strength for Srinivas.
Vuyyuru foundation, Naidu, Jagan announce solatium
The Vuyyuru Foundation has announced an ex gratia of ₹20 lakh to the families of each of the deceased. It also announced it would bear the expenses of the treatment of the injured.
Naidu, who expressed shock over the incident, also announced an ex gratia of ₹5 lakh each.
Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy announced ₹2 lakh each to the kin of the deceased and ₹50,000 to every injured individual.
“It is really painful that three persons died in the stampede that took place after I left the venue as the programme was completed. I attended the programme only to encourage that voluntary organisation that is trying to help the poor,” Naidu said after the programme.
Political slugfest continues
The political slugfest that began after Sunday’s Guntur stampede spilt onto Monday.
While the YSRCP held Naidu responsible for the Kandukur and Guntur stampede deaths and demanded action against him, the TDP claimed conspiracy by the YSRCP government behind the deaths.
The state’s Tourism Minister RK Roja said Naidu’s publicity craze had been killing people, and sought action against him.
Launching a scathing attack on Naidu, former minister Perni Venkata Ramaiah (Nani) said that the former was playing with the lives of people by mobilising them in large numbers for his publicity craze.
He said that the TDP resorted to cheap politics of distributing gifts to the poor in the name of “Sankranthi Kanuka” and claimed the lives of three people, besides causing injuries to others at Guntur on Sunday.
He alleged that the TDP leaders who carried out publicity through their “friendly” news outlets and took permission from the police to organise a public meeting with 10,000 people had done a U-turn after the tragedy.
The TDP leaders, meanwhile, claimed that Naidu had no connection with the tragedy and started blaming the Vuyyuru Foundation, he noted.
“Why did the TDP leaders resort to cheap politics and issue 30,000 coupons to the people when they had taken permission from the police for a public meeting with 10,000 people? This itself shows Naidu playing with the lives of people by distributing free gifts and resorting to cheap politics in the name of voluntary organisations,” he said.
The former minister also advised the NRIs not to fall prey to Naidu’s tactics.
TDP politburo member Varla Ramaiah claimed there was a conspiracy behind the death of the three women on Sunday.
He demanded that cases under Sections 120 (B) and 302 of the IPC be registered against the persons responsible for the deaths.
He said that all fingers in the Guntur incident were pointing towards the state government, and that the ministers who generally respond very late to any incident reacted very fast to it and visited the spot immediately.
Ramaiah on Monday said Jagan was totally shaken by the massive gatherings at TDP national president N Chandrababu Naidu’s public meetings.
Talking to reporters, he asked how three persons died, particularly after Naidu left the venue, despite 200 policemen being on security duty.
“The state government should answer whether the three persons died in the stampede, as reported,” he asked.
He added that he would certainly blame the chief minister and his government for the deaths.
He said he suspected the role of “sleeper cells” of the ruling party behind the three deaths on Sunday.
He also demanded that the Guntur District Superintendent of Police Ariff order an impartial inquiry to bring the facts to light as to who was responsible for the deaths.
TDP scion and former minister Nara Lokesh also raised the conspiracy angle, claiming that there was no stampede on Sunday, and that it was a genocide committed by the YSRCP government.
రిలయన్స్ వాళ్లు తన తండ్రిని చంపేశారంటూ నాడు ప్రజలను రెచ్చగొట్టి రిలయన్స్ అవుట్ లెట్స్ కి నిప్పంటించాడు,నేడు వారికే రాజ్యసభ సీటు ఇచ్చిన మేకవన్నె పులి జగన్ రెడ్డి.ఓట్ల కోసం సొంత బాబాయ్ పై గొడ్డలి వేటేసిన క్రూరుడు జనాన్ని కనికరించి వదిలేస్తాడు అనుకోవడం పొరపాటు.(1/3)
— Lokesh Nara (@naralokesh) January 2, 2023