CUSAT blames Dhishna organisers for stampede, says there was no formal info on Nikhita Gandhi concert

The open-air auditorium in CUSAT where the stampede occurred. File Photo: Manorama

Kochi: The Cochin University of Science and Technology (CUSAT) on Tuesday said the musical concert by singer Nikhita Gandhi, ahead of which four people were killed in a stampede on Saturday, was organised without the permission of the authorities.

The university, in a statement, said the musical event was organised in violation of the guidelines that concerts by outsiders should not be held on the campus. It said the organisers of the tech festival named Dhishna 2023 did not inform the authorities about Nikhita Gandhi's programme.

With the statement, the university has held the organising committee headed by the principal of the School of Engineering with representatives of teachers and students as members. Dr Deepak Kumar Sahoo has been removed as principal pending the investigation into the stampede. Dr. Sobha Cyrus of the Civil Engineering Department has replaced him.

"In the brochure submitted by the organising committee of Dhishna 2023 along with the application for conducting a musical event, it was mentioned that the talented students from the School of Engineering will be performing. A similar programme was held on the School of Engineering campus on November 24, a day before the accident. However, the organising committee had not officially informed the university that a mega musical show by celebrities like Nikhita Gandhi would be conducted at the open-air auditorium on November 25. The principal (of the School of Engineering) did not mention it even in a letter he submitted a day before the event. Had the organising committee conveyed the matter to the university officially, permission would not have been given for the concert as it's against existing rules," the university said in the statement.

It said the in-principle nod to conduct the tech festival and the launch of its logo was given in August, considering the application submitted by the organising committee. The permission was given based on the guidelines issued by the university on November 28, 2015 following a High Court order dated October 20, 2015 on the conduct of events on campuses. The 12th item in the guidelines is that concerts or professional musical events by artists from outside the campus should not be conducted.

The university also said that the details of the programme given by the organising committee were handed over to the police special branch officer through the varsity's security officer. "The university had adopted safety measures as it usually does during such events. Student volunteers deployed by the organising committee were controlling entry to the auditorium. The presence of police and the university's security officers is evident from the visuals," the statement said.

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