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Hooch tragedy: Parties indulge in blame game

Roorkee/Lucknow: Two people were arrested Sunday in connection with the hooch tragedy that claimed over 70 lives in two adjoining districts in Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh, police said.

The death toll in Uttarakhand rose to 36 on Sunday, with 11 more people succumbing after consuming the spurious liquor in a village in Haridwar district.

According to an Uttar Pradesh government statement released Saturday evening in Lucknow, 36 died in Saharanpur district which adjoins Uttarakhand.

According to the police, the arrested father-son duo, Fakira and Sonu, told investigators that they had procured the spurious liquor from Uttar Pradesh and sold it in Balupur and its neighbouring villages in Uttarakhand's Haridwar district.

The two are residents of Balupur village, Haridwar SSP Janmejay Khanduri and Saharanpur SSP Dinesh Kumar, who held a joint press conference in Roorkee, said.

The accused have told interrogators that the liquor they had bought did not have its usual colour and smelt of diesel, the Haridwar Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) said.

"It was white like milk and smelt of diesel," they said in their statement to the police.

The victims, hailing from Haridwar district in Uttarakhand and Saharanpur district in Uttar Pradesh, had consumed the liquor after the 'tehravin', the 13th day of mourning ritual, following a relative's death.

Efforts are underway to arrest the residents of Punden village of Saharanpur who manufactured the illicit liquor, the Haridwar police chief said.

He said raids had been conducted at their residence, but they are on the run.

The tragedy took a political hue on Sunday, with UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath suggesting the involvement of the Samajwadi Party in "such mischievous acts" and BSP chief Mayawati seeking a CBI probe into the matter.

Adityanath, from his home turf Gorakhpur, warned of stern action against all those found involved in illicit liquor trade even if they were associated with any political party.

"In the past too, such type of mischievous acts by SP leaders had come to fore. In Azamgarh, Hardoi, Kanpur and Barabanki, SP leaders were found to be involved in past hooch tragedies. We can't deny conspiracy this time too," Yogi told reporters Saturday night.

Samajwadi Party (SP) president and former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav slammed the BJP government in the state over the deaths.

The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), the SP's alliance partner for the upcoming Lok Sabha polls, also blamed the BJP governments in UP and Uttarakhand for the tragedy.

BSP chief Mayawati in a statement said that both the state governments were "callous" in their approach towards banning the sale of spurious liquor and demanded a CBI probe into the tragedy.

Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, the newly appointed general secretary in charge of East UP, also demanded the BJP governments in both the states ensure strict punishment to those responsible for the hooch tragedy.

Later on Sunday, the Uttar Pradesh government ordered a SIT probe into the deaths.

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