Maha Kumbh stampede: Eyewitness blames police, toll mounts to 36

Last Updated: Mon, Feb 11, 2013 06:04 hrs

Allahabad: An eyewitness blamed the police for a stampede at the railway station that killed several pilgrims returning after a holy dip at the 'Maha Kumbh' here just as the death toll reached 36, with 14 more people succumbing to their injuries.

CMO Allahabad Dr Prabhakar confirmed the toll, saying 14 more people died during treatment.

The victims include 26 women, 9 men and a child, official sources said, adding bodies of 20 of the deceased have been identified.

The stampede occurred at 7 PM on Sunday at Platforms No 5 and 6 where thousands of passengers, mostly Maha Kumbh devotees returning after taking the holy dip at the Sangam, had gathered to board a train.

Officials say more than 30 million people took a dip on the occasion of 'Mauni Amavasya', considered the most auspicious day during the 12-yearly congregation, at Sangam - the confluence of the Ganga, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati rivers.

Thousands of people were at the railway station, waiting to take a train home, when the melee occurred.

'Lathicharge by cops'

Several eyewitnesses said there was a lathicharge by the police that compounded the panic but Divisional Railway Manager Harinder Rao claimed passengers were not baton charged and that police only attempted to regulate the movement of the crowd at the platforms by asking passengers to stand in line.

"People were walking on the footbridge when suddenly police charged with batons. Because of that baton charge, the public panicked and the stampede happened. In that stampede these people were killed," eyewitness Amit Kumar said.

It was not clear why the police waved batons at the crowd, but Kumar blamed authorities for not acting immediately after the tragedy.

"Some 10 dead bodies are lying on the platform right now and some dead bodies have been lifted from the top of the footbridge. There is completed negligence on part of the authorities, there is no doctor, no ambulance has come till now, more than two and a half hours have now passed," Kumar said.

BJP demands probe

Meanwhile, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Monday demanded an investigation into the stampede that took place at the Allahabad railway station last night, and said those responsible for the untoward incident must be punished.

BJP President Rajnath Singh the incident would not have taken place had precautions been put in place from the very beginning.

"But there must be an investigation into the entire incident and also those responsible for it must be punished. I express my condolences to the members of the bereaved families," he added.

The injured are being treated at the railway hospitals and the SRN Hospital in Allahabad. It is, however, feared that the death toll may go up since the condition of some of the injured is said to be in a critical condition.

The preliminary reports said that the stampede broke out when the railing leading to a footbridge collapsed.

Bansal rules out footbridge collapse

Railways Minister P.K. Bansal, however, today ruled out the collapse of footbridge or any railing on the railway station as the cause for stampede

"There has been no collapse of foot over bridge or any railing on the station. I want to clear that stampede occurred due to people reaching in large numbers. We had made arrangements before start of the Kumbh. We have come to know that people turned in large numbers resulting in stampede. Still there are large number of people on the station," he said.

Bansal however mentioned that his ministry has arranged more trains to ferry people from Allahabad.

The Samajwadi Party (SP) Government in Uttar Pradesh has ordered an inquiry into the stampede, and asked the railways to make proper arrangements to clear rush of devotees. The Uttar Pradesh Government has also sanctioned an ex-gratia of Rs five lakh to the kin of each of the dead persons.

Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh has expressed shock at the loss of life in the stampede at the Allahabad railway station, and issued instructions to Ministry of Railways to provide all necessary assistance to the affected persons.

"My government assures an ex gratia payment to the families of those who have lost their dear ones and to those who are injured from the Prime Minister's Relief Fund. The Central government will extend all possible help to the state government in relief operations," he said.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Railways has also set up helplines. The helpline numbers are: Delhi - 011-23342954, 23341074, 24357660, Allahabad - 0532-1072, 0532-2408149, 2408128, 2407353 and Kanpur - 0512-1072, 0512-2323015, 2323016, 2323018.

Once every 12 years, tens of millions of pilgrims from across India converge at Allahabad for the Maha Kumbh Mela.

More than 2,000 years old, the festival is a meeting point for the Hindu holy men and monks. 

More from Sify: