At least 24 people were killed and several others were injured in a stampede near Varanasi on Saturday. The incident occurred when thousands of followers of religious leader Jai Gurudev were on their way to Domri village on the banks of Ganga to take part in the two-day camp. Senior police officials and administration rushed to the spot immediately to carry out rescue and relief operations.
A government spokesperson in Lucknow said the administration is keeping a close watch on the situation annd all necessary measure are being taken on the same. The official also added that an inquiry will be instituted to find out the cause of the stampede.
ADG (Law and Order) Daljit Chaudhary said the incident took place as people were brought for the camp in large numbers whereas permission was taken for a limited number of people. “One person died of suffocation because of the surging crowd on the narrow bridge. This led to rumours which resulted in the stampede,” Chaudhary said, adding that the number of casualties may rise further.
Meanwhile, the spokesperson of Jai Gurudev Sansthan, Raj Bahadur said the devotees were proceeding towards the camp on the bridge but the police started sending them back even though the inflow on the bridge was not stopped. “We were not prepared for such a large crowd,” he said.
Just after the incident, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Minister Akhilesh Yadav announced Rs 2 lakhs each for kin of those killed and Rs 50,000 each for the critically injured. Prime Minister Narendra Modi too offered his condolences on the loss of lives while announcing an ex-gratia of Rs 2 lakhs to the next of kin of those killed and Rs 50,000 to those seriously injured.
Congress President Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi expressed shock and grief over the incident. In the meantime, Sonia has instructed the UP Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC), Varanasi DCC and Congress workers to provide all possible assistance to the people.
Commenting on the incident, SP leader Gaurav Bhatia said it’s an unfortunate incident, adding that “the CM office monitoring situation.Guilty will be booked for negligence.”
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh also directed the Varanasi administration to provide all possible help to those affected in the Rajghat bridge stampede. “I’ve spoken to the Commissioner of Varanasi who apprised me of the situation. I also asked the Varanasi Commissioner to provide all possible help to those affected by the tragedy,”
he told reporters after inaugurating a 10-day ‘Rashtriya Sanskriti Mahotsav’ here.
“There have been loss of lives and people have been injured also. It is a sad incident,” Singh said. Meanwhile, Tourism Minister Mahesh Sharma said the incident “indicates the mis-management” of the arrangements for the event and expressed the need to fix responsibility. “It is a sad incident. It shows the mis-management of the arrangements. We have to fix responsibility for it and be cautious such incidents do not reoccur,” he said.
This is not the first time that a stampede has cost precious lives. In the recent past, during Mayawati’s rally, two women were killed and 21 people injured in a stampede at the main gate of the Kanshi Ram Smarak Sthal after BSP chief Mayawati addressed a huge gathering there to mark party founder Kanshi Ram’s tenth death anniversary.
On February 8, four people in Tamil Nadu died after drowning as a stampede broke out in the Tiruvannamalai temple. It was early in the day, as thousands of pilgrims tried to join the priests surging towards the temple pond as part of ‘Mahodhaya Punniya Kalatheeravari’, an auspicious day ritual that occurs only once in 30 years. The stampede was caused because the authorities failed to estimate the number of pilgrims before hand, and the situation went beyond control when the rituals started.