A judicial commission that probed the stampede at Ratangarh Mata temple, which left 116 pilgrims dead and 163 injured on October 13, 2013, has found only a head constable and a constable responsible for failing to stop vehicles which led to a jam. It has also held that the main reason for the tragedy was rumours spread by miscreants that the bridge on the Sindh river was about to collapse.
In the 95-page report tabled on the floor of the state Assembly on Friday, the commission headed by retired judge of Madhya Pradesh High Court, justice Rakesh Saxena, held that no other senior administrative or police officials could be held responsible because they had done their bit by stepping up security at the main temple and posting more policemen elsewhere.
Head constable Chhotelal Dohare and constable Hukumchandra, both belonging to Special Armed Forces (SAF), were asked to stop vehicles at a spot before the bridge. However, they went to take rest for few hours at a nearby school after depositing their rifles, the commission noted. They insisted that their seniors had not given them any duty, an assertion the commission found untrue. The two told the commission that they returned early next morning and were on duty till evening but vehicles had crossed the spot in the night causing a jam on the bridge.
The commission said the law and order arrangements at the temple were sufficient for “normal circumstances” and observed that there was an unprecedented rush of pilgrims and vehicles like tractor-trolleys coming from Seodha side in the intervening night of October 12 and 13.
The report also said the use of force — lathi charge in this case — by the police was not unjustified.
The commission has made a host of recommendations to the government on how to prevent such incidents. The government has accepted all recommendations barring one related to starting a shuttle service up to the temple after stopping private vehicles at Charokhara and Marseny.