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Sunday, January 16, 2022

Vaishno Devi stampede: ‘Finally a cop answered…confirmed worst fears’

While celebrations kicked off across the country at midnight, for Shweta’s family, the New Year's Eve will remain a tragedy.

Written by Amil Bhatnagar | Ghaziabad |
Updated: January 2, 2022 9:27:11 pm
A scene in the late hours. The stampede occured near Gate No. 3 leading up to the sanctum sanctorum. (PTI)

Shweta Singh, 30, was among several people from Ghaziabad’s Vartalok colony who were visiting Vaishno Devi for a darshan on New Year’s Day. While celebrations kicked off across the country at midnight, for Shweta’s family, the New Year’s Eve will remain a tragedy.

Shweta left for Vaishno Devi from Ghaziabad on December 27 with a group of people from Vartalok colony, where she resided. The group was joined by a few others on the way.

The travellers decided to make the climb towards the temple on Friday.

The family estimates that Shweta reached the vicinity of the sanctum sanctorum after midnight. Due to return home on Saturday, Shweta was the only one from among those who went from the colony who will never return.

“We received a panic call at around 2.45 am from Shweta’s sister, saying that she (Shweta) is nowhere to be found. She (the sister) herself was injured badly,” said Sangeeta Singh, a relative. “We kept calling on Shweta’s phone but no one answered. At around 4 am, a policeman finally picked up the phone and confirmed our worst fears.”

According to her family, Shweta and her sister were near Gate Number 3 of the temple, surrounded by hundreds of people. Within seconds, the crowd grew aggressive and there was a stampede-like situation, a family member said at her Ghaziabad home.

“Sarita told us that Shweta kept saying, ‘don’t let go of my hand’, but it was impossible to keep balance,” Sangeeta said. “Sarita was pushed off to a different place by the rush of people; Shweta could not be seen anywhere…”

Originally from Muzaffarpur, Shweta worked as an architect at a company in Delhi’s Connaught Place. Her husband, Rustom Singh, is a Merchant Navy officer, currently in Indonesia.

They were married five years ago.

The family believes the administration is to be blamed for the tragedy. “The administration issued yatra tickets to so many people. The stampede means there was no social distancing,” Sangeeta said. “It is an important religious site. Why did they let so many people in if they could not control the crowd?… Our loss is irreparable.”

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