No sooner did the information about the temple tragedy in Ratangarh spread, the ruling BJP took a defensive stand, maintaining that a rumour about the bridge collapsing led to the stampede. State government spokesperson and parliamentary affairs minister Narottam Mishra, however, admitted that “mild force” used by the police on pilgrims worsened the situation.
The Opposition Congress, however, squarely blamed the ineptitude of the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government for the tragedy.
Congress general secretary Digvijaya Singh said that despite a stampede near the temple in 2006, the police and the administration were caught napping. “Postings of collectors and SPs in districts are made on the basis of the money they fetch,” he said.
“This is a common practice in the BJP regime and those getting postings in this fashion care two hoots for action in the event of a lapse on their part. I am told that policemen were taking R200 for letting tractor-trolleys pass the bridge, which led to the stampede. I demand a judicial inquiry into this sad incident,” Singh added.
Former home minister and Congress leader Satyadev Katare said there was complete mishandling of the crowd by the police and administration. It’s the only occasion when pilgrims were lathi-charged. “A case of culpable homicide should be registered against the district collector and SP,” he said.