Hundreds of local passengers were virtually left harassed with many even missing their trains as thousands of supporters of Rampal, a self-styled godman from Haryana, created ruckus for several hours at the Chandigarh railway station on Wednesday.
Followers of Rampal have been arriving in the city through trains and buses since Tuesday evening to show their solidarity with their godman, who was summoned by the Punjab and Haryana high court for a hearing on Wednesday for proceedings in a criminal contempt case against him.
By Wednesday morning, more than 25,000 followers had gathered at the railway station from the region, raising slogans in support to their godman, but were stopped by the police at the station itself in view of prohibitory orders imposed in the city.
The police had barricaded all roads leading to the railway station to stop these supporters, which consequently led to a huge problem for local passengers who were stopped at least 1.5 km before the station.
Passengers from the Chandigarh side were stopped near the cremation ground in Industrial Area, while barricading was put near Sector 17-18 intersection in Panchkula to ban entry towards the station. With no options left, passengers got off their vehicles and walked towards the station with their baggage.
Commuters of Kalka-Delhi Shatabdi at 6.50am and Jan Shatabdi at 7.30am entered the station without much hassle, but after 8am, the entire area around the station was sealed and entering the station became a daunting task.
Ashwini, a passenger from Sector 32, said the local administration was responsible for the mess at the railway station. The followers should not have been allowed to gather at such an important public place.
A senior railway police officer, seeking anonymity, also blamed the Chandigarh police and administration and said the situation could have been handled well like the last time when these followers were shifted to the Sector 25 ground.
“Stopping them at the local railway station not only put the passengers to inconvenience but also gave an edge to the godman’s followers,” he added.
Also, passengers of Delhi-Kalka Shatabdi who reached the station at 11.30am and those from other trains were put to inconvenience as they could not even find an exist due to the chaos at the station.
50 miss Shatabdi
As per railway officials, nearly 50 passengers missed their Chandigarh-Delhi Shatabdi which left the railway station at 12.13pm.
One of the passengers Kamal Kuttappan (60) said, “I am a heart patient and had to run to catch my train, but still I missed it. Passengers should have been informed about it. At least, we could have come an hour early.”
There was a stampede-like situation after thousands of passengers suddenly began retreating around 2.30pm. The bridge at railway station remained chocked with passengers for over an hour. There was a regular announcement of missing children and many in the crowd even had fallen.
While several left in buses parked outside the Panchkula side of railway station, a majority of them left for their homes in train. All trains after 3pm ran overcrowded as people had gathered at the station from parts of Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and even from Bihar and Nepal. There were still more than 1,000 people, waiting for their trains till late evening.
Sanitation problem around station
Railway officials said there was a huge sanitation problem around the railway station. Most of followers were defecating and urinating in the open.