And the queue stopped forever
In every funeral procession reaching the cremation ground, there were familiar faces – an uncle, a distant relative, a college-mate, or a childhood friend with whom, years ago, reports Himanshu Vyas.delhi Updated: Oct 01, 2008 00:51 IST
“Shahar mein aedo koi koni jino koi nahi maryo hai (There is hardly anyone in the city who doesn’t have some acquaintance dead in the stampede at the Chamunda temple).”
These were the first words that this correspondent overheard at the Siwanchi Gate cremation ground here. The tragedy has once again revealed the emotional bond that binds this half-a-millennia-old city.
Red-eyed people near burning pyres mumbled the number of dead in disbelief, “200…no, it could be 300…”
In every funeral procession reaching the cremation ground, there were familiar faces – an uncle, a distant relative, a college-mate, or a childhood friend with whom, years ago, this correspondent too used to stand in the same queues at the Chamunda Temple on the first day of the Navratra festival.
Every year devotees wait in queue from 3 am, inching closer to the sanctum sanctorum. But on Tuesday, the queue stopped few steps short of the Goddess.
“Us jagah par deewar jaisa ooncha logon ka dher lag gaya tha (at that spot, there was a heap of people as high as the wall),” narrates Amar Singh who was a few steps and moments behind the spot of stampede.
The stock of firewood at the cremation ground had long exhausted. And heaps of fresh firewood arriving at the cremation ground tried to keep pace with the bodies arriving. But no one knew who was sending the firewood.
A volunteer said, “Koi nom hee nahin bataa riya hai, chupchaap lakadyon bhej riya hai (Anonymous donors are sending firewood).”
But how did it all happen? Eyewitnesses said a local BJP leader, Jaswant Singh Bishnoi, was performing Puja at the temple when the tragedy occurred. Social activists present at the funeral ground said, “Taxi drivers did a lot and rushed the injured to the hospitals. They also cleared dead bodies from the spot.”
“The administration reacted a bit late and police did not reach the spot on time. The dead bodies and wounded people were taken to hospitals by the youth,” the activists said.
“The residents of the city, including the minority community, did a commendable job in helping the injured,” they said, adding that the security arrangements, handled by the temple trust, were inadequate. The trust is headed by the erstwhile ruler of the city, Gaj Singh.