Many people who survived Sunday's stampede on a bridge to a temple in a Madhya Pradesh town have accused the police of throwing bodies into the river beneath, while the police denied such allegations as “absurd”.
About 90 pilgrims, mostly children and women, died on Sunday, either crushed or drowned after jumping into river Sindh in desperation, while crossing the 500-metre bridge to the temple in Ratangarh in Datia district, 400km from Madhya Pradesh capital Bhopal. The toll rose to 115 today.
While the police claimed a rumor that the bridge will collapse triggered the panic, many pilgrims said the baton-charge by the police aggravated the situation.
Geeta Mishra, 55, a resident of Ward No. 13 of Bhind district’s Daboh town said she saw policemen throwing the dead and the injured into the river while she was searching for the body of her brother-in-law Sanjay Mishra’s 16-year-old son Dilip.
Ramnaresh Shivhare, a labourer from Bhind district, told Hindustan Times he was visiting the temple on the last day of Navratra along with his three sons---Jitendra, 20, Ashish, 15, and Golu, 6.
Golu was lost in the panicked crowd after slipping out his father’s hand. Shivhare and his sons found Golu dead on the bridge.
“When Ashish leaned to lift Golu’s body, a policeman threw him into the river. We found him in an unconscious state on the river bank, with his leg fractured,” said Shivhare.
Ashish alleged the police threw the victims off the bridge after searching their pockets.
Tara Singh and Lakhan Singh, both shopkeepers near the temple, leveled similar allegations. They believe the policemen threw the dead into the river possibly to give an impression that most people died by jumping into the river and not in the stampede.
Chambal range deputy inspector general of police DK Arya said he reached the site of the tragedy at about 12 noon and found no such thing. He said these allegations were “absurd”.
Bodies of victims of the Ratangarh temple stampede at the Sindhu River bridge through which pilgrims were heading. (PTI photo)
“I condemn such allegations. Policemen too have sons, brothers and fathers. There might have been some lapses but police personnel can never indulge in such inhuman and despicable acts,” Arya said
Madhya Pradesh director general of police Nandan Dubey said, “Since a judicial commission has been instituted, it would look into all aspects of the tragedy.”