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After crush, a desperate search

Bloodstains and broken bangles. A pile of slippers. Screams. The scene at Jagatguru Kripalu Chikitsalaya, a hospital 100 metres from the ashram where the stampede took place, resembled a disaster zone on Thursday.

india Updated: Mar 05, 2010 00:42 IST
K Sandeep Kumar

Bloodstains and broken bangles. A pile of slippers. Screams.

The scene at Jagatguru Kripalu Chikitsalaya, a hospital 100 metres from the ashram where the stampede took place, resembled a disaster zone on Thursday.

Despite the heavy police presence, there was no one to guide people desperate to know if their loved ones were dead or alive.

Blocked from entering the hospital by baton-and-gun-wielding police personnel, families begged policemen for news –– any news –– of their relatives.

Many devotees who had come to the ashram hailed from rural areas of Uttar Pradesh’s Pratapgarh, Kaushambi and Rae Bareli districts.

While the hospital treated the injured, lifeless bodies sprawled on the hospital’s verandas, shielded with curtains, as relatives tried to peep over the six-feet-high walls.

“I am told that my daughters –– 12-year-old Babli and 11-year-old Shivani — are among the dead but no one is allowing me to enter the hospital,” said Munni Pandey, breaking down. “Neither the police nor the doctors are telling us anything.”

Pandey, from Badgaun village in Pratapgarh, had arrived a day before for the feast organised by Kripalu Maharaj, along with other women of her village and was waiting for the northern gate of the ashram to open at the time of the stampede.

Beside her, Ram Singh from Gyaspur village in Pratapgarh was searching for his 15-year-old daughter and friend, Suraj Bali. “I tried to jump over the walls after the security men refused to let me enter the hospital,” he said, tears in his eyes. “A policeman pushed me out.”

“No one was here when the incident took place and now all officers have arrived in hordes to count the dead,” said Kusum Devi of Bidasin village, Pratapgarh, who was searching for a 15-year-old relative.

People recalled how the feasts and festivities of the morning turned into screams in seconds after an ashram gate collapsed and panic spread.

Ramchandra of Nevada, Biharganj could only found the bloodstained dupatta of his 14-year-old daughter, Renu.

Politics followed the tragedy: Opposition parties blamed the ruling BSP government, alleging the local administration did not make adequate arrangements for the large crowd.