As the Himachal Pradesh government was holed up trying to review arrangements to regulate rush at the state's temple towns, over 25,000 devotees offered prayers at the Naina Devi shrine, a day after 146 people were killed in a stampede there.
Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal said the government would consider introducing the Vaishno Devi shrine model to regulate pilgrim movement in the state’s major shrines. At Vaishno Devi, devotees are allowed to proceed in batches only after being registered.
Besides the rush of devotees, vehicular traffic would be regulated more effectively to minimise congestion. He said the existing internal communication system needs to be strengthened along with the public announcement system to keep visitors aware of the developments in the shrine area.
Divisional Commissioner, Mandi, Ashwani Kapoor has been ordered to probe the stampede and see if it was triggered by rumours. Kapoor has also been asked to suggest measures to prevent similar incidents in other such shrines in the state, Dhumal said.
The CM said the role of anti-socials in the incident is also being looked into. “Since terrorists are creating havoc in different parts of the country by planting bombs...Their involvement behind this tragedy can not be totally ruled out. A probe will look into this aspect also.”
At Naina Devi, Temple Officer Narendra said the flow of pilgrims has shown no sign of decline. Sources there said pilgrims kept pouring in through the night.
Standing in the queue, Rupa Sharma of Bilaspur said: “What is the use of remembering yesterday’s ugly incident? I had decided on darshan of the Mata for long and have come here in fulfillment of that wish.”
An alert district administration has taken several measures to regulate the flow of devotees. Besides raising the strength of the police, a rescue team of ITBP comprising 100 jawans and doctors has been posted at the temple to meet any emergency, said Superintendent of Police of Bilaspur KK Indoria.
On the Congress’s demand for a judicial inquiry, he said: “All inquiries are aimed at finding the truth and the Divisional Commissioner’s probe will be comprehensive, hence there is no need for a judicial inquiry.”