Sunday, 5 October 2014

Probe Begins Into Stampede That Killed 33 People

Dussehra disaster: Hearing at DM office on Oct 9

PATNA : Bihar principal secretary (home) Amir Subhani and additional director general of police Gupteshwar Pandey will head the panel to investigate the circumstances that led to the Gandhi Maidan stampede in which 33 people were killed soon after Ravan's effigy was burned to mark the end of Dussehra festivities on Friday. The dead included 10 kids, 21 women and two men.

Chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi, who was the chief guest at the celebration that turned into a tragedy, had ordered a probe late on Friday. Addressing reporters, Subhani said, "An open hearing will be held on Tuesday in the office of Patna DM. Witnesses are free to appear at the hearing."

Subhani was reacting to people who had surrounded him and ADG Pandey during their visit to the Gandhi Maidan, asking them to explain why only one of the four big gates in the ground was open - an oversight that could have virtually enclosed tens of thousands of people in the maidan. Every big gate has a small gate alongside. But it's so narrow that only one person can exit through the small gate at a time.

DM Manish Kumar Verma said all the gates were open and SSP Manu Maharaj said an ASP, a DSP and four sub-inspectors were at every big gate. However, eyewitnesses said three big gates were opened only after the stampede. Subhani and Pandey did not say when they would submit their report.

Before their arrival, the police resorted to a mild lathicharge when a crowd picketed on the road near the site of the tragedy. The police had earlier removed from the road thousands of footwear abandoned by people running in panic for safety.

Police sources said the ground was packed to capacity to watch the burning of effigies at dusk. At around 6.40pm, people rushed to the exit from the lone open gate opposite Ramgoolam Chowk. There was dim light near this gate outside which a number of makeshift eateries had come up for the occasion.

"It's yet to be established why the stampede took place. Some eyewitnesses said a live wire had fallen," said an official.

"We don't take lesson from such tragedies," said BJP MP C P Thakur. He was referring to a similar stampede during Chhath celebrations in which at least 16 people died on the bank of Ganga in Patna in 2012 and the serial bomb blasts at Gandhi Maidan during a rally of Narendra Modi in which at least six people lost their lives in October 2013. Ram Manjhi,Gupteshwar Pandey,Gandhi Maidan stampede,Amir Subhani

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