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Temple tragedy: A brawl led to stampede
Vijay Singh in Satara | January 27, 2005 00:48 IST
Last Updated: January 27, 2005 13:18 IST
Reports appearing in a section of the media that the deadly Mandhardevi temple stampede [the first wave] that occurred on January 25 was due to an act of arson by a few pilgrims seem to be untrue.
The Additional District Magistrate of Satara, W V Kambholkar, said on Wednesday that the chief cause of the tragedy lay in the cramped spaces coupled with the unusually massive number of pilgrims this year.
The second stampede did occur when angry relatives of victims pelted stones on shopkeers and set some of the stalls on fire.
The official take a day after the incident and eyewitness accounts bolster the fact that the stampede started with a minor skirmish among devotees in the temple premises.
Rajendra Maruti (32) came to Mandhardevi temple from Kolhapur. Here's his version of the incident.
"I was standing in a queue in front of the temple. Suddenly I saw two groups shoving and fighting each other.
Then more and more people were sucked into the skirmish and it blew up into a huge brawl.
Many devotees slipped and fell on the wet and oily temple stairs.
Some of these people were drunk.
Women and children panicked and this led to more desperation. People tried to run in various directions trampling others in the process.
I fell down during the melee. I was lucky that I fell close to temple wall, which saved me.
I sustained injuries on my body, but none on the head. I was crushed under the weight of some 50 people.
After a few minutes everything become calm again.
Some people helped me get out of the mangle of dead bodies.
I was taken to an open space, where I was attended to by a doctor.
After that I blanked out. When I opened my eyes, I found myself in an ambulance which took me to a government hospital."
Suryakant Mardane (43) is a police constable attached to Medha police station in Satara. He was posted at Mandhardevi on special duty on the fateful day. Here's what he had to say.
"I was posted at the temple gate. As I was watching the huge crowd of devotees move, I saw a person carrying an idol of the goddess fall down. The people with him blamed another group for it and they started pushing each other.
A fight erupted. I could see them clearly, but could not reach them because of the huge number of people.
People started shoving and one devotee fell onto an electric wire in a shop.
By then the devotees must have thought some big fight had erupted near the temple and started running blindly into each other.
I rushed into the temple.
By the time people calmed down, many were dead or injured. I joined some others in helping the injured and separating the dead bodies.
As we were going about our work, a group suddenly looked at the dead lying around and started abusing the police and temple staff.
They started beating us up, and more joined in. We were outnumbered, so we started to rush out.
The angry mob unleashed their fury on the shops and set some of them ablaze.
One man pulled me aside and told me to shed my uniform and gave me another dress to wear, saying that he would kill me otherwise.I was badly injured, so were other police officers on the spot. A few police constables were also admitted to hospital.
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