Ranchi, (IANS) At least 11 people were killed and 50 others injured in a stampede at a temple in Jharkhand’s Deoghar town on Monday. While the Jharkhand High Court took suo motu cognizance of the stampede, the state government suspended four officials including the district deputy commissioner and police superintendent.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh condoled the deaths.
Over 100,000 people were in a queue, many of them waiting since Sunday night to get into the famous Baidyanath temple, when the stampede took place. Deoghar is 300 km from here.
During ‘Shravan’ month of the Hindu calendar, more than 30 lakh people offer prayers at the temple. On Mondays, the number goes up substantially up to two lakh.
Modi said he was “pained”. “Pained at loss of lives due to the stampede in Jharkhand. My thoughts and prayers are with the families of the deceased in this hour of grief. I pray that the injured recover quickly.”
“I spoke to Chief Minister Raghubar Das on the incident,” he tweeted.
The stampede took place less than a month after a stampede in Rajahmundry in Andhra Pradesh. At least 27 pilgrims were killed and over 60 injured on July 14 in the stampede at the start of the Godavari ‘Maha Pushkaralu’ — the Kumbh Mela of the south.
All the injured in Monday’s incident were admitted to Sadar hospital in Deoghar for treatment.
Rajnath Singh said: “My heartfelt condolences to the families of those killed in the stampede at Deoghar in Jharkhand. I pray for speedy recovery of the injured.”
He said the chief minister apprised him of the situation and “asked for extra RAF deployment”.
The home minister said one extra Rapid Action Force (RAF) battalion will be sent to Deoghar for “better crowd and security management”.
The Jharkhand government announced a compensation of Rs.2 lakh each to the kin of victims and Rs.50,000 to injured, an official said.
Raghubar Das ordered a high-level probe.
“The government would initiate action against officials found responsible for the incident,” Das told the media here.
Leader of Opposition Hemant Soren blamed mismanagement by local authorities, while Deoghar Lok Sabha member and BJP leader Nishikant Dubey blamed successive state governments for such incidents.
Meanwhile, the state government suspended four officials including the Deoghar deputy commissioner and police superintendent after the stampede.
“Deputy Commissioner Amit Kumar and Superintendent of Police T. Murugan have been suspended with immediate effect,” Home Secretary N.N. Pandey told reporters.
A high-level probe team headed by Pandey visited Deoghar, took stock of the situation, and submitted a report to the government.
Based on the report, the four officials were suspended.
The government appointed a special deputy commissioner and a superintendent of police for Deoghar district for the ‘Shravan’ month.
“Rahul Purwar will be special deputy commissioner and M.L. Meena will be special superintendent of police of Deoghar till ‘Shravan’ month,” the government said in a statement.
The Jharkhand High Court took suo motu cognizance of the stampede, as well as of the killing of five women by villagers after branding them witches.
A bench headed by Chief Justice Birendra Singh issued notice to the state government, seeking its reply in two weeks, said lawyer Subodh Dubey.
On Saturday, five women were allegedly picked up from their houses, paraded naked and brutally beaten to death in Mandar on the outskirts of Ranchi. The women were branded witches and accused of causing death of children in the village. Police have arrested 27 people. Some of the accused are college students.