More than 20 people were feared dead and 30 others injured in a stampede at Allahabad railway station in Uttar Pradesh on Sunday. The stampede was caused after railing of an over bridge at the railway station collapsed. Officials, however, are yet to confirm the death toll.
Following the stampede, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav announced a committee which will probe into the incident. "We will investigate whether guidelines for managing the crowd was followed on the big day of Mauni Amavasya Snaan," said the state government in a statement. It also added that clear directions were given to local authorities that they should ensure that large number of people do not gather at one place. According to the initial reports, over two lakh people were present at the railway station when the stampede took place.
Over three crore people gathered in Allahabad on Sunday to take a holy dip on the occasion of 'Mauni Amavasya' - considered the most auspicious day during the 12-yearly congregation. "As per our estimates, three crore people have taken a holy dip till 3 pm. The influx of visitors has slowed down a bit since then but the turn-out has already exceeded our expectations," Kumbh Mela Officer Mani Prasad Mishra had said earlier in the day.
Through the day devotees kept surging towards Sangam - the confluence of the holy rivers Ganga, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati - while the 13 'akharas' (sects) of sadhus took out their processions for the second 'Shahi Snan' (royal bath) during the Maha Kumbh. Amid chants of 'Har Har Gange', devotees including a fair sprinkling of foreigners, watched awestruck as 'naga sadhus' with their matted hair, ash-smeared naked bodies adorned with garlands of marigold and 'rudraksh' moved in processions with their 'Shri Mahants' and 'Mahamandaleshwars' (seers) perched atop decorated chariots, horses and elephants.
A number of VIPs, including political heavyweights, film stars and business tycoons have visited the Kumbh over the past few weeks. However, the administration had banned any film promotional activity in the Kumbh area to prevent any situation which could lead to a stampede.
The ritual of bathing started on Saturday afternoon itself when 'Mauni Amavasya' began according to the Hindu almanac and reached its crescendo on Sunday morning. A steady stream of devotees was seen at railway stations and bus stations where people from nearby as well as far-off places took to roads and pathways all of which seemed to be leading towards the Sangam on this day. A railway station in the neighbouring district of Pratapgarh was vandalised on Sunday morning by people angry over non-availability of a special train for a trip to the holy Sangam.
Tight security arrangements were in place with more than 15,000 security personnel drawn from central paramilitary forces like ITBP, CRPF, BSF and RAF besides the Uttar Police and its Provincial Armed Constabulary and Anti Terrorist Squad keeping a close vigil. Besides, the Army conducted aerial surveys every few minutes.
(With additional information from PTI)