M A I N   N E W S

7 killed during last Shahi Snan
Sandeep Rawat
Tribune News Service

Haridwar, April 14
After more that three months of a peaceful conduct of the Maha Kumbh, a tragedy struck the mega fair in Haridwar on the last Shahi Snan when seven persons, including four women, were killed in an accident and subsequent violence and stampede at the Chandi Ghat crossing today.

Chief Minister of Uttarakhand Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank immediately ordered a high-level magisterial probe into the incident and announced a compensation of Rs 5 lakh each to the kin of those who lost their lives in the accident and stampede.

Meanwhile, while there was resentment among pilgrims, Juna Akahada didn’t carry out a holy bath at Har-ki-Pauri and instead took a symbolic bath at the akhada itself. The Agni and Aahwaan akhadas too joined in and boycotted the Shahi Snan at Brahm Kund in the Har-ki-Pauri core zone.

Talking to The Tribune, Chief Mela Officer and In Charge Anand Vardhan confirmed that seven persons died due to the collision of a vehicle of Juna Akhada and the violence thereafter among akhada saints and pilgrims. Shadows of fear and mass tragedy loomed over the pilgrim city when accidentally a jeep driven by Juna Akhada sadhus ran over two persons who were sitting on the roadside to take part in the holy dip.

According to eyewitnesses, the Juna Akhada procession was being carried out early in the morning when near Birla Bridge, the vehicle of one of the Mahamandaleshwars of Juna Akhada Pilot Baba driven by a sadhu accidentally mowed down two persons. Such was the impact of the vehicle that three persons fell from the bridge into the river. All three were rescued by the Jal Police. Till late evening the condition of all three was reported out of danger.

Seeing the dead bodies, the relatives of the deceased and public entered into a heated exchange of words and then physical conflict with the sadhus driving akhada vehicles and those accompanying them. Soon violence broke out, leading to the stampede.

A total of seven persons were killed, including a two-year-old child, which further ignited the emotions of people. Seeing the violence aggravating, the mela administration and mela police cordoned off the area immediately.

Around 25,000 police personnel deployed in the city quite effectively handled the situation and in other parts of the city there was no fallout of the situation.

Though the first dip was to be taken by Niranjani Akhada at 11:15 am and they had to leave their base camp 9:30 am, the incident affected the timings of the Shahi Snan by various akhadas. Though the Juna, Agni and Aahwaan akhadas were scheduled to reach Har-ki-Pauri by 11:50 am, these took a symbolic bath. But talks between the mela administration and the Akhada Parishad ensured that all scheduled rituals associated with the Shahi Snan were carried out by all akhadas.

Nirmal Akhada was the last one to take a holy dip in Brahm Kund. After completion of bathing rituals by all akhadas, the Braham Kund ghat was opened for common pilgrims after half an hour of cleaning.

In the chronological order the akhadas taking dip were Niranjani-Anand, Maha Nirmani-Atal, Nirmohi-Digambar-Agni, Bada Panchayati Udasin, Naya Panchayati Akhada and finally Nirmal Akhada. All these akhadas were allotted 20 minutes to take the holy dip.

Director-General of Police Subash Joshi termed the situation in Haridwar as totally under control around 2 pm, just hours after the unfortunate incident. “The situation is totally under control and there was a stampede-like situation, but it was promptly controlled and people are urged not to believe rumours and take holy bath in Ganga ghats without any fear or haste,” he added.

Mela DIG Alok Sharma said the mela police had been working on two aspects of terror threat and crowd control and today it brought the situation under control effectively after the violence.





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