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Madhya Pradesh temple stampede: Cops deny wrongdoing as probe begins

The Shivraj Singh Chauhan government in Madhya Pradesh has suspended as many as 21 senior officials over the alleged lapses in connection with the Ratangarh temple stampede.

By Ritesh K Srivastava | Updated: Oct 15, 2013, 12:15 PM IST

Zee Media Bureau

Datia: The Shivraj Singh Chauhan government in Madhya Pradesh has suspended as many as 21 senior officials, including the District Magistrate and Superintendent of Police of Datia district, over the alleged lapses in connection with the Ratangarh temple stampede in which 115 people died on Sunday.

Reports on Tuesday said that a judicial commission, announced by the Chief Minister yesterday to look into the incident, will start functioning from today.

According to reports, the commission, to be headed by a sitting High Court judge, will probe allegations of corruption and misconduct by the police and other lapses, which led to the tragic incident on Sunday.

The commission will also look into allegations against police, which has been accused by eyewitnesses of throwing dead bodies off the bridge, and looting the devotees.

The commission has been asked to submit its report within two months and its recommendations will be implemented within 15 days after the state government gets the report.

The officials were suspended by the state government after getting an approval from the Election Commission as the state is under the model code of conduct following announcement of assembly polls, scheduled on November 25.

Among those who were suspended are Collector Sanket Bhondwe, SP CS Solanki, SDM Mahip Tejaswi and Sub-Divisional Officer of Police ( SDoP) BN Basave.

The state government had earlier sought permission from the State Election Commission to suspend these officials and the entire staff of Sevdha police station.

Acting on its request, the EC in New Delhi granted its permission to suspend the officials.

Meanwhile, the state police have flatly denied any wrongdoing and maintained the rumour about the bridge that it was about to collapse actually triggered the stampede.

Some witnesses have alleged that the rumour was spread by cops, a charge denied by the police.
Chambal DIG DK Arya categorically rejected allegations made by survivors of the temple tragedy in Ratangarh in Datia district that cops threw dead and injured persons off the bridge after the stampede.

“Police personnel also happen to be sons, brothers and fathers,” Chambal DIG DK Arya said while denying the charges count.

Chambal DIG, who reached the spot three hours after the stampede, further said. “There might have been some lapses but police personnel can never indulge in such inhuman and despicable acts of throwing dead bodies into a river.”

On Monday, Chouhan went to meet those injured in the stampede incident and reviewed situation with top state officials.

Chouhan faced protests over his government’s inability to handle devotees at Ratangarh Temple where a stampede on Sunday.

The death toll in Sunday`s stampede at Ratangarh Temple rose to 115 with a number of people, who had carried away the bodies of their relatives, turning up for autopsy yesterday.

The state government immediately ordered a judicial inquiry into the mishap which was a shocking re-run of the tragedy at the same site in 2006 when over 56 pilgrims were washed away after water was released in the Sindh River from upstream.

After the 2006 tragedy, the state government had constructed a bridge over the river but mishap took place on it allegedly due to poor mismanagement of the crowd that gathered in lakhs from the nearby districts and neighbouring Uttar Pradesh.
Meanwhile, a blame game also began between Congress and the ruling BJP over the tragic incident. After the temple tragedy, the ruling BJP took a defensive stand, maintaining that a rumour about the bridge collapsing led to the stampede.

The Opposition Congress, however, squarely blamed the ineptitude of the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government for the tragedy.

The incident happened when the pilgrims were crossing the Sindh river bridge to attend a religious ritual on the last day of Navratra festival at Ratangarh’s Mandula Devi temple, which is about 60 kms from district headquarters, and around 320 kms away from the state capital.

The state government, with the approval of the State Election Commission in poll-bound Madhya Pradesh, has announced an ex-gratia of Rs 1.5 lakh to the kin of those killed in the stampede.

The government also announced an assistance of Rs 50,000 each to the seriously injured and Rs 25,000 each for those who suffered minor injuries in the mishap.