A day later, Jodhpur still numbed by temple tragedy

October 1st, 2008 - 5:10 pm ICT by IANS  

Jodhpur, Oct 1 (IANS) Funeral processions snaked through numerous neighbourhoods in this Rajasthan town Wednesday as grieving families cremated many of the 149 killed in a temple stampede a day earlier.The elderly moaned the loss of so many residents, a large number of them young, in the early morning tragedy Tuesday as hundreds of devotees packed a narrow pathway leading to the hilltop Chamundi Mata temple.

Women wailed in many homes in Jodhpur, 330 km from the Rajasthan capital Jaipur. It is the most horrendous stampede in the state’s history.

Officials and survivors gave varying accounts of what triggered the stampede that saw hordes of people collapse on others in the pathway, crushing to death most victims almost instantly.

“Do you think I will ever forget this incident in which I lost my 12-year-old son?” asked an inconsolable Rajkumari, a middle aged woman.

The majority of the dead in the stampede are in the age group of 20-25 years.

“My son had got married just six months back. We were dependent on him. Who will take care of his wife and children?” asked Anand, a man who retired from a private sector job some time back.

Asked another man who did not give his name: “Why did god do this to us? Why has he snatched my brother?”

A total of 149 people were declared dead in the tragedy. More than 300 were injured, with around 60 people still warded in hospitals.

Doctors said the death toll could increase because some of the victims had suffered serious head injuries and needed surgical care. Many had leg, chest and head injuries.

A pall of gloom Wednesday hung over Jodhpur, otherwise a tourist paradise that attracts many foreigners. Many people admitted that they were still numbed by the mass deaths.

In Jodhpur’s Kalal residential area, 12 young boys were killed.

“In is difficult for us to forget what happened,” said V.S. Singh, a resident of the colony near the majestic Mehrangar Fort, housing the five-century-old temple. “All the boys were 12-16 years old.”

Muslims, who form a significant part of Kalal’s population, were the first to reach out to the victims. “Many Muslims stayed with us till late at night, attending to our needs,” said Singh.

For a second day Wednesday, Jodhpur witnessed many funeral processions, at times clogging traffic on the roads.

Large crowds still hung outside hospitals, where doctors and nurses remained under pressure. Many of the medical staff had worked through the day and night.

Jodhpur’s hospitals had never seen anything like this. Initially, there was utter chaos.

On the streets, there is anger against the administration for not taking steps to prevent the stampede — and then seemingly not doing enough for the dead and injured.

Some complained that the authorities did not reach out to the victims immediately after the deaths. And with no motorable road leading up to the hill temple, it was no easy task transporting the dead and wounded.

A few people complained that the stampede occurred because local officials tried to make way for Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP Jaswant Singh Vishnoi, who wanted to offer special prayers at the shrine.

The MP faced the wrath of the people when he tried to visit the hospitals.

Pawan Singh, a Jodhpur resident, recalled the horror.

“How did I survive? I do not know. All I remember is people falling over me. I gained consciousness after the priest sprinkled water on my face,” he said.

“I was injured on my legs and chest. I thank god that I am still alive.”

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