Today: Jun 19, 2024

Stampede at Vaishno Devi Shrine leaves 12 dead, over-a-dozen injured during New Year rush

3 mins read

Jammu: Twelve people lost their lives and over a dozen others were injured in a stampede at the famous Mata Vaishno Devi shrine in Jammu and Kashmir in the early hours during the heavy rush of devotees on New Year.

This is the first such tragedy at the shrine, located atop the Trikuta hills – about 50 km from here – that attracts lakhs of people every year.

The incident occurred between 2.30 AM and 2.45 AM on Saturday near a relatively narrow passage at gate number 3 outside the sanctum sanctorum of the hilltop shrine where devotees usually arrive round-the-clock after trekking from the Katra base camp, a distance of nearly 13 km.

Condolences poured in from all quarters and Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to Sinha and Union minister Jitendra Singh to take stock of the situation.

According to eyewitness accounts, the number of devotees was allegedly beyond the permitted level with flagrant violation of COVID-19 norms, and some of the survivors accused the Jammu and Kashmir administration of “mismanagement”.

The Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board, however, denied the charges saying all necessary arrangements were made in view of the expected rush.

Most of the deaths have taken place due to suffocation, police said, adding among the deceased seven are from Uttar Pradesh, three from Delhi and one each from Haryana and J&K.

Director General of Police (DGP) Dilbag Singh, who accompanied the Minister of State in the PMO, Jitendra Singh, during the visit to the shrine after the stampede, told reporters that the incident took place due to confusion or “probably somebody at the site acted funny which could have led to some altercation”.

“All these things are being looked into. That area is a little narrow and people ran helter-skelter without knowing the reason. Most of the deaths have taken place due to suffocation after being run over by each other and most of the injuries are also due to the same reason,” he said.

DGP had told PTI that preliminary information from the scene suggests there was a minor altercation among some boys, and within seconds, there was a stampede.

“Police and officials of the civil administration were quick to respond, and the order within the crowd was immediately restored, but by that time, the damage had been done,” he said.

Senior officials present at the scene said 12 people died in the stampede and their bodies were taken to a hospital in the Katra base camp.

The deceased were identified as Arun Pratab Singh (30), Dharam Veer Singh (35), Vineet Kumar (38), Shewata Singh (35), Mohinder Gour (26), Narinder Kashap (40) and Monu Sharma (32) of Uttar Pradesh, Vinay Kumar (24), Sonu Panday (24) and Akash Kumar (29) of Delhi, Mamta (38) of Haryana and Desraj Kumar (26) of Rajouri district of Jammu and Kashmir, the officials said.

Sixteen people, who were injured in the incident, were admitted to the Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Narayana hospital at Kakriyal. Six among them were discharged after necessary treatment, the officials said.

Ratnesh Panday (25) and Ashish Kumar Jaiswal (25) of Uttar Pradesh, Prashant Hada (30), Nitin Garg (30) of Rajasthan, Adhaya Mahajan (16) and Sahil Kumar (22) of Jammu, Shivani (25), Sarita (42) of Delhi, Bhawar Lal Patidar (47) of Madhya Pradesh and Sumit (29) of Punjab are still undergoing treatment, they said.

Those who were discharged included two each from Mumbai and Delhi and one each from Jammu and Haryana, the officials said.

An hour after the incident, pilgrims were again allowed at the site, the officials said, adding the yatra was not disrupted.

Prime Minister Modi said that the central government is in constant touch with the J&K administration to assist the affected people.

Speaking at a programme to release funds under the PM-KISAN scheme, Modi said he was “extremely saddened by the loss of lives due to a stampede at Mata Vaishno Devi Bhawan. Condolences to the bereaved families. May the injured recover soon.”

The J&K administration has announced a relief of Rs 10 lakh to the deceased and Rs 2 lakh to the injured which will be paid by the Shrine Board.

In a series of tweets, the office of the Lieutenant Governor expressed pain at the loss of lives and gave details of whom Sinha had briefed after the stampede which included the Prime Minister and Home Minister Amit Shah.

The PMO tweeted that “an ex gratia of Rs 2 lakh each from PMNRF would be given to the next of kin of those who lost their lives due to the stampede at Mata Vaishno Devi Bhawan. The injured would be given Rs 50,000: PM @narendramodi”.

President Ram Nath Kovind said he was very distressed to know about the stampede and offered condolences to the bereaved families. “I wish speedy recovery to those injured,” he said.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah said he was deeply pained by the tragic accident.

“Deeply pained by the tragic accident at Mata Vaishno Devi temple. In this regard, I have spoken to Lieutenant Governor of J&K Shri Manoj Sinha. The administration is working continuously to provide treatment to the injured. I express my condolences to the families of those who lost their lives in this accident,” Shah tweeted in Hindi.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said, “The stampede at Mata Vaishno Devi temple is tragic. I extend my condolences to the families of the deceased.”

Officials at the spot said the incident was triggered by a heavy rush of devotees who came to pay their obeisance to mark the beginning of the New Year.

While most of the devotees undertake the arduous trek, some reach there by helicopter service.