At least 85 people were killed and more than 100 others were injured in a stampede in Datia district of Madhya Pradesh on Sunday morning, as devotees thronged a temple on the last day of the Navratri festival.
A large number of devotees had thronged the Ratangarh temple of Goddess Durga for prayers, when the stampede occurred following over-crowding on a narrow bridge across the Sindh river.
An eyewitness said police personnel used batons to control the surging crowd and this led to the crowd stampeding.
In the stampede, some of the devotees are feared to have fallen off the bridge into the fast flowing river below.
Deputy Inspector General of Police DK Arya said that at least 60 people were killed and more than 100 were injured in the accident.
He said the toll was likely to increase as many pilgrims were critically injured and some were missing after falling off the bridge.
A team of around 20 medics had however, managed to reach the scene of the tragedy and the casualty wards of nearby hospitals were being emptied to cope with the influx of victims
Expressing grief over the accident, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan declared a compensation of Rs 1.5 lakh to the kin of each of those killed in the stampede.
The chief minister had sought permission of the election commission before announcing the compensation as the state is going to polls on November 25.
Madhya Pradesh Governor Ram Naresh Yadav also expressed grief over the tragedy.
Datia legislator Narottam Mishra, who is also the state government spokesman, said the stampede did not occur due to alleged police baton charge, but following a rumour that the bridge was collapsing.
He said he was on way to Ratangarh to oversee the rescue operation.
An angry crowd pelted stones at the police in which 12 policemen, including two officers, were injured.
The Ratangarh Durga Mata temple is located in a dense forest on the banks of Sindh river, in Datia. Every year, thousands of devotees flock the temple during Navratri. Maximum crowds are witnessed on the last day.
India’s history of stampedes
>> At least 36 people trampled were to death back in February as pilgrims headed home from the Kumbh Mela on the banks of the river Ganges.
>> Some 102 Hindu devotees were killed in the Sabarimala stampede in January 2011 in the state of Kerala. The victims were going back home through the forest after Makara Jyothi darshan, a celestial phenomenon, on the hill shrine of the Hindu god Ayyappan.
>> A human stampede occurred on September 30, 2008, at the Chamunda Devi temple in Jodhpur, Rajasthan in which 249 people were killed and more than 400 injured. About 25,000 Hindu pilgrims were visiting the temple to mark the first day of the nine-day-long Navratri festival
Sonia expresses shock over tragedy
Sonia Gandhi expressed her condolences over the tragedy. “Gandhi has expressed shock and deep anguish over the tragic incident in Ratangarh in Datia District of Madhya Pradesh,” she was quoted as saying in a party statement.