30 million take holy dip, 18 killed in stampede
Agencies, Allahabad At least 20 people were feared killed and several others critically injured when a portion of a railing of the rail overbridge at Allahabad junction railway station collapsed this evening. Divisional Commissioner Devesh Chaturvedi has confirmed about the incident but refused to give any detail about the casualty.
The incident occurred at platform number-6 of the Allahabad Junction where large crowd gathered to board a train after taking a dip in the Sangam on the occasion of Mauni Amavasya. Eye witness claim that the incident occured when police lathicharged on the pilgrims to control crowd at thestation. The people at the station claimed that the casualty could touch around 24. Meanwhile, Uttar Pradesh government has ordered a high level probe into the incident. Taking serious note of huge number of pilgrims, the state government has also asked Railway Ministry to arrange special trains for the passengers at Allahabad railway station. On the other hand, train services on the route was disrupted for some time after the incident, while security forces have closed all the entry points at the Allahabad Junction station.
More than 25 million people have thronged the Maha Kumbh here on the occasion of Mauni Amavasya. Senior police officials have rushed to the Allahabad junction. ADG (Law and Order) Arun Kumar who is camping in Allahabad told here tonight he could say anything on the incident after assessing the situation on the spot. Earlier in the day, two pilgrims were killed and 5 others critically injured during a stampede that occurred at 0930 hrs at Sector 12 of the mela area on the occasion of Mauni Amavasya here today. Official sources here said among the dead one is the male who was the native of West Bengal while another was a woman from Varanasi. The injured have been admitted to the Central hospital in the mela area where their condition is serious. However, the officials for the entire day denied about the incident but in the evening they confirmed the deaths. Over 30 million people today took a holy dip in the waters of the Sangam on the occasion of Mauni Amavasya, the most auspicious day in the ongoing Mahakumbh even as during a stampede two persons were killed and five others were critically injured. Divisional Commissioner Devesh Chaturvedi said that over 30 million people have been bathing in Sangam during the occasion. He said during a minor stampede at Sector 12 on the lower Sangam area that occured at around 0930 hrs, one person was killed and two others were critically injured.
One person also died due to heart attack in the Sangam area, the officials said. The Divisional Commissioner said that by and large the occasion passed off peacefully though the people are still bathing in the Sangam. The bathing of the sadhus of 13 main akharas began at 0615 hrs and finished at around 1400 hrs. Royal procession of sadhus, saints and mahamandaleshwars of the akharas began at around 0600 hrs with the Mahanirvani taking the lead followed by Atal, Niranjani, Anand and Juna akharas, all of the Sanyasi sects were the main attraction during the Shahi snan today. Gilded chariots and palanquins carrying the mahamandaleshwars of the respective akharas were the cynosure of all the eyes. The Naga Sanyasis, welding tridents, swords and spears, reached the Sangam — the confluence of Ganga, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati rivers — completed their bathing rituals without any disturbance from media or devotees.
Before the sunrise, the periphery of the Sangam was sparkling with lights of varied hues while scores of boats ferried people to the 3 km-long bathing ghat — an enchanting scene. As per the sequence of the shahi snan, the Sanyasi akharas were followed by the Bairagi and Udasin akharas. Elaborate arrangements have been made for the biggest bathing festival of ‘Mauni Amavasya’ in the ongoing Mahakumbh, the largest religious fair of the world when about three crore devotees are expected to take holy dip in the Sangam. The elaborate traffic and security plans were in the place in sprawling 58 kms area at the banks of the Sangam, the confluence of holy rivers of the Ganga, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati. The Mahakumbh, which started on Makar Sankranti day on January 14, has six main bathing festivals, Mauni Mavasya being the biggest one. Special arrangements have been made for the second of three Shahi Snan’ by saints of 13 akharas. Makar Sankranti had the first ‘Shahi Snan’ while the third one will take place on Basant Panchami day on February 15. On the bathing ghats adjacent to the Sangam, several lakh pilgrims were washing off their ‘sins’ by taking holy dips since yesterday afternoon. The shahi snan was avidly watched by people from behind wooden barricades. For checking any violation of the barricades by commoners, several thousand security personnel were deployed along the bathing areas. Commandos of the Anti-Terrorist Squad(ATS) and Central forces were also patrolling near the ghats.
The security of the Akharas have also been handed over to the Central forces after yesterday’s Afzal Guru’s hanging. Choppers were used to monitor the crowd by the officials for the first time in the Kumbh. Around 50,000 security personnel have been deployed in the Kumbh Mela area to regulate the ever burgeoning crowds. The administration had activated a one-way traffic for pedestrians in the area in view of heavy rush for the shahi snan. Entry of all vehicles had also been barred in the 58-km radius of the mela. Sniffer dogs, mine detection and bomb disposal squads were working around the clock. Besides this, around 80 closed circuit cameras were installed at key points. The state health department had also made arrangements to provide medical facilities to ailing pilgrims.
A masive checking drive of vehicle was underway at Kumbh, owing to the hanging of Indian Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru yesterday. UP Director General of Police A C Sharma told UNI that security has been escalated at Kumbh after execution of death penalty to Afzal Guru. The Amavasya of Magh Masa is called the Mauni Amavasya. Sun and Moon enter the Capricorn sign, because of the transit, on this day. This day is celebrated as the birthday of Manu Rishi. It is believed, Lord Brahma gave origination to Maharaja Manu and queen Shatrupa. Hence, this day is considered as the beginning of the universe creation. Capricorn sign has the Yoga of Sun and Moon which increases the significance of this Amavasya. Bathing in Sangam of Allahabad, gives virtues to an individual, on this day. According to saints, on Mauni Amavasya, one should meditate and donate according to his capacity. As per the belief, taking a dip in Triveni or any other pilgrims washes away the sins. Silence should be observed while bathing and meditation. After this, the person should worship Brahma Dev and chant the Gayatri mantra. Donations done with faith holds relevance on Mauni Amawasya.
Meanwhile, entry of all the vehicles had been restricted in the mela premises. Besides, vehicles coming from other states have been restricted outside the Allahabad city limits. Allahabad Divisional Commissioner Devesh Chaturvedi and IG Alok Sharma have said posse of police, CRPF jawan, Seema Sashastra Bal (SSB) and Rapid Action Force sleuths have been deployed in strength at the site. Thirty police stations and 40 police chowkis have been set-up in the mela premises. Besides, 37 watch towers have been erected. The mela administration has sounded a high-alert in the mela permises to avoid any untoward incident in a huge congregation. Due to huge crowd at the ghats today, more than 5000 people including some women could not find their near and dear ones after taking a dip in the Sangam forcing them to rush to the ‘Missing Centre’ to make a public announcement in search of their missing relatives.
Several seers and Mahamandaleshwar of the Akharas after taking the Shahi snan expressed satisfactions on the arrangments made by the authorities. Mahamandaleshwar of Nirwani Akhara Chetna Mataji, who was among the first to bath during the Shahi Snan, said that she was impressed about the arrangements and her long cherished dream to have a dip in Sangam during Shai Snan was fulfilled. A sadhu Girija Maharaj, who came from Dwaraka in Gujarat on foot, said that it took around six months to cover the distance as he was eager to have a dip on the first bathing day of 2013- Kumbh at Prayag. Several youths particularly girls from Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Gujarat, West Bengal and Maharashtra were very enthusiastic for taking a dip in the Sangam on the occasion. Several old age people were also seen coming to the ghats on crutches or wheel chairs. Many security personnel were seen helping the aged devotees at the ghats. The next bathing in the Kumbh and the third and last Shahi snan would be held on February 15 on Basant Panchami. The 55-day Kumbh, which started on January 14, will end on March 10 after Maha Shivratri.
PM shocked at loss of life in stampede at Allahabad junction
New Delhi: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has expressed shock at the loss of life in the stampede at the Allahabad Railway Station. In a condolence message issued here tonight, Dr Singh said, ‘’I am deeply shocked to learn of the unfortunate incident at the Allahabad Railway station today, in which precious lives have been lost and many pilgrims to Kumbh Mela among other people have been injured.
I send my heartfelt condolences to the members of the bereaved families and wish those injured a speedy recovery.’’ The Prime Minister said he has issued issued instructions to Ministry of Railways to provide all necessary assistance to the affected persons. ‘’My government assures an ex gratia payment to the families of those who have lost their dear ones and to those who are injured from the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund,’’ Dr Singh said. fs The Central Government will extend all possible help to the state government in relief operations, he added.
UP govt ready to give security to Sonia, Modi at Maha Kumbh
Lucknow: The Uttar Pradesh govt today denied that they have refused to provide security to Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Gujarat CM Narendra Modi during their visits to Maha Kumbh at Allahabad.
“There was no visit programme to Kumbh of Congress president Sonia Gandhi while Mr Modi is said to have postponed his visit scheduled on February 12,” claimed Director General of Police(DGP) Ambrish Chandra Sharma here. He said when there was no programme of politicians to visit Maha Kumbh, how can they say that the UP govt has not provided them security. Mr Sharma said though the govt had requested the VVIPs not to visit Maha Kumbh on the peak bathing day, the police were ready to provide security to any politician visiting the Maha Kumbh.
“Today on the main bathing day on Mauni Amavasya, Himachal Pradesh CM Virbhadra Singh along with a dozen other VVIPs took a dip in the Sangam and they were provided the required security,” he added. The DGP said after receiving information that Mr Modi is likely to visit Maha Kumbh on February 12, the ADG (Security) had conveyed to the Gujarat government to provide minutes detail of his visit. But now the Gujarat government has informed the UP police that the visit now stands postponed, he said. The visit of Mr Modi has been postponed in the wake of hanging of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru yesterday. But the proposed visit of Ms Gandhi was only in media and there was no official communique. Yesterday, some Congressmen in Allahabad had protested over non-providing of security to Ms Gandhi, which forced her to cancel her visit.