A Crushing Burden Of Sins
The planetary positions were not so auspicious on August 27 after all. More than 40 pilgrims, including 28 women, died and 100 people were injured in a stampede, on what was supposed to have been the holiest day to take a dip in the Godavari at the ongoing Nasik Kumbh Mela. In a hazy sequence of events, it seems a huge throng of pilgrims was held at bay as a group of sadhus was to have had first shot as per the protocol that obtains at shahi snans. Officials say some sadhus, passing by the milling crowd after their dip, threw coins and prasad at them. The stampede ensued.
Over 30 lakh pilgrims from all over India had assembled for the fair. The state government had spent upwards of Rs 200 crore on creating infrastructure for the Kumbh, held once in 12 years. Months of work had gone in to ready Nasik and Triambakeshwar for it.
But once the pilgrims pushed at the barricades, all hell broke loose, throwing the cops’ tenuous crowd control efforts into complete disarray. Those in the middle spoke of a nightmarish experience: the younger pilgrims managed to extricate themselves while the older ones got crushed. An inquiry headed by a magistrate has been set up. But hours after what is now being called one of the worst tragedies in a religious congregation, pilgrims lined up on the Godavari’s banks for their Mahaparvani day dip. As more and more pilgrims, undeterred by the tragedy, throng the city for the two last remaining shahi snans, the Nasik authorities have their work cut out in ensuring their safety.
By Saumya Roy