Bhopal, Oct 14: The toll in a horrific stampede at a Durga temple in Madhya Pradesh’s Datia Monday rose to 111, including 47 women and 33 children. The state government, which ordered a judicial probe, suspended four top district officials after the poll panel’s nod.
Sub-Divisional Magistrate (revenue) Mahip Tejaswi, who announced the toll, said search operations were continuing in the Sindh river in which a number of trapped people had jumped in a bid to escape the crushing throng.
The temple at Ratangarh is located in a forested part of Datia district, 390 km north of the state capital and 55 km from Datia town.
Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, who visited the spot and the hospital where the injured were admitted, asserted that the guilty will be punished at the earliest.
“A judicial inquiry will be done… It will be completed in two months. Once the report comes, within 15 days, the guilty will be punished,” he told journalists. He said the commission will be appointed by Tuesday.
“Since the judicial inquiry report will take time to come, depending on the feedback, administrative responsibility will be fixed. We will seek the Election Commission’s permission so that we can take action against those found guilty,” he said.
The state government later suspended District Magistrate Sanket Bhondwe, Superintendent of Police Chandrashekhar Solanki, Tejaswi and Sub-Divisional Police Officer B.N. Basawe after taking permission from the election commission — mandatory since the model code of conduct is in place ahead of assembly elections Nov 25.
The stampede at the Ratangarh temple on the last day of the Navratras was sparked off by a rumour that the bridge to it had collapsed and police’s use of force to control the crowd. Women and children were trampled in the stampede while many people jumped into the river.
Datia’s Chief Medical Officer S.R. Gupta said post-mortems had been conducted on 109 of the dead and the bodies returned to their families for the last rites.
Union Minister of State for Power Jyotiraditya Scindia also visited the area Monday and met the victims. Attacking the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) without naming it, he said those doing politics in the name of god had killed off 300 people while the administration had only put the toll at 111.
He claimed the tragedy could have been prevented and attributed it to the incapacity of the government and the administrration.
Chouhan later said that politics on the tragedy is “unwanted” and that steps will be taken to avoid any such tragedies in future.
“The focus should be on attending to the injured and take steps to avoid any such incidents in the future,” he said in a comment on Twitter.