Puri, July 16: Family members of Bijaylaxmi Mohanty, the woman killed in a stampede during Tuesday’s rath yatra, are blaming the Sri Jagannath temple administration for the mishap.
“The temple administration was in a hurry to complete the rituals of deities before the scheduled time. That caused my wife’s death,” said Bijay Kumar Mohanty, the husband of 63-year-old Bijaylaxmi. He has also written a letter to chief minister Naveen Patnaik informing him of the matter.
“In the letter, I have mentioned that the haste in which the temple authorities conducted the rituals took a toll on my family,” said Bijay, a retired air force employee.
The Mohantys claimed that they did not know the pulling of chariots would start so early. “The temple administration had disseminated information about pulling of chariots around 3.30pm. But the chariots started rolling nearly two hours before the scheduled time. And that created the confusion. The officials did not make any prior announcement in loudspeakers. If we had known about the change of timings, we would have reached the temple earlier and occupied a safe spot. By the time we reached, the Grand Road was packed and the pulling of chariots had started,” Bijay said.
His son, Swapan Kumar Mohanty, blamed the attitude of the policemen for Bijaylaxmi’s death. “Even though a couple of policemen were present near the stampede site, they did not come forward to rush my injured mother to the hospital. The doctors later declared my mother as brought dead. The police should be friendly and cooperative with pilgrims,” said Swapan, who works as a senior scientist at a technical institute in Visakhapatnam.
Meanwhile, a controversy broke out regarding the spot of Bijaylaxmi’s death. While her family said the incident occurred in front of the Jagannath temple’s office on Grand Road, the temple authorities maintained that the tragedy struck on a narrow street adjoining the office.
“The incident occurred on a street near Dolabedi square. It did not occur on Grand Road. But the police are investigating,” said Laxmidhar Pujapanda, the public relations officer of the temple.
Interestingly, if Bijaylaxmi’s death occurred on Grand Road, her kin would be eligible for an insurance amount of Rs 1 lakh from the temple administration.
“We do not want any compensation or insurance. We just want coherency and crowd management during Rath Yatra,” Swapan said.