| Drummers step up the tempo on way to the Hunkar Rally at Gandhi Maidan and (below) elephants decked up in BJP colours wind their way through the rallyists. Pictures by Ranjeet Kumar Dey |
The Sharmas of Boring Road had plans to make the most of Sunday, to visit the P&M Mall, watch a movie, lunch out and go for a spin in their car.
The family, despite knowing about Hunkar Rally, ventured out in their car, only to be stopped at the high court roundabout by the police.
Plans dropped, it took the Sharmas more than an hour to get back home.
“We knew about today’s rally but could not guess that the crowd would be so huge. Moreover, the police, like most of the time, had not properly announced which roads to use and which to avoid. Hence, we got stuck and cops forced us to move back. This turned into a major problem for us, as the crowd was huge and driving back home was a major challenge,” said Arun Sharma, a professor.
The BJP’s Hunkar Rally threw normal life out of gear in Patna and deriding the claims of security of the police and the district administration, which failed to tackle the swelling crowd near Gandhi Maidan.
With rallyists trooping into Patna since morning, the areas around Gandhi Maidan were teeming with people and police. After desperately trying to control the surging crowds for sometime, the men-in-uniform appeared helpless as rallyists started scaling fences to get into Gandhi Maidan.
The day started off early but quietly with small groups of rallyists making their way towards Gandhi Maidan. As the day progressed, the crowd swelled and soon it became mammoth.
“Towards the western side of Gandhi Maidan, mainly in front of hotel Maurya, a large contingent of security personnel, which included police constables, the Patna battalion of Rapid Action Force, Special Task Force jawans and others, were posted. The area from JP roundabout towards Gandhi Maidan Road was cordoned off. But the crowd kept gaining size and made it impossible for the police to control them. People could be seen jumping through fences into Gandhi Maidan with the police watching helplessly. With the blasts taking place, this could have been a major security breach. In fact, the police had no clue that the crowd going beyond control,” said an eyewitness.
The roads near JP roundabout, including Chhajjubagh, saw huge traffic snarls extending for hours.
“I had to go to Fraser Road for some work but got stuck in Chhajjubagh for more than two hours. The police should have clearly chalked out a plan about the roads to use and those to avoid so that the commuters could plan their travel accordingly. Nothing was clearly announced. Even at Beer Chand Patel Marg, traffic snarls compelled people to wait for hours,” said Vishwas Kumar, a commuter.
People said Gandhi Maidan should have been properly guarded.
“Seeing people scaling fences at Gandhi Maidan was disturbing. After the blasts, the police were fortunate that no stampede occurred. Else, the death toll could have been increased. The police took the rally a bit too casually and once people started suffered injuries in the blasts, they had no plan to take them to the hospitals. People were loaded in any vehicle or autorickshaw and taken to the hospital. There was no concrete plan to deal with any kind of untoward situation,” said a source.