|The fate of Milon Das, who had gathered outside the Eden Gardens to catch a glimpse of the Knights and Shah Rukh Khan. Pictures by Anup Bhattacharya
Chaos reigned outside the Eden Gardens when thousands tried to force their way through cop barricades into the packed stadium, prompting mounted policemen to chase the mob.
Two men were injured after being hit by hooves during the chase, while seven suffered cuts.
The show was scheduled to start at 1pm but KKR fans started pouring in as early as 8.30am. By 1pm the stadium was almost packed to its capacity of 67,000. People were still pouring in, many without passes.
Sources said the police had allowed many without passes to enter the stadium following orders from ministers. “Some of the ministers asked our officers to allow their loyalists or supporters to enter though they did not have passes,” said a Calcutta police officer.
The situation started spiralling out of control after 1pm as more and more people gathered in front of Akashvani Bhawan and on Gostho Pal Sarani. The police had by then put up barricades to prevent entry of people into the stadium.
The crowds outside, including many with passes, tried to force their way through the barricades, prompting the police to use force on multiple occasions to stop them. Many, holding aloft their passes, were seen arguing with cops, demanding that they be allowed to step into Eden.
Unable to manage the crowds, senior officers ran around helplessly, using batons to contain the surge. The gates of the stadium had been closed by then.
Unnati Modi, 23, had been on board the SpiceJet flight that brought the victorious Knights from Bangalore to their hometown on Tuesday.
“I had spoken to Manish Pandey on the flight and congratulated him. Today I brought my friends to see them but police didn’t allow us in,” said the Bhowanipore resident.
Unnati and her two friends, Disha Mooljee and Krupa Jagoni, had reached Eden around 1pm but were told by an officer that the stands were full. “I wish I had gone to ITC Sonar instead, where we could have seen the players,” she said.
Shreya Ghosh, 23, was on the verge of tears. “Someone in the crowd snatched my pass while I was trying to push my way towards the gate,” said the resident of Konnagar in Hooghly.
Outside Eden’s gate number 4, Milon Das and Shyamal Sarkar had a close shave after they fell during the chase by the mounted police and were hit by hooves around 2.30pm.
“I had collected a pass from Ultadanga police station last evening. I was standing near gate four when there was a chase by mounted cops,” recounted Sarkar, a Ultadanga resident.
“I was running with others when someone pushed me and I tripped. Then I saw a horse right in front,” he said.
Sarkar received a blow on the head by a hoof of the horse and had to be given five stitches.
In front of Akashvani Bhawan, an officer was heard telling people desperate to enter the stadium: “Aapnara jodi maar khete chaan bhetorey jetey paren, aami aatkabo na. (If you want to get beaten up, you are free to enter. I won’t prevent you.)”
When the team bus entered Eden around 2.20pm, fresh chaos broke out near gates 3 and 4. People were breaking barricades and trying to enter while the police were pushing them back.
The crowds did not go back, hoping the chief minister would allow them in, like she did in 2012.
Their wishes were fulfilled at 3.50pm, just before SRK turned up at Eden. Police sources said Mamata Banerjee asked urban development minister Firhad Hakim and police commissioner Surajit Kar Purkayastha to let a portion of the crowd enter the stadium.
“Allow them in,” Hakim ordered the cops guarding the barricades in front of gates three and four.
Senior officers stood helplessly as the crowds rushed towards the gates. An IPS officer was overheard complaining to his superior, “He (Hakim) is doing our job. Then why are we here?”
At 4.16pm, just before SRK started his victory lap, Mamata announced that all those waiting outside should be allowed in. When asked what triggered the chaos, sports minister Madan Mitra told Metro: “We can’t ignore people’s emotions. Some of them had one or two passes but came with several family members.”
Rajeev Mishra, the joint commissioner of police (headquarters), said it was decided to open the gates two hours in advance — the scheduled time was 1pm — because as many as 5,000 people turned up in front of the stadium.
“We were forced to open the gates at 9.40am when people had already started queuing outside. The crowd was swelling very fast, from 500 at 8.30am to 2,500 at 9am and 5,000 at 9.40am. We felt they should be allowed inside to avert an adverse situation outside. Some of them might not be carrying passes but were let in because there was space,” said Mishra.
Elaborating on why police suddenly allowed the crowd to enter the stadium in the afternoon, Mishra said, “Some people inside the stadium left, making space for some who were waiting outside. Many had left by 3pm after losing all hope of seeing Shah Rukh Khan. That helped us accommodate more people who were outside,” said Mishra.
The seven injured in the fracas were taken to SSKM Hospital, where they were given first aid and discharged.