NHRC poser on cop stick in Deoghar

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), taking suo motu cognisance of a media report on the August 10 stampede in Deoghar where 10 devotees were killed, has highlighted an issue that got buried in official silence, that of the alleged police lathicharge that triggered the tragedy.

By Our Bureau
  • Published 27.08.15
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The usual Shravan rush at Baidyanath temple in Deoghar

Delhi/ Ranchi, Aug. 26: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), taking suo motu cognisance of a media report on the August 10 stampede in Deoghar where 10 devotees were killed, has highlighted an issue that got buried in official silence, that of the alleged police lathicharge that triggered the tragedy.

Issuing a notice this evening to state DGP D.K. Pandey, the human rights panel has asked him to submit a detailed report within four weeks.

"Reportedly, a group of kanwariyas tried to force themselves forward and a policeman used his stick to control them resulting in a stampede," the NHRC observed in its communiqué quoting different media reports.

The commission has also observed that the incident, if true, raised serious questions of violation of human rights of the victims and shows the ineptness of the police force.

The NHRC communiqué quoted an article where a "local MLA" had said the police constables who manage crowds weren't trained to handle them.

"They don't know how to behave with devotees and don't understand their mood," the MLA had been quoted.

After the stampede, the media widely reported accounts of eyewitnesses and survivors as saying that the police personnel deputed to control the humongous crowd on Shravan's second Somvari, the day of the tragedy, had hit pilgrims in the queue to Baidyanathdham.

Various eyewitness accounts had mentioned policemen lathi-charging and hitting pilgrims with shoes to control them. They had added that police misbehaviour triggered the stampede while the darkness on the road stretch worsened the situation.

When contacted, DGP D.K. Pandey told The Telegraph he was yet to get the NHRC notice. But, terming the incident as "extremely unfortunate", he said excessive crowds were the reason behind the stampede.

"After the incident, every effort was taken by the state government and police to prevent a recurrence," he said. "Four additional companies of CRPF and two companies of Rapid Action Force (RAF) were deputed while two more companies of Jharkhand Jaguar (JJ) have been kept as standby in the temple town," Pandey added.

Congress MLA Badal Patralekh (35), of adjoining Jarmundi in Dumka, who visited the stampede site and hospitals where the injured were being treated after the tragedy, told The Telegraph over phone today that he would be speaking on the issue in the Assembly on a Call Attention motion tomorrow.

"A mega event cannot be managed with ad hoc measures," he said. "They (Deoghar administration) didn't even have the number of a nodal officer. We need a permanent authority similar to what Tirupati has," he added.

The MLA said the injured had claimed police were high-handed and nervous.

"We know how to deal with kanwariyas, but the administration never consulted us elected representatives. Instead of systemic reforms, the government has unnecessarily suspended honest officials like SP (P. Murugan) and DC (Amit Kumar)," claimed Patralekh.

He also suggested introducing prohibition in temple towns like Deoghar during the holy month of Shravan to prevent drink-driving mishaps.

Chief secretary Rajiv Gauba today gave an 18-month target to complete the first phase of the proposed queue complex at Deoghar so that pilgrims don't face problems in 2017. The complex would have facility to seat 30,000 persons.

The project's foundation stone was laid in 2013 by President Pranab Mukherjee but so far work on the project to ensure better crowd management during Shravan and otherwise, has not started.