Tuesday, October 23, 2018
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After the night of unspeakable horrors

One thing led to another to cause the Dasehra tragedy in Amritsar. As the city mourns its dead, the survivors and those who lost their loved ones struggle to cope21 Oct 2018 | 12:10 AM[ + read story ]

Deepkamal Kaur in Amritsar

Dasehra celebrations turned into mourning for several families whose kin had gone to watch the Ravana dahan on Friday evening. Sixtyone persons lost their lives while 72 were injured in the tragic accident. The Jalandhar-Amritsar diesel multiple unit (DMU) passenger train left behind a trail of several mutilated bodies — some dismembered as skulls, torsos or limbs. Identification of some victims was possible only through their clothes, slippers, purses or ID cards that were strewn all across 500 metres. People rushed from one hospital to another in search of their loves ones. Some, eventually, found them in the mortuaries. The next morning, hundreds of residents revisited the area. Enraged, they pelted stones at the cops, who, in turn, resorted to a mild lathi charge. People were angry as many misturns led to the incident. The biggest mistake being the choice of the venue. The fete was organised by Congress councillor Mithu Madaan at dhobi ghat in the Golden Avenue locality in about 1.75 acres. Most of the area was occupied by effigies, a huge stage and temporary green rooms, thus, leaving hardly any space for the audience to stand. Since the dhobi ghat had high walls and limited vacant space, people moved towards the railway tracks. Sensing the possibility that the viewers might be pushed towards the track, the organisers had installed an LED screen at the site facing that side.

A harsh blow

An estimated 700 persons, a few from the posh Golden Avenue area and majority from the congested colonies of Krishna Nagar, Dashmesh Nagar, New Dashmesh Nagar, Mohkampura and New Preet Nagar, that were on the other side of the tracks, had come to see the effigies burn. In every lane of these colonies, there is a victim — either deceased or injured. This entire belt of Amritsar is collectively mourning. All shops remained shut and the roads were deserted. Seeing the unrest among the residents, heavy security was deployed in these areas this morning.

Notably, death came knocking on the doors of the poor. Many of the victims were daily wagers, plumbers, autorickshaw drivers or fruit vendors. Many families lost their sole breadwinners. A large number of victims were young boys, who had gone with friends to the mela, organised at a walkable distance from their houses. The deceased and injured included many migrants from UP and Bihar, who had been living here for years and had become permanent residents of these areas.   

Who is at fault?

In the eye of the storm after the tragedy is Navjot Kaur Sidhu, former Chief Parliamentary Secretary and wife of Punjab minister Navjot Singh Sidhu. She was the chief guest at the event. She had arrived late at the venue, only after the sun had set. This had also contributed to the disaster of this scale. She had been the MLA of the same constituency — Amritsar East. The constituency is now represented by her husband. The councillor, who had organised the event, too, is her protégé.

Those who are supporting the organisers have been shifting the onus on the Railway employees. They alleged that the train was overspeeding at 91 km/hour and that the gatemen posted on manned crossings on either side of the tracks should have alerted the people, who were standing in large numbers on the tracks. The Railway authorities, however, have maintained that those walking past the tracks were trespassing.  

After the night of unspeakable horrorsDarkness in light: Saturday morning was no less terrifying. Victims were identified through their clothes, slippers and cards that lay strewn across the tracks
Festivities turn into a nightmare

Festivities turn into a nightmare

21 Oct 2018 | 12:10 AM

The Ravana who played Rama

The Ravana who played Rama

21 Oct 2018 | 12:10 AM

Tragedy on tracks

Tragedy on tracks

21 Oct 2018 | 12:10 AM

This is no time for politics

21 Oct 2018 | 12:10 AM