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Published On: Mon, Feb 11th, 2013

Death toll in India stampede rises over 30 as religious festival disaster leaves countless other Hindu pilgrims injured

Hindu pilgrims gathered for the world’s largest religious festival, but a stampede at a railway station in northern India left atleast 36 dead, mostly women.

Twenty-seven of the dead were women, mostly elderly and poor. An eight-year-old girl was also crushed to death.

Thousands of policemen and paramilitary forces were deployed to manage a crowd of 30 million devotees who had gathered on the busiest day of the Hindu festival to take a dip in the confluence of the Ganges and Yamuna rivers at Allahabad.

India death toll stampede Hindu festivalBut the deadly crush took place not in the temporary city where devotees gather, but at the nearby rail station from where pilgrims transit to and from the Kumbh Mela.

There were conflicting reports about what happened at the rail station.  

“There was complete chaos. There was no doctor or ambulance for at least two hours after the accident,” an eyewitness told NDTV news channel.

Rail Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal says the number of people who had gathered at the station was much higher than it could accommodate, resulting in a stampede.  

Police had been using batons to control the crowd, which may have turned intense or violence triggering panic.

A state government official said a footbridge handrail collapsed, sending people slipping down the stairs and starting a stampede.

One witness saw a woman weeping at the train station, surrounded by six bodies dressed in brightly colored saris.

A spokesman for Indian railways said authorities had found 36 bodies and 30 people were injured. The injured were being treated at hospitals in Allahabad.

“Since there were huge crowds and a lot of panic, it took time before the bodies could be extricated,” said another official, R. M. Srivastava, the top security official in the state of Uttar Pradesh, where the festival is held.

Deadly stampedes are common at India’s vast pilgrimages and religious festivals. In 2008, 145 people died when a panicking crowd pushed people over a ravine near the Himalayan temple of Naina Devi.

Thousands of police and volunteers are used for crowd control during the Kumbh Mela, manning the river bank when the pilgrims and naked, dreadlocked ascetics dash into the water to bathe.

The festival has its roots in a Hindu tradition that says the god Vishnu wrested a golden pot from demons containing the nectar of immortality.

In a 12-day fight for possession, four drops fell to earth, in the cities of Allahabad, Haridwar, Ujain and Nasik. Every three years a Kumbh Mela is held at one of these spots, with the festival at Allahabad the holiest of them all.

More than 2,000 years old, the festival is a meeting point for Hindu “sadhu” ascetics, some of whom live in forests or Himalayan caves and who belong to dozens of inter-related congregations. The sects have their own administration and elect leaders, but are also known for violent clashes among themselves.

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About the Author

- Writer and Co-Founder of The Global Dispatch, Brandon has been covering news, offering commentary for years, beginning professionally in 2003 on Crazed Fanboy before expanding into other blogs and sites. Appearing on several radio shows, Brandon has hosted Dispatch Radio, written his first novel (The Rise of the Templar) and completed the three years Global University program in Ministerial Studies to be a pastor. To Contact Brandon email [email protected] ATTN: BRANDON

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