Railways: No nod sought for event, tragedy not our fault

Lester Mason
October 21, 2018

A religious celebration ended in tragedy in India, as a passenger train plowed through a crowd who had gathered for a Hindu effigy-burning ceremony in Amritsar, near the Pakistani border, killing at least 50 people.

REUTERS/Adnan Abidi Family members cry after seeing the body of their relative after a commuter train traveling at high speed ran through a crowd of people on the railway tracks on Friday, outside a hospital in Amritsar, India, October 20, 2018.

The railway tracks were later cleared off the protestors who were raising slogans against the state government and demanding resignation of Punjab minister Navjot Singh Sidhu.

When the DMU (Diesel Multiple Unit) train from Jalandhar came galloping down, its driver could not see the crowd covered in darkness.

On Saturday, after visiting the accident site and the hospitals where the injured were admitted, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh had said 59 people were killed and 57 injured.

"The incident was not a railways' fault. There was no notice given to the railways", he told reporters as he visited the site early on Saturday, surrounded by officials and police. Dussehra celebrations were not held at this spot a year ago.

Amit Singh, the gate-keeper at the level crossing, said that no permission had been sought for the event. While Shiromani Akali Dal president Sukhbir Badal demanded Navjot Singh Sidhu's resignation, Bikram Majithia demanded that Navjot Kaur Sidhu be booked. The residents have been protesting and blocking railway tracks since the train tragedy on Friday night that claimed 61 lives, PTI reported.


Manoj Sinha, the junior minister in charge of running the world's fourth largest rail system, said they couldn't be held responsible for people gathered on tracks. The Amritsar Police on Friday said they had given permission for the Dussehra celebration at the Dhobi Ghat ground.

According to reports the burning of the effigy was delayed due to the late arrival of the chief guest of the event, Navjot Kaur Sidhu, wife of the Amritsar East MLA and cabinet minister Navjot Singh Sidhu. The railway said that it had no intimation of the Dusshera event near the railway tracks.

The Punjab government has declared state mourning on Saturday and all offices and educational institutions would remain closed, an official spokesperson said, adding that a probe has been ordered. Police said they were still looking to ascertain the number of dead as some bodies were mangled beyond recognition. "People who are doing politics over it should be ashamed", they added.

As the effigy was lit and the fireworks started, a section of the crowd started retreating towards the railway while observing the event.

"If they have to cross they should do so very slowly".

"Two trains crossed within a minute of one another. I ask to convey my words of sympathy and support to families and friends of killed people and to wish soonest recovery to those injured", he was quoted as saying by ANI.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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