At least 32 people, including women and children, died in a stampede Friday evening after the burning of the Ravana effigy at the Gandhi Maidan here, officials said.
“Thirty-two people including women and children died due to stampede after the ‘Ravan vadh’ and 18 people were seriously injured,” Bihar Director General of Police P.K. Thakur told media persons here.
Additional Director General of Police Gupteshwar Pandey said that the cause of the stampede is not yet known. “It is a matter of investigation,” Pandey said over phone.
Angry over the incident, hundred of people, including relatives of those killed and seriously injured, protested against the administration at Ramghulam square near Gandhi Maidan and outside the Patna Medical College and Hospital, where all injured were admitted for treatment.
“Protestors clashed with Rapid Action Force when they attacked a police outpost. Later they were dispersed,” said a district police official.
Pandey meanwhile downplayed allegations of mismanagement at the event in view of the huge crowd.
“This year, the arrangement was better than last time. But this unfortunate incident took place and it is to be investigated,” he said.
Local police officers, however, said that some people tried to disperse as fast as possible after the end of the event, thus creating the problem.
According to officials of the district administration, the stampede was result of the rumours that a live high tension wire had fallen on the road near the gate of the Gandhi Maidan.
Patna District Magistrate Manish Kumar Verma said that authorities are trying to save the lives of all those seriously injured, who have been admitted to the Patna Medical College and Hospital.
The state government has announced compensation of Rs.3 lakh each to the kin of all the victims. It has also ordered a probe into the incident.
“The government has asked Home Secretary Amir Subhani and ADG Pandey to investigate into the incident, particularly the cause of the stampede,” said an official in the chief minister’s office.
Subhani and Pandey have been directed to complete the investigation and submit the report within 24 hours.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi called up Bihar Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi to know about the incident and asked him to provide all possible treatment to injured.
“An emergency meeting with top officials is underway at chief minister’s residence to take stock of the situation,” officials said.
Earlier, reports said that half a dozen people had fainted at the event due to over-crowding at the Gandhi Maidan.
However, the Durga Puja perriod which culminates with the Dussehra festival ended peacefully despite an intelligence alert of terrorists’ threat in the state during the festival. “There were no reports of any untoward incidents during the festival across the state,” said an officer at the police headquarters here.