At least 37 Hindu pilgrims were killed and over a dozen injured on Monday when a speeding train mowed them down in Bihar's Khagaria district. Angry pilgrims and locals lynched the train driver, set ablaze six bogies and took several railway officials hostage.
The Rajya Rani Express mowed down the pilgrims while they were trying to cross the rail track at the Dhamara railway station on the Saharsa-Mansi route of the East Central Railway (ECR).
Additional Director General of Police S.K. Bhardwaj confirmed the death of 37 Hindu pilgrims (Kanwariyas).
The death toll may increase because detailed information is yet to come from the accident site, he said.
The train was travelling from Saharsa to Patna when the accident took place between 8 a.m. and 8.30 a.m. The train does not have a scheduled stop at Dhamara station.
"The accident took place when pilgrims were trying to cross the railway track after alighting from a local train," said a police official.
The official said that one of the two train drivers succumbed to the injuries after he was mercilessly beaten up. The other driver is battling for his life.
"Some railway officials have been held hostage by them," the police official said.
Soon after the incident, angry pilgrims and locals set ablaze six bogies, including one AC coach, of the train and attacked railway officials.
Chief Public Relations Officer of ECR Amitabh Prabhakar told IANS over the telephone from the railway headquarters at Hajipur near Patna: "The rescue team along with railway officials have reached the accident site."
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar announced a compensation of Rs 2 lakh each to the kin of the victims.
Nitish Kumar described it as "the rarest of the rare incident".
"I have spoken to the union railway minister and requested him to provide highest possible compensation to them," he told mediapersons here.
In the month of Shravan (July-August), thousands of Hindu pilgrims visit a temple in Deoghar, Jharkhand, where they offer holy water from the Ganga river to Lord Shiva at an ancient temple.
Kanwariya pilgrims in Bihar collect water from the Ganga in Sultanganj in Bhagalpur district. They carry this holy water in "kanwars" - a single pole, usually of bamboo, with two water pots dangling from opposite ends - and cover 105 km on foot to reach the temple.
After offering the holy water, they return to their native places in vehicles or trains.