The objective of any commission of inquiry, constituted under the Commissions of Inquiry Act, 1952, is to unearth facts and fix responsibility for any crimes of omission or commission. Numerous such commissions have been ordered in the history of independent India but over time, as we all know, they have been used more as a tool to whitewash the sins of the powers that be rather than arriving at the truth. The Justice Somayajulu Commission, formed to probe the circumstances leading to the stampede at the Godavari Pushkaram that claimed 29 lives in Rajamahendravaram in 2015, is the latest and its report, the most shocking of all. Shocking for the bizarre conclusions and the manner in which it has absolved the Chandrababu Naidu government of all responsibility.
While acknowledging that the government had planned for a year to promote brand Godavari and ran a media blitz, it surprisingly blames the media, astrologers and priests for encouraging superstitious beliefs and misleading the people to cash in on the event.
More farcical is its “finding” that proper arrangements had been made since the CM stayed put in the city for the entire duration of the Pushkaram and no other untoward incident took place after the stampede! It conveniently ignores visual evidence submitted by citizens, remains silent on why the CM and his entourage visited the Pushkar Ghat when a separate ghat was earmarked for VIPs, why CCTV footage was not stored when the National Disaster Management Agency guidelines say that it must be preserved for 72 hours, why cops failed to divert the gathering crowd to other ghats and why all gates except one were closed at the Pushkar Ghat.
Going beyond its brief, the panel claims people submitted affidavits only to gain publicity and even insinuates that they are from rival parties out to defame the TDP. A cursory glance at the report is enough to conclude that this commission of inquiry is itself guilty of an act of omission—ignoring its very raison d’être.