RAJAHMUNDRY/HYDERABAD: The Andhra Pradesh government has reportedly blamed pilgrims for the stampede at the Pushkar Ghat in Rajahmundry that claimed 27 lives and left over 50 injured on the day the 12-day fete opened — brushing aside allegations that Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu’s prolonged presence had led to the tragedy.
“The sudden surge of pilgrims was the main reason for the human tragedy,” East Godavari district collector H Arun Kumar is said to have claimed in his preliminary report submitted to the State government, despite confirmation from even senior police officials that the pilgrims had arrived at the ghat as early as 2 am and the numbers kept swelling by the hour. The preliminary report was forwarded to the Union Home Ministry and the State Human Rights Commission. In his report, the collector is learnt to have explained that as the gates of the main ghat were opened two hours after the onset of Pushkarams, the place was packed with a large number of devotees.
As soon as the gates were opened, the waiting crowd surged ahead causing a stampede, he reportedly said, without bringing into picture the reason for the two-hour delay.
Interestingly, in a slip of tongue, Deputy Chief Minister N Chinna Rajappa, during an interaction with reporters in West Godavari district, conceded the inadequate number of barricades at the main pushkar ghat.
Meanwhile, opposition parties, YSRC and the Congress, reiterated their demand for Naidu’s resignation and held him personally responsible for the stampede.
“Official reports clearly said the stampede was caused due to the two-hour delay. The CM was at the ghat during that time performing rituals and posing for a documentary film. But, the State government has filed a case of suspicious deaths and not deaths due to negligence,” YSRC leader K Parthasarathi said.