CHENNAI: Three persons, including a woman, were killed and around 30 others injured in a stampede at the Rajaji Hall where DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi’s mortal remains were kept for public homage on Wednesday afternoon. Despite her son asking her to stay back at home, Senbagavali, 62-year-old resident of MGR Nagar, was adamant in going to pay homage to the DMK chief. But, minutes after she reached the venue, she was caught in a stampede and lost her life.
Senbagavali, Saravanan (35) and another 60-year-old man whose identity is yet to be known died and around 30 others sustained injuries as they were caught in the stampede. Over 15,000 police personnel were deployed across the city. It took the police nearly an hour to control the crowd. A few minutes after Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid homage and left the venue, the public rushed in through the VIP gate. The public entered the Rajaji Hall and the police force was struggling to control them. The DMK family members themselves formed a shield to stop the public from reaching the corpse. As the gathering was swelling, police lathi-charged the crowd, revealing the lack of planning by the police.
Meanwhile, waiting at the government hospital mortuary, Senbagavali’s son Senthil Kumaran said, “I told her not to go to the venue but she said that she would protest if a place was not allotted at Marina for the samadhi.” “She insisted on going and hence I dropped her at Anna Arivalayam from where she took an autorickshaw to reach Rajaji Bhavan. Soon after she reached, she informed me and I told her that the government had granted a place at Marina which made her happy. I called her again one hour later, but her phone was switched off. Believing she did not have a network I got back to work. Around 1 pm, the ambulance driver called me informing my mother’s body was at the hospital,” he added.
It was only after the family members reached the hospital they knew that Senbagam was killed in the stampede. Similarly, 60-year-old Ponammal of Tondiarpet, who had gone to pay homage, was caught in the stampede but managed to escape, as police spotted her fall and immediately rushed to her rescue.
“My mother was eight months pregnant when the anti-Hindi protest happened. She was one of the hundreds who took part in the protest and was detained in Central prison. As news of the death broke out, she wanted to go to Gopalapuram, but I did not allow her fearing violence,” said Ponammal’s daughter Mallika. But Ponammal reached the venue. Even before she could enter the gate, she was pushed to a wall and later fell down. “A policeman pulled me up and took me to the ambulance,” recalls Ponammal.
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77 vehicles damaged across TN
At least 77 vehicles, including 68 government buses, were damaged in stone-pelting incidents across Tamil Nadu in the aftermath of the death of M Karunanidhi. A senior policeman said 77 vehicles including 65 TNSTC and three MTC buses were damaged. Stone-pelting incidents were reported from Tiruvallur, Villupuram, Vellore, Tiruvannamalai, Salem, Tiruchy and Madurai.