In a shocking incident, two women were killed and four others injured in a stampede that broke out in Melatar, Kalimpong on Sunday as hundreds were trying to enter a music programme at a local fair.
According to sources, the musical program organised by a group ‘Mad Dog’ had various artists from Darjeeling, Kalimpong, and Nepali rapper Ashish Rana aka Lahure in attendance.
Anita Chettri, 46, and Binita Gurung ,34, died due to the stampede and Miksam Tamang (21), Amita Subba (31), Pratiksha Chettri (15), Parima Rai (23), and Alisha Rai (15) are under medical observation.
Allegedly, the organisers closed the Melatar gate, which led to a large crowd gathering outside the entry gates. The crowd got restless, which resulted in pushing and shoving. Sources added that someone partially opened one of the gates from inside, which caused a massive crowd of people to surge ahead. Those up at the front got trampled and were crushed by people who wanted to go in.
Parima, who is undergoing treatment in Kalimpong District hospital, said, “There was absolute chaos, police were resorting to Lathi-charge, as people were shoving against us and I and my sister we got trapped under people. Despite the request, no one would hear our cry, and we kept on getting trampled under those who wanted to enter the program. The organisers did nothing. They were not helping us at all.”
Hari Krishna Pai, Superintendent of Police, Kalimpong said, “The incident happened as a large number of people had gathered and they rushed to enter the gates all in one go, due to which a few people fell and were trampled, resulting in the death of two individuals.”
Meanwhile, allegations of insensitivity and neglect are being raised against the organisers, as they apparently continued with the programme despite many being injured even before the programme started.
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The National Spokesperson of BJP from West Bengal, Raju Bista, said, “I cannot for the life of me understand why the West Bengal government has permitted various events to be organised in the hills with no care and concern for the safety and well being of the people during these COVID times.”
He added that responsibilities against those officials who were involved in granting permission for the event, without due consideration for safety protocols and social distancing norms as required under the Disaster Management Act of 2005 must be ascertained and that investigation should also be conducted into the ones who ordered the lathi charge.
Chief Minister of West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee took stock of the situation said in a presser, “From what I have been able to gather so far, despite the stampede leading to the death of at least one individual being known to the organisers and in all likelihood the police too, they did not cancel the program and continued with the program. If true, this is inhumane, to say the least.”
The fairground (Kalimpong stadium) can accommodate over 20,000 people. The police officials are trying to confirm whether the organisers had taken permission for Sunday’s musical programme.