New Delhi: A day after a train crushed 61 people on tracks while they were watching a Ravana effigy burn on Dussehra, police registered an FIR on Saturday but named no one in it even as the people most likely to face the blame – main organisers councillor Vijay Madan and her son Sourabh Madan Mithu – went underground with other family members.
Going underground, however, failed to stem public anger against the Madans. A few people angry over the accident attacked their residence, broke window panes and pelted stones on Saturday. Following this, the Madan family members have gone to an undisclosed location and also switched off their mobile phones. However, police personnel have been deployed at the residence.
The Government Railway Police have registered the case under sections 304 (punishment for culpable homicide not amounting to murder), 304A (causing death by negligence) and 338 (causing grievous hurt by act endangering life or personal safety of others) of the IPC.
This comes just hours after a video showed an organiser boasting to the chief guest, Congress leader and former lawmaker Navjot Kaur Sidhu that the crowd there was so enthusiastic to see her that they would stand on the nearby railway tracks and not budge even if hundreds of trains pass by.
“Madam, look here, these people don’t care about standing on tracks. Over 5,000 people are (standing) on (railway tracks) lines for you and even if 500 trains pass by, they will not move,” the organiser could be heard saying in the clip.
The video suggests the tragedy was a direct result of deadly negligence; the organisers were aware of the danger but took no precautions.
Vijay Madan is the sitting councillor from ward number 29 falling under the Amritsar East assembly constituency. The Madan family members were the main organisers of the Dussehra event where the train accident took place.
The accident happened when a crowd of Dussehra revellers spilled onto the railway tracks near Joda Phatak and could not see the train approaching them. They were crushed under the wheels of the train coming from Jalandhar and heading towards Amritsar station.
The Indian Railways has said it was not informed by the organisers or the local administration that a Dussehra event was being organised close to railway tracks.
Arvind Kumar, the driver of the train, meanwhile, has said that he did apply the emergency brakes but was forced to continue the journey as people started pelting stones on the train.
In a written statement to the Railways administration, Kumar said he suddenly saw a crowd of people near the track and constantly sounded the horn and applied the emergency brake.
“Despite applying emergency brake, some people were run over by the train. The train was almost coming to a halt when a very large crowd started attacking the train by throwing stones. Considering the safety of my passengers, I proceeded with the train,” Kumar was quoted as saying in his statement by Indian Express.
It has also come to light that the organisers of the ill-fated Dussehra event in Amritsar had acquired a no-objection certificate from the police but did not bother to approach municipal authorities for their consent. “Nobody sought permission from us,” Amritsar Municipal Corporation Commissioner Sonali Giri told news agency PTI.
Railway officials have already clarified that they were not informed about the event, and ruled out the possibility of conducting an internal inquiry into a tragedy “clearly caused due to people trespassing” onto the tracks.
A number of spectators were standing on the railway track and taking photographs of the Ravana effigy burning amid dazzling lights and the sound of firecrackers when the speeding train ploughed through them on Friday evening. Kaur, who was the chief guest at the event, claimed that she had already left for home before the accident occurred.
The Congress leader blamed the Railways for the tragedy. “It was paramount that they slow down the train at the site of a large event like this. How could they run their trains at such speed when there were so many people around?” she asked.