Madhya Pradesh Hindu pilgrim temple stampede kills at least 115 in India

Reports suggest the panic may have been caused by police baton-charging amid fears a bridge was about to collapse

Asia Correspondent

At least 115 pilgrims, many of them women and children, have been killed and dozens more injured in a stampede at a temple in the heartland of India. Reports said the stampede may have in part been caused by police baton-charging thousands of people gathered for a major Hindu festival.

Officials in the state of Madhya Pradesh have ordered a judicial inquiry following the incident at the Ratangarh temple, located 40 miles west of the town of Datia. As many as 400,000 people had reportedly gathered at the Ratangarh temple for festivities ahead of Monday’s Dussehra holiday.

"The death toll has increased to 115 and the rescue operation is over," Dilip Arya, a deputy inspector general of police, told Reuters.

Stampedes at temples in India are not uncommon and can be triggered by anything that causes the large crowds that gather. The Ratangarh temple is famous for attracting large crowds during major events.

In this instance, local media reported that people had started to worry that a bridge across the Sindh river, near the shrine, was set to collapse. The narrow bridge is about 500m long, and had only recently been rebuilt following a previous stampede in 2007.

It was reported that in an attempt to control the panic, police using batons to charge the crowd but this exacerbated the problem. Most of those who died did so as a result of the crush; others were drowned as they jumped off the bridge into the water.

Some of the devotees apparently hurled stones at the police. A number of people are reportedly missing and divers were called in to search the river.

The chief minister of Madhya Pradesh, Shivraj Singh Chouhan, expressed his regret over what had happened and announced compensation payments to the families of those killed and to individuals who were injured.

India’s Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, said in a statement: “On this day of festivities, our hearts and prayers are with the victims and their families.”

Mr Arya the policeman, denied that the police had charged at the pilgrims and said there had been “no baton-charge”.

But one eye witness, Manoj Sharma, who lives in the Datia area and who had gone to the temple with friends, told the Times of India newspaper that a police baton-charge “during the panic worsened the situation, forcing many to jump off the bridge”

Hindus have been celebrating the end of the Navaratri festival, dedicated to the worship of the god Durga, which draws millions of worshippers to temples especially in northern India.

Religious festivals frequently attract huge crowds and one of the most important logistical tasks for organisers and police is preventing people from being crushed. Yet all too often, such festivities end in tragedy.

In 2008, more than 220 people were killed in a stampede at the Chamunda Devi Hindu temple inside Jodhpur's famous Mehrangarh Fort.

In the spring of 2010, dozens were killed at a temple at Kunda, around 100 miles south of Lucknow, as people gathered to collect meals and clothes that were being distributed to mark the anniversary of the death of the wife of the temple’s founder, a popular local religious leader.

In February, at least 36 people were killed at a train station as they tried to make their way home from the massive Kumbh Mela religious festival on the banks of the river Ganges at Allahabad.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Does earning a 6 figu...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss