Thursday, Aug 28, 2003
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By Mahesh Vijapurkar
Lakhs of devotees had gathered on the banks of the Godavari for the `maha snan' or holy bath. Over 30,000 pilgrims were being held back by barricades in a narrow street leading to the Ramkund, a holy spot, so that the sadhus could take the ceremonial dip first. It is said that a sadhu threw some silver coins into the crowd, and the scramble for the coins led to the stampede. Most of the victims are said to have died of asphyxiation.
An estimated 70,000 sadhus were to take a dip in the Ramkund. The waiting crowd of devotees had become restive as the sadhus took a long time to take the dip. When the authorities felt that sadhus belonging to a particular sect, who had decided to boycott the `maha snan' would stay away, they began to allow people to the river. Then all of a sudden, the sadhus of that sect arrived and asserted their right for priority in taking their dip, adding to the confusion. It was at this moment that someone threw what appeared to be silver coins towards the waiting crowd.
The Maharashtra Government today announced an ex-gratia of Rs. two lakhs to the families of those killed in the stampede.
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