10 injured as devotees jostle for ‘Vaikuntha Dwara Darshan’ tokens
Confusion reigned supreme following heavy demand for ‘Vaikuntha Dwara Darshan’ tokens leading to near-stampede causing injuries to 10 persons at the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam’s e-darshan centre here on Tuesday.
As there was unprecedented interest among the devotees to visit Tirumala on the occasion of Vaikuntha Ekadasi due to the belief that darshan on the auspicious day would absolve their sins and help attain salvation, the TTD centre at MVP Colony saw hundreds of people forming a serpentine queue from Monday evening itself.
TTD officials based in the city had announced earlier that they would issue 1,800 tokens through the e-darshan counter, each costing Rs.300 for Vaikuntha Dwara Darshan on December 23 and 24.
Trouble sparked off when TTD officials issued tokens for 50 minutes in the afternoon and resumed it after a 30-minute break due to commotion and utter chaos in the queue. One of the officials came out and announced on the public address system that they would suspend issuing tokens if there was no order in the queue.
Y. Sampat Kumar, an employee of Visakhapatnam Steel Plant, blamed the TTD officials for the unruly behaviour of the token-seekers.
“They should have deployed police on time to ward off an unpleasant situation,” he said. N. Varalakshmi, who goes to Tirumala regularly, said what happened on Tuesday was unfortunate and the stampede could have been prevented. To prevent stampede, police resorted to mild lathicharge. The situation went out of control with one group of pilgrims insisting on issuance of tokens as they were in the queue from Monday evening and the TTD insisting that it would give the tokens on ‘first come first serve’ basis.
After heavy jostling, some irate devotees at one point of time tried to gherao TTD officials and raised slogans against them for issuing tokens ‘out of turn’ to those known to them.
The last Vaikuntha Ekadasi was observed on January 5, 2012. It is a rare occurrence that two times Vaikuntha Ekadasi is being celebrated in one calendar year by allowing devotees to have Vaikuntha Dwara Darshan. The token quota was fixed for various areas by the TTD board.