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Updated: January 18, 2011 23:19 IST

A pilgrimage that will haunt him for long

R. Vimal Kumar
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S. Paramasivam. Photo: M. Balaji
The Hindu S. Paramasivam. Photo: M. Balaji

Eyewitness recalls stampede at Pulmedu

For S. Paramasivam, this year's pilgrimage to Sabarimala for Makarajyothi will remain in memory for long. Images of the stampede at Pulmedu will keep haunting him, though he escaped with minor injuries.

A farmer and realtor at Uthukuli in Tirupur District, Mr. Paramasivam was on his annual pilgrimage on the tragic night of January 14. He has been a regular since 1991. That night, he escaped owing to “Lord Ayyappa's grace,” he claims. Seemingly shaken by what he went through, Mr. Paramasivam said: “I escaped with minor injuries only because I managed to slip into the space between two parked vehicles.”

Narrating what he saw and experienced at Pulmedu, Mr. Paramasivam told The Hindu at his home on Tuesday that unwarranted urgency among devotees led to the stampede. Some of them pushed a jeep that was haphazardly parked on the way, and the vehicle tumbled over.

“The jeep started rolling into the crowd and knocked down many people to death,” he said.

The vehicle was pushed by a crowd that wanted to escape the stampede.

Biggest crowd

People were rushing back home through Pulmedu after witnessing the Jyothi. Mr. Paramasivam said this was the biggest crowd he saw at Pulmedu, after his pilgrimage through this spot in 1994 and 2009.

“One can imagine the damage three lakh people rushing downhill can cause, especially when there is no lighting and with shops encroaching the pathway,” he said.

Despite such a crowd, only two or three policemen were posted at the spot. There were no medical facilities, ambulances or water, he claimed. People could not use their mobile phones to request for help because there was no coverage. Mr. Paramasivam said he was willing to depose before any judicial commission that would probe the incident, so that the authorities concerned would prevent its recurrence.

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