The police establishment monitoring the Godavari Pushkaram control room in Rajahmundry got into a tizzy over a series of security scares on Thursday. Already nervous since Tuesday’s stampede, police nerves were further frazzled after the discovery of a revolver at a bathing ghat ahead of a visit to the area by Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu, a suicide attempt by a home guard and rumours of a policeman opening fire at a bathing ghat.
Police wireless sets began to crackle early in the morning after a young fisherman trying to retrieve coins thrown into the Godavari by pilgrims found a cloth bag with a revolver in it. This discovery, at the Dandakunta Revu (ghat) in Kovvur, 2 km from Goshpada Revu, which the Chief Minister was due to visit an hour later, made the police scurry to the area.
After inspecting the weapon, West Godavari superintendent of police Bhaskar Bhushan told mediapersons that it was of a crude make but an investigation would be carried out to ascertain its owner besides determining how it found its way to the ghats past the security ring.
The news spread like wild fire, to which rumours rising from the bathing ghats added more fuel. Rajahmundry, the main Pushkaram city, was agog with rumours that a constable had opened fire at the Pushkar Ghat, the very place where a stampede killed 28 people on Tuesday.
Police communications lines buzzed with inquiries and instructions for hours after about the incident, which turned out to be a rumour.
Asked about the ‘shooting’, a police officer on duty at the ghat said the rumour probably began with a scroll run by a TV news channel.
Another development that added to policemen’s stress was the suicide attempt by a constable who had not been given leave to attend to a domestic problem. He drank pesticide in the early hours of Thursday and tried to commit suicide and he was immediately rushed to hospital by other policemen who shared accommodation with him.
Hoax calls also added to the stress of the police. One call alerted police to a bomb placed in one of the rescue boats at a ghat. A bomb disposal squad was rushed to the ghat and all the boats there were searched. It proved to be hoax.