The train accident became a political blame game with the Opposition holding Punjab’s Congress government responsible for allowing a Dussehra event near railway tracks and accusing ex-MLA Navjot Kaur Sidhu of running away from the site.
Ms. Sidhu, wife of Punjab Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu who was the chief guest at the event, later talked to media at a hospital where injured were taken and said the incident happened after she had left.
“The effigy of Ravana was burnt and I had just left the site when the incident happened. Priority should be to get the injured treated,” she said.
She also asked people to refrain from politicising the tragedy.
Union Minister and Akali Dal leader Harsimrat Kaur Badal said the entire onus was on the State government.
“There are not enough words to mourn the Amritsar train tragedy that claims so many innocent lives. My deepest condolences to the families who lost their loved ones. The incident needs to be probed as it casts serious question on administration,” she tweeted.
Could have been avoided: Jaitley
BJP leader and Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the initial reports suggest it was a tragedy that could have been avoided.
Another Akali leader Bikram Majithia said he was distressed to hear the unfortunate news of the train accident.
“The authorities concerned must be held accountable for the ill-fated accident & strict action must be taken against the guilty police officers and organisers,” he said.
He demanded registration of a case against Ms. Sidhu. “I demand immediate registration of case against people present on the stage including Mrs Sidhu and arrest of those who gave permission for holding function near rail track.”
Mr. Majithia also targeted Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh. “Heads need to roll right from the top,” Mr. Majithia said.
Union Minister Vijay Sampla also lashed out at Ms. Sidhu.
“The most condemnable and inhuman behaviour is of Navjot Kaur Sidhu who was present at the Dusshera festival as chief guest at the time of the accident and instead of providing relief to the victims, she ran away from the incident site,” claimed Mr. Sampla.
Some Opposition leaders also alleged that the Dussehra was organised by the Congress near the tracks without receiving any proper approval.
Badal demands inquiry by retired judge
Former Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal demanded an inquiry by a retired high court judge to fix responsibility and punish the guilty.
His son and senior party leader Sukhbir Singh Badal said he was extremely sad to hear the unfortunate incident.
“Local organisers and police must answer how the celebrations were allowed to be held near the railway track,” he said on Twitter.
At least 52 people were killed and 72 injured Friday evening after a crowd of Dussehra revellers that had spilled onto railway tracks while watching burning of Ravana effigy was run over by a train near here, officials said.
The train was coming from Jalandhar to Amritsar when the incident occurred at Joda Phatak where at least 300 people were watching ‘Ravana dahan’ at a ground near the tracks.
Sub Divisional Magistrate Amritsar I. Rajesh Sharma said 52 people have died and at least 72 injured have been admitted to Amritsar hospital.
All major parties including the BJP, the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) said they have asked their respective local party workers to help in relief and rescue operation.
The AAP too held the Punjab government responsible for the accident.
AAP MLA Harpal Singh Cheema and its MP Bhangwant Maan expressed deep condolences over the deaths but blamed the district administration for the deaths as it allowed people to burn effigies close to railway tracks.
The AAP leaders demanded a judicial probe into the incident and punishment for the guilty. They also demanded a compensation of Rs 1 crore and a government job to one family member of those dead.