Human riot at Vaishno Devi temple kills 12 people

In the early hours of Saturday morning, twelve people were killed in a riot at a religious shrine in India. Officials say tens of thousands of pilgrims have gathered to pray.

At dawn at 3 a.m. local time, the tragedy unfolded en route to Vaishno Devi, one of the Hindu shrines in Indian-administered Kashmir. Millions of pilgrims visit the sanctuary every year.

“People stumbled on each other. “The tangled arms and legs were difficult to identify,” Ravinder told AFP by telephone.

“I helped collect eight bodies until the ambulances arrived in about 30 minutes. The memory of what I saw still leaves me shocked, he said.

Frightened pilgrims clung to metal beams to escape the rush, and small blue-light ambulances gleamed in the darkness as they tried to rush to hospitals through huge crowds.

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According to officials, the incident was caused by a clash between two groups of young people and a rush of people on New Year’s Eve.

Dilbag Singh told the Press Trust of India news agency that police and officials responded quickly to the clash and immediately restored order to the crowd. “By that time, however, the damage had already been done.”

Witnesses claimed that the authorities were inadequately organized, a claim denied by the sanctuary administration.

In addition, about a dozen people were injured.

Sites of the Saints

The Hindu country of India is scattered with millions of sanctuaries, from the Himalayas to the jungles of the south.

Some of these sites are important places of worship and the Hindu nationalist government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has significantly improved infrastructure to allow easier access.

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A daily pilgrimage of about 100,000 people to the temple of Vaishno Devi took place before the pandemic.

Witnesses and press reports reported that the daily limit of 25,000 may have been exceeded several times.

Hundreds of thousands of people attended the event. “The registration cards of the faithful were not checked,” said Ravinder, who gave only one name.

He says he has been there many times, but he has never seen such a rush of people.

At first, people could not see (what was happening) until we lifted a dead body with our hands.

An additional witness from Ghaziabad outside New Delhi said there was clearly “mismanagement”.

“They should have stopped the crowd if they had known there was so much crowding,” the man said without giving his name.

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Helicopter or horse

More than 370 Hindus were killed in two riots in India in 2008 alone. More than 100 people were killed in Kerala in 2011 and in Madhya Pradesh two years later.

About 60 km from Jammu is the shrine of Vaishno Devi, an incarnation of the Hindu goddess Vaishnavi. In 2018, 8.5 million people visited the sanctuary.

After reaching the nearby town of Katra, people ascend for about 15 miles on foot or by pony – there is also a helicopter service – along a spiral full of benches and monkeys.

It may take hours to reach the entrance of the cave after reaching it.

Shortly before he was elected, Monti drove a pony to the temple wearing a saffron scarf.

On Twitter he expressed his regret for the tragedy.

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