BHOPAL, INDIA // Indian police and government officials were suspended over a stampede near a temple that killed at least 115 people as recriminations fly over the country’s latest religious festival disaster.
Twenty-one people, including all 17 policemen from the Ratangarh station, were suspended after devotees were crushed to death or drowned on Sunday near the temple in the central state of Madhya Pradesh.
Outrage has been mounting over the tragedy in Ratangarh town, site of another deadly stampede seven years ago, with authorities under fire over policing levels following claims the panic was aggravated by police charging the pilgrims with batons.
“We have suspended the entire staff of the concerned police station which includes two sub-inspectors and 15 other officers for not doing their duty of regulating the crowd and preventing the stampede,” said DK Arya, the deputy police inspector general.
A commission of inquiry was expected to include the policemen in its investigation into exactly what happened and who was to blame.
“It is going to be difficult for these men as a judicial commission will now probe the role of these officers who have been removed from their posts,” Mr Arya said.
The state government said it was also suspending four officials: the collector of Datia district, the subdivisional magistrate and two police officers.
The government released announced the suspensions on Monday after the chief minister was heckled during a tour of one of the hospitals where victims were being treated.
India has a long history of deadly stampedes at religious festivals, with at least 36 people trampled to death in February as pilgrims headed home from the Kumbh Mela religious festival on the banks of Ganges.
* Agence France-Presse