Jammu: J&K politicians, including four ex-Chief Ministers and political parties have expressed shock and grief over the loss of 12 lives and injuries to several others in an unfortunate incident of stampede at Mata Vaishno Devi shrine in Katra on Saturday.
Expressing solidarity with the bereaved families, they also asked the J&K administration to swiftly identify the causes and address them, besides taking steps to prevent recurrence of such incidents. Senior BJP leaders including J&K unit president Ravinder Raina, Devender Singh Rana and Surjeet Singh Slathia also visited Katra and met the victims of the tragedy.
Jammu and Kashmir National Conference party president and Member of Parliament Dr Farooq Abdullah and vice president Omar Abdullah, while expressing grief and anguish over the deaths of pilgrims in the stampede, asked the government to intensify the underway relief efforts for injured.
Condoling the deaths in the stampede, the duo conveyed their condolences to family members of the deceased and wished a speedy recovery of the injured. The duo also sought a thorough inquiry into the unfortunate incident. They also asked the administration to ensure best medical treatment to the injured.
Former Member Parliament Dr Karan Singh said that he was “deeply shocked to learn of the unfortunate stampede at Shri Mata Vaishno Devi resulting in the deaths and injury to several pilgrims.” “My deep sympathy with the families of those who lost their lives and my prayers for the rapid recovery of the injured. I pray to Shri Mata Vaishno Devi to bestow her blessings on us all in the New Year that begins today,” Dr Karan Singh stated.
Former Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, while expressing his heartfelt grief on the tragic incident, demanded adequate compensation to the family members of those deceased and proper medical attention to those who were injured.
“I am sure that the UT authorities will press all available resources into action and take immediate remedial measures. My heart goes out for those who lost their loved ones. The injured should be given immediate medical attention” Azad said.
Another former Chief Minister and PDP president Mehbooba Mufti shared her condolences on her Twitter handle. “I am also saddened by the tragic accident at Vaishno Devi & neither the administration nor the police are carrying out their duties. Instead, they are engrossed in threatening people into silence. My condolences to the families of those who lost their lives,” PDP president tweeted.
Apni Party president Syed Mohammad Altaf Bukhari too expressed profound condolences with the bereaved families who lost their loved ones in the stampede and also prayed for the speedy recovery of the injured. “I am deeply saddened by this most unfortunate incident at Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine in which a dozen pilgrims have died. The government must ensure that adequate compensation is provided to the next of their kin besides putting up an inquiry in this matter. Furthermore, the local administration must take pre-emptive measures in order to avoid such mishaps to recur in the future,” Bukhari said.
JKPCC president Ghulam Ahmad Mir, Peoples Conference chief Sajad Lone said the incident was unfortunate and expressed their condolences to the bereaved families.
Mir termed it as a “result of the grave negligence on the part of the administration and management” and demanded a high level probe into the tragedy. He demanded adequate ex-gratia relief of Rs 50 lakh for the NoK of those killed and Rs 10 lakh for the seriously injured.
NC general secretary Ali Muhammad Sagar, additional general secretary Dr Sheikh Mustafa Kamal, provincial presidents Nasir Aslam Wani, Rattan Lal Gupta, spokesperson Imran Nabi Dar, YNC PP Jammu Ajaz Jan, Minority Wing president MK Yogi also condoled the deaths and expressed solidarity with the bereaved. The functionaries also sought best medical treatment to the injured.
JKPCC working president Raman Bhalla, chief spokesperson Ravinder Sharma, general secretaries Yogesh Sawhney and Manmohan Singh, treasurer Rajnish Sharma, AICC Seva Dal chief Lal Ji Desai and J&K Seva Dal Chief Vijay Sharma expressed deep shock over the tragedy and shared deep sympathies with families of those killed. They also prayed for early recovery of the injured .
J&K BJP president Ravinder Raina and senior party leaders Devender Singh Rana and Surjeet Singh Slathia separately visited Katra hospital where the injured were admitted and the Katra base camp nearby.
Describing the tragedy as very grave, Rana said the people of Jammu and Kashmir, as also the country were shell-shocked over the incident, first of its kind at the shrine and were praying for peace to the departed souls and speedy recovery of those injured.
“We also join the compatriots in sharing the agony and expressing solidarity with the families who have lost their kin in the tragedy,” Rana said while interacting with the media persons at Katra Hospital. To questions by the reporters, Rana said that this was not the time to indulge in blame-game. “The administration and Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board are taking all necessary measures to ensure that the mortal remains of the deceased reach their homes in a dignified manner and the injured go back to their homes cured,” Rana said.
He said, “Mata Vaishno Devi Ji is a matter of faith for millions across the globe and no politics must be played here and all must uphold the sanctity of the shrine.” Earlier, Rana joined by Surjeet Singh Slathia, made enquiries at Narayana Hospital about the health of those injured and spoke to doctors about the status of the injured. BJP leaders were accompanied by Som Nath Khajuria, Dharamveer Singh Jamwal and other party colleagues.
Meanwhile the PDP faulted the police and administration and said such “mismanagement” had been unheard of in recent times. “Our heartfelt condolences go out to the families who lost their loved ones & pray for speedy recovery of the injured,” the party said in a tweet.
Srinagar Mayor Junaid Azim Mattu also expressed grief over the incident. “Deeply saddened by the tragic loss of lives at Mata Vaishno Devi Bhawan at Katra due to a stampede. My heartfelt condolences with the families of the deceased and my prayers for those who are injured,” Mattu wrote on Twitter.
The Working Committee of J&K National Panthers Party made an appeal to the President of India Ramnath Kovind to appoint at least 3 Judges of the High Court to inquire into the circumstances of the incident. Prof Bhim Singh president-JKNPP offered free assistance to the J&K Legal Aid Committee, being headed by him to the Board so that the truth could be established and faith of the pilgrims in the Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine remained unshaken forever.
Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Jammu unit termed this tragedy as a failure on the part of the administration and demanded a high level to fix responsibility.
“It is not an accident but a man-made tragedy because those at the helm of the affairs are responsible for the first-ever stampede at the holy cave shrine”, PDP leaders said in a joint statement while expressing shock over the incident.
Later a team of PDP leaders led by Choudhary Hamid visited the Katra and inquired about the conditions of those injured in the tragedy.