Killing In The Name : Who’s To Blame?

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One look at the table above, and we know exactly what religious gatherings in India mean. Yes, they mean devotion, they mean fun, they mean family time but the frequency of stampedes at such gatherings have given them a new meaning all together. In India, religious gatherings are now associated with such mishaps and heart wrenching incidences.

Once the living have dealt with their loss, starts the blame game. It is very difficult to place the blame on one particular head but we all know that the ultimate blame lands on the political head. Here, one should wonder, how correct is it to blame the CM of a state or the Officer – in – Charge for stampedes ? Most of the reports have shown that it is almost an impossible task to contain a rush, once thousands of people start pushing and pulling at each other. The truth is, that the crowd is equally at fault. Maybe not always, but mostly such stampedes could have been averted had the crowd acted a little more responsibly.

It is only when the crowd takes command, can safety be provided. The police cannot alone discipline a crowd as huge as this.

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Discipline. This is exactly where my analysis of the entire situation starts. The one thing that the general Indian crowd lacks is discipline. No one is ready to stand in a queue. The impatient crowd only keeps looking for a chance to break the line. This tendency gains more momentum if the event under consideration is a religious one. I have myself been to Deoghar, a place of great importance for Shiva devotees. Here, I noticed people weren’t jumping places to see their God first. No, they were not, infact they were literally hitting the person ahead of them to – it seemed snatch and take the “Shiva-ling” home. To be a great lover of Shiva or any other God is one thing, but to behave as such, it is no surprise that religious gatherings in India have always been marked by a stampede.

‘Stampede’ – the term itself is related to the behaviour of herd animals, therefore implies more towards instinctive behaviour, one that isn’t ruled by a proper conscious human behaviour. Therefore, lack of discipline only makes things worse.

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At times, rumours by some trouble makers have also led to stampedes. For example, at the Dushera stampede in Patna, word spread that two people had come in contact with naked wire. The fear of meeting the same fate, led to panic and hence the stampede. Similarly, the stampede on the bridge in Madhya Pradesh it seems, started when people spread the rumour that the bridge was about to collapse. “Panic” at times like this have always led to the worst. Panic being a purely psychological state, makes people more impulsive and barbaric. Here too, the fear of death made people push the people ahead, jump places and behave in such a way that ultimately led to the tragic demise of 89 people, many of which were small kids.

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It is true that, when gatherings as huge as this are taking place, the presence of a good number of cops are of utmost importance. There aren’t any definite figures available to prove the number of police men stationed at all these above mentioned stampede occurances. However, many a times like in the Dushera stampede in Patna, there have been contradicting claims from the eye-witnesses and the Officer-In-Charge about the security available at the time of the stampede. Although, I did say that once the crowd starts rushing, there isn’t much anyone can do about it but at the same time, the fact remains, that such situations wouldn’t arise if the security men are strict about discipline and rules. There is no doubt that it is difficult to contain such a huge crowd but it is not at all an impossible task. Similar gatherings and fests in other countries take place pretty smoothly as compared to India. So why can we not hold gatherings without getting killed?

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It has been found that most deaths in any stampede occur due to compressive asphyxiation i.e. Loss of consciousness due to difficulty in breathing. You are pushed and pulled from so many directions and by so many people, your lungs cannot keep up and it becomes difficult to breathe. The other major reason is, of course, trampling. It is mostly the kids and women who become victims of trampling.

The point is when we know the possible causes and the result of stampedes, what are the possible simple steps the organizing committee should take to prevent such tragic incidences. Crowd management strategies can and should be strengthened. Traffic control, like the use of barriers should be smartly used, so that the crowd is evenly dispersed and too much crowd in one particular region is avoided. Also, it is important that there be an official who is constantly vigilant and keeps directing the crowd. For such purposes a loud-speaker can be used or the officer could be watching from a raised platform. This is also important for another reason. Often in crowd, there is a loss of vision. People don’t know how much crowd is ahead of them, hence the people generally end up under-estimating the number of visitors. At times like this, it is, of course, helpful to have someone shouting out directives to the crowd .Though it is difficult in the Indian context, controlling the number of people visiting per day is also one method that could be adopted. A proper number of police men at all the possible corners specially the entrance and exits, and also the presence of ample number of exits is important.

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But most of all, it is important for people to behave. A disciplined crowd with proper civic behaviour is what truly defines these gatherings. Mischiefs like spreading a rumour will only result in tragedies that leave the living hurt and marred. We gain very little and lose a lot, for these incidences lead not only to loss of precious lives, but leave a deep psychological mark on the survivors. Hence, solely locating the cause is nothing short of selfishness. The long term aim of the organizers should be to go through the previous mis-management cases and not go wrong the next time. And like I said, for the crowd to not forget that they aren’t an isolated individual, but a part of a larger body.

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