Amritsar (Punjab): Congress leader Saurabh Madaan, who had organised the Amritsar Dussehra celebration on the Dhobi Ghat grounds where more than 60 people died after a train ran over the people standing on the tracks watching ‘Ravan Dahan’, was aware of the people standing on the tracks and yet did little about it, an audio accessed by a leading portal indicated.
In the audio, Madaan could be heard boasting about the people standing on the tracks. In an apparent address to Congres leader Navjot Kaur Sidhu, who was the chief guest at the Dussehra event, Madaan could be heard saying: “Madam look here! These people don’t care about standing on the tracks. Even if 500 trains pass by, over 5000 will be standing here for you.”
Meanwhile, Municipal corporation councilor Vijay Madan and her son Sourabh Madan Mithu, the main organisers of the Dussehra celebration in Amritsar, have gone underground with other family members. The family is untraceable since a few people angry over the accident attacked their residence, broke window panes and threw stones.
Earlier in the day, Rajesh Honey, a spokesperson of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) who was present on the ground when the tragedy happened, alleged that Navjot Kaur Sidhu continued to give a speech even when many people were struck down by the train.
Sidhu, however, rejected the claims and lashed out at the BJP leader saying she had left the grounds 15 minutes before the incident took place and came to know about the deaths after returning home. “I called the Police Commissioner and I asked if I should come back, but he said there was way too much chaos. So I decided that I should at least save the ones who were injured, and take them to the hospital for treatment,” a leading portal quoted Navjot Kaur Sidhu as saying.
Earlier in the day, it was reported that the Congress leader admitted that he didn’t inform the railways about the event. He said that he had informed the police and had taken their permission for the event but not the railways. “Our function had nothing to do with the railways. Whatever happened was an accident,” he said. Claiming that there were over 40 policemen present at the event site when the train mowed down over 50 people, he told The Print, “I met DCP (Amrik Singh) Powar before organising the whole thing.”
Railway Board Chairman Ashwani Lohani said in a statement that the railway was not intimated about a Dussehra event along the tracks. “There was no information and no permission sought from us. The event took place at a place adjoining the railway land in private property,” he said.
Explaining that the Amritsar train tragedy took place at a stretch between two stations and not at a level crossing, he said, “At midsections, trains run at their assigned speed and people are not expected to be on the tracks. At midsections, there is no railway staff posted. We have staff at level crossings whose job is to regulate traffic.” He added that if the driver had applied emergency brakes, it would have led to an even bigger tragedy.
Soon after the railways said that the organiser of the event didn’t inform it about the celebrations, Amritsar Municipal Corporation denied giving permission for organising the event. “Nobody was given the permission for organising the Dussehra event. Moreover, nobody had applied for the permission with the Amritsar Municipal Corporation,” commissioner Sonali Giri said.
Meanwhile, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh said on Saturday the Jalandhar Divisional Commissioner will conduct an inquiry within four weeks into the Amritsar train tragedy in which over 60 people were crushed by a speeding train.
On Friday, 700 people watching a huge Ravan effigy go up in flames amid exploding crackers spilled on to the tracks at Jora Phatahk when the passenger train heading to Hoshiarpur from Amritsar came hurtling down around 7 PM. Most people reportedly could not hear the hooting of the train due to the exploding crackers.