Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The horror of stampedes...

In an attempt to implement my resolution on becoming more regular in blogging, I had decided I should put something up these 2 days (hols, u know…). Of course, I had thought I should finish the story that I had been trying to complete for very long. But as usual, "The Hindu" came in my way, and made me change topics yet again. Yes, it was the Chamunda Devi stampede…

For those of u who did not check the news, 147 people (not considering the confusion about the exact number) died in a stampede yesterday at the Chamunda Devi temple, Jodhpur, Rajasthan. (The picture accompanying the article in the paper is quite horrible, and is sure to make you frown, but then, it depicts the situation quite well. Not putting it up, as I don’t believe in sadism!)

The first question that came to my mind when I saw the paper was- "Is it right to stamp a hundred people just to have a glimpse at the lord? " Would a God really save you only if you visit his temple on the first day of Navarathri? I did not think about the relief measures, only about what I’d have done, had I been there. Most victims were trampled or suffocated. But was it worth it? I mean, is standing in a crushing crowd justified by the darshan of the lord on an auspicious day? Maybe, I am not devotional enough! But then, what could anyone have done once they were part of the crowd? I don’t think there was any option but to continuously push, thrust and move forward, once the stampede began. But then, the photo returns to my mind…

Imagine the horror of having hundreds of people walk right over you! I know it is gruesome. I know it is not something we’d like to talk about. But that’s how most important topics are- "we don’t wanna talk about them!" It’s so safe and comfortable to pull the mask of civilization over our faces and evade the responsibility. Child abuse?- C’mon… No "respectable" girl writes that on her blog; only weirdo feminists! Foeticide? Eve teasing? –Oh, pulee..eez.. grow up! And legalizing homosexuality? –I can already see "taboo" on your face. Not that we don’t talk about these issues. Only, not in public; or mixed company. It is so easy to be able to walk into star hotels and have oh!-so-romantic candlelight dinners and enjoy the luxuries money can buy us, and talk about the nuke deal and be called intellectual anyway. Why write dark stuff on your blog? After all, it’s more enjoyable (even for the author) to write humour, ManU, movies and college news on his blog. And definitely so much easier (read fun) to read?!! Well, I guess someone has to do the dirty work, but maybe we are digressing too much…

Any mass debacle is sad. But an earthquake or flood is not really in our hands. We are still not equipped enough to put out the fire of nature’s fury in such cases. However, a stampede is caused by men. N not world leaders greedy for power. (How easy it usually is, to talk about World War II and say all the destruction was caused because one man named Hitler got greedy! The picture of a power hungry politician causing a mass massacre is such an easy one to paint and shrug the guilt off your safe guileless shoulders…) But, in a stampede, there really is no politician to blame. It is plain obvious that it was caused by another so-called common man, who very well could have been u or me! It’s just lucky that we didn’t go to the Chamunda Devi temple yesterday. But there are millions of temples across the length and breadth of our country, and hundreds of ‘special pujas’ that offer innumerable occasions for stampedes to occur. No, I don’t mean to psyche you out in Reader’s Digest style, and say that each of us is guilty and must be punished- that is not really necessary! But then, we very well could have been the cause. I know so many of my friends who push their way to the front in queues. And that is precisely how the stampede began yesterday: somebody in the queue wanted to get the darshan over with asap, and decided to push his way through. And the others followed. This happens at temples most of the time- maybe standing in queues just doesn’t suit the Indian temperament! And the worst part is that, once u are in the queue, even if u don’t wanna push, u are sure to get rammed.

However, the story doesn’t end here. What about the victims? Of course, the government pays them a lakh in compensation. For one thing, the money won’t’ last long; what with inflation still not under control. And for another, there is always the cliché I can quote- that any life is too valuable to lose. What if there was a boy in the crowd, on whose salary his family depended? Ok, that is old fashioned. What if there was a youngster all brainy who could have invented a new generation of computers and changed the way the world runs? Those of us who believe in God can only hope he isn’t THAT cruel. Or maybe, our governments should think of offering jobs and not money in compensation. (I will not talk about the ordeal of getting the compensation money, for that is another long story).

Then there was the lawyer (or former judge or somebody) who had been asked to submit a report about the debacle. Honestly I don’t see the point. How many government executives read these reports? And how much action is taken based on them? And come on, what can the report contain- figures of numbers attended, injured, died; a theory for the cause of the accident and suggestions that nobody implements anyway? Nobody can report the failures, the dreams that became castles in the air, shattered down to dust, the hopes, the ambitions, and all the happiness that was lost. And is this report all the answer that we have got, to give the innocent victims?

But really, what else should have been done? The authorities have said that "temples should have better arrangements for devotees on special puja occasions!" Now, (Forgiving the innate Indian tendency to take measures post- crisis) that does make sense, but it only brings me back to square one. What can a host of guards do if hundreds of devotees decide to shove their way in? Isn’t it more the fault of the devotees than the authorities? Isn’t it more the small fault in your and my mindsets that grew up to such horrendous proportions?

Ok, so what can we do? Start respecting queues and hope that since you have done your bit, the world shall do its. I know it sounds old fashioned and straight out of a sermon to say ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you’, but then it does seem to work in our world. Or at least, let’s hope it does…


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Some theists get away from the big question " Why in the temple of all places?" with the age old cliche 'karma'.Talking in their terms its like lulling ppl with bad karma in their accounts into one place and be done with them.
    Giving such bland reasons can only kill the inherent humanity in anyone that is the only source of actual divinty in today's world!

  3. @ priyadarshini:
    Hear! Hear! :)
    I really agree. Ppl seem to use 'karma' as a sorta explanation for anything here reason fails! It's only pseudo logic, if I can call it that!!!

  4. I remember, not very long ago, a girl who used to call such kinda stuff or views & reasoning as "PEDAGOGICAL"...
    [Remember her???]

    Well, I can't help but wonder what she'd have to say about this post of yours....

  5. @ navin
    Hmmm... either she is long lost or asleep.. in any case, she doesn't seem to ve noticed anythin... so lets jus leave her to her own sweet self... :) :D :P


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