At least three persons, including a child, were killed and eight others were severely injured in a stampede at a blanket distribution centre at the industrial township of Asansol in West Bengal’s West Burdwan district on Wednesday evening.
The chief guest at the function was Leader of Opposition in Assembly, Suvendu Adhikari. Local BJP leader and Asansol Municipal Corporation’s former Mayor Jitendra Tiwrai was also present on the occasion. The stampede happened after Adhikari left the spot which witnessed an assembly of around 5,000 persons.
According to eyewitnesses, the programme was going on peacefully till the time Adhikari was on the spot. However, after he left, there was a rush to grab the blankets meant for distribution which resulted in the accident.
Meanwhile, the Police Commissioner, Asansol-Durgapur, Sudheer Kumar Neelkantam claimed that there was no police permission for the said programme. “Three persons have already been reported to be killed in the stampede. No one gave a written application for permission for the programme. The police were just verbally intimated. The stampede took place because of overcrowding,” he said.
However, Tiwari claimed that he personally sent a letter to the Commissionerate informing the authorities about the event way back on December 3. “However, the police did not give us any intimation that the programme cannot be conducted. There was enough time for the police to reply to our letter. Had the police informed us that permission had been denied, we should have taken steps accordingly,” he said.
Trinamool Congress leaders claimed that this is why the state administration is often reluctant to give permission to the BJP for conducting such mass programmes.
However, senior BJP leader and former national Secretary, Rahul Sinha said that there might be some conspiracy of the state’s ruling party in the incident.
Of the three killed, two have been identified as Chandmoni Devi and Preeti Singh. The identity of the third deceased is yet to be known.
Asansol Deputy Mayor, Avijit Ghatak said that there should be an investigation on how the stampede took place. However, he denied knowledge on whether the programme was being conducted without police permission.