The Kumbh festival begins on Sankranti day. Come on January 15, the sound of conch and slokas would reverberate on the banks of ‘Sangam’, the confluence of Ganga, Jamuna, and Saraswati at Prayagraj. Hundreds of thousands of devotees and pilgrims would take the Holy dip that day to herald the Kumbh this year. Pilgrims would converge at the Kumbh from all over the country and from abroad. Many will come as ‘tourists’ to watch the humongous assembly of people at one place.
The legend has it that anyone who with pious thought takes three dips in Sangam attains the ‘Moksha’, freeing oneself from the cycle of birth and rebirth.
Organising a religious congregation of this scale where millions of people gather is a big challenge for any government and administration. Preparations for Kumbh begins the year ahead of the event. Interestingly, there is little or no publicity of Kumbha Mela except for few advertisements in newspapers, journals, and television in form of greetings. Yet, millions of people are drawn to this event. It is a challenging work for those officers, staff, and workers responsible for security and safety of pilgrims and visitors to prevent any untoward incident. The situation has to be kept under control. The risk factor is overcrowding of the place. Managing the crowd by keeping the people under control is the first to step to prevent any untoward incident.
In 1954 Kumbh at Prayagraj, many people had died when the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru visited Kumbh for a dip. People approaching the bank of the river were stopped because of the presence of Prime Minister at the site. There was stampede resulting in the death of a large number of pilgrims. A similar incident happened in 1980 when the pilgrims were stopped from going to the bank because of the presence of the then chief minister of Uttar Pradesh Veer Bahadur Singh.
Such incidents do happen in the religious congregation of large scale. But such an incident can be prevented if the administration and the security forces learn the art of managing and controlling the crowd at the given place.
It has been noticed that most of the incident of stampede happened in the past because there were not enough exit route from the place. When the crowd is huge and the passage for exit is narrow any rumour or accident will lead to a stampede. The event of this scale gives the opportunity to anti-social elements and mischief mongers to create panic causing a stampede. The administration needs to keep a close watch on the situation. There has to be a concrete plan to prevent any such incident.
According to Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, all measures have been taken to prevent any such incident. Police, Administration, and Health Department have prepared a joint preventive action plan to ensure a peaceful and uninterrupted flow of pilgrims to the banks of the Sangam. Besides this, the Army and the Air Force will also be on standby during the festival.
On certain days of the Kumbh, some ‘Snans’ (Bath) are important like Shahi Snan. There are eight important Snans during the Kumbh. The first important Snan will be on Sankranti day when Kumbh begins. This is also known as Shahi Snan and Rajyogi Snan. After this, there will be Paush Purnima Snan on the full moon day. Then on Paush Ekadashi day that falls on January 31.
The fourth major Snan will be on the day of Mauni Amavasya. Then another important Snan will be on the day of Basant Panchami which we also celebrate as Saraswati Puja.
The administration will have to ensure enough space for exit route beside emergency or alternative exit points in case of overcrowding. One precaution has to be taken by the devotees also; that is to avoid rushing to a point which is already overcrowded.
One should also know that accident or stampede do happen at any religious event of large scale not only in India but also in foreign countries. In 2004 and in 2006 many people had died during the stampede in the Mecca during an event known as “killing the saitan’.
It is obvious the enemies of humanity and enemies of our country will have evil eyes on the Kumbh Mela. We have to defeat these forces. It was a good step by the state administration to have given training to all those deployed on Kumbh duty by the trainers of Nation Security Guard and the Indian Army.
It is likely that people of the new generation may not be aware of a major stampede in Kumbh in1954. It was the day of Mauni Amavasya, February 3, 1954. The then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru visited Sangam and decided to take a dip before the Shahi Snan of Sadhus. The Sadhus and others were stopped from going to the Sangam. That led to stampede killing many people. The Nagas (Sadhus) were with their elephants which ran amok. There were other Sadhus also belonging to Akharas who too were also stopped for some time from taking bath. The Sadhus got angry causing the stampede.
Whether they are Netas or Abhinetas (actors), this VVIP class should desist from jumping the queue in all places. But this class of VVIP is in the habit of breaking queue which they consider as their birthright.
The administration has put restrictions on VVIP entering the Sangam for Snan on important days.
(The writer is a Member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha)
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