In Pics: Pilgrims Can’t Reach Sangam Due to Overcrowding at Kumbh
“Bridge No. 19 ke baad auto nehi jayegi, Sangama tak paedal jaana padega.” (No autos are plying beyond Gate No. 19. You have to walk across the bridge to reach the Sangam area.)
Prepared to walk miles, I set off for the Triveni Sangam or the holy confluence point of the three rivers that meet in Prayagraj – Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati. Only to be stopped by the police from crossing over the temporary pontoon bridges. Reason? There were too many people on the other side and the police feared there could be a stampede due to overcrowding.
Hundreds of pilgrims were temporarily not allowed to cross over the pontoon bridges to reach the Triveni Sangam a day before the second Shahi Snan day at Kumbh Mela in Prayagraj. The city is expecting a footfall of at least 2-3 crore people for the occasion.
Confused and tired from walking stretches with their belongings, there were at least a thousand people who were stranded on the bank opposite to the main mela ground.
Natthi (27), who has come to take a holy dip at the Triveni Sangam, all the way from a remote village in Madhya Pradesh, complains that there is no proper instruction from the administration on how to reach the other bank. “Some police officials are saying this bridge is open, someone else is saying that bridge is open. Nobody is telling us where should we go. How do we reach the other bank? We have come from very far. We are just walking from one bridge entrance to another.”
The only other way to reach the Triveni Sangam were the ferry boats which were also stopped owing to tremendous congestion. A police official, who did not want to be named, said, “We are helpless. If we allow more people to cross over the bridge, there could be a stampede. We have stalled any entry to the other side till we clear the crowd.”
At least 42 people were killed in a stampede that broke out at the then Allahabad station during the Maha Kumbh Mela in 2013.
Police said people will be allowed to enter for the Shahi Snan on Monday morning and the operations will resume after 3-4 hours.
(This reporter travelled to Kumbh as a part of the UP Tourism’s Travel Writers’ Conclave)