Amritsar train tragedy: Train driver detained, questioned

The process of declassifying secret government files on Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose will begin on 23 January 2016

The process of declassifying secret government files on Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose will begin on 23 January 2016

At least 62 people were killed Friday evening after a crowd of Dussehra revellers that had spilled onto railway tracks while watching the burning of the Ravana effigy was run over by a train near Joda Phatak here.

A witness said the train did not sound its whistle as it sped past the site, where hundreds were watching the burning of an effigy of demon Ravana during the Hindu festival of Dussehra.

The people who were hit could not see or hear the train due to the exploding crackers.

Bikram Singh Majitha, a leader of the regional Akali Dal party, said the effigy burning usually happens at sunset, not later.

A Railways official said no inquiry will be conducted by the Commission of Railway Safety, that works under the administrative control of the Ministry of Civil Aviation.

Police said they were still looking to ascertain the death toll, as some bodies were mangled beyond recognition.

The Railway Board chairman said at Jora Phatak the Jalandhar-Amritsar Diesel Multiple Unit (DMU) passenger train which was running at its assigned speed, its loco-pilot applied brakes to slow it down.

Asked why the Chief Minister reached Amritsar after 16 hours of the tragedy, he said, "I was supposed to go to Tel Aviv (Israel)". One security personnel was injured after protesters pelted stones on police when being asked to clear railway tracks where they were protesting against the train accident. In the CCTV footage, Sourabh Madan Mithu, the person who organised the whole event can be seen escaping in an SUV.

The protestors had threatened to block all train traffic unless action was taken against railway officials and organisers of the Dussehra committee. "There was no notice given to the railways", he told reporters as he visited the site early on Saturday, surrounded by officials and police.

India's huge railway network is notorious for accidents, including scores who die while crossing the tracks illegally or falling off over-capacity trains. "There is no way he could have stopped the train", Singh said.

As the effigy was lit and the fireworks went off, a section of the crowd started retreating towards the tracks where a large number of people were already standing.

The local government has describing the incident as tragic and ordered an inquiry into the accident.

Railway authorities in Punjab and New Delhi defended themselves saying that they had not been informed about the Dusshera event at that spot and the local police did not prevent the people from coming on the railway tracks.

Meanwhile, the event devolved into political mudslinging, as BJP demanded the arrest of former MLA Navjot Kaur Sidhu, the wife of Punjab minister Navjot Singh Sidhu, who was the chief guest at the event held on Friday.

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