Amritsar train tragedy: Event organiser releases video claiming innocence in hiding

The event organiser, Saurabh Madan Mithu of the Dussehra event in Amritsar, where almost 60 people were killed and injured by a passing train released a video while in hiding claiming his innocence

PTI photo
PTI photo

NH Web Desk

The event organiser, Saurabh Madan Mithu of the Dussehra event in Amritsar, where almost 60 people were killed and injured by a passing train released a video while in hiding claiming his innocence.

Saurabh Madan Mithu, says in the video that he had taken all the required permissions and had asked people to remain on the grounds where the event was taking place. “We had taken all the permissions and had alerted crowd at least 10 times to not stand on the railway tracks. The event was in the ground but people gathered on the tracks. The train came from nowhere and the tragedy happened. I am extremely pained by the incident,” he says, adding that there are certain people who are trying to defame him. “There are two to four people who are constantly trying to create enmity against me.”

Madan eventually breaks down in the video and asks people to not hold him responsible for the tragedy.

His claim of issuing multiple warnings, however, seemed to contradict a video from the evening of the accident where one of the organisers bragged to the chief guest, Congress leader and former lawmaker Navjot Kaur Sidhu, that the crowd there was so enthusiastic to see her that they would stand on the nearby railway tracks and not budge even if hundreds of trains pass by.

"Madam, look here, these people don't care about standing on tracks. Over 5,000 people are (standing) on (railway tracks) lines for you and even if 500 trains pass by, they will not move," the man was heard saying.

The tragedy occured on Friday, October 19 and has since caused an uproar in the state. A blame game erupted soon after with the Punjab CM Captain Amarinder Singh ordering a magisterial inquiry into the incident. He has also announced a monetary compensation for the families of the victims. He also defended Navjot Singh Sidhu whose wife was the chief guest at the event.

Navjot Singh Sidhu also said that it was a case of negligence but an unintentional one.

The Indian Railways has denied any responsibility for the accident and will not be providing any monetary compensation. The driver of the passenger train was detained and questioned. He released a statement on October 20, stating that he applied “emergency brakes” as he saw the crowd on the tracks but “still some people were caught in the path of the train”. He also said that he continuously blew the horn to get people off the tracks.

The Railways has said that it will not take any action against the driver because he had slowed the train down to around 68 kmph from 91 kmph. “The incident was not the Railways’ fault. There was no lapse on our part and no action against the driver will be initiated,” said Minister of State for Railways Manoj Sinha.

Saurabh Madan Mithu has been missing for three days along with his mother since the accident occurred. A group of protesters also pelted their residence with stones, eventually breaking many windows. The police managed to bring them under control and placed the neighbourhood under guard. Some angry locals also warned that they would not let any train pass on the route unless their demands were met. They were demanding action against the train driver and the event organisers, besides enhanced compensation from the government.

Although the Punjab Police have registered a FIR in connection with the tragedy, they did not name anybody in the document on the grounds that the accused were yet to be identified.

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