Raj mourns its dead, toll in stampede touches 200

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Jodhpur, Oct 1 (UNI) The 548-year old historic Chamunda Mata temple at Mehrangarh today wore a deserted look after the beginning of the Navaratras turned tragic following a stampede that claimed nearly 200 lives.

Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi, former Vice President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat and Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha Jaswant Singh took stock of the situation at the accident site even as Rajasthan observed state mourning as a mark of respect to the departed souls.

Mr Gandhi arrived here this afternoon to visit the temple and to meet victims and their families. After seeking first-hand information about yesterday's tragedy, the Amethi MP went to participate in the condolence meeting held in the Kalal Mohalla here to mourn the death of 10 residents of this old city locality.

Earlier to this, Mr Shekhwat and Mr Singh, a former MP from Jodhpur, also visited the Suncity.

The national flag atop government buildings and installations flew at half mast throughout the state and no entertainment programme at official level was held anywhere.

Though the hilltop temple was reopened for darshan this morning it drew a small number of visitors as against yesterday's 20,000 strong gathering, temple priest Ghanshyam Tiwari said.

It was an unusual sight at the temple which used to attract several thousands of devotees daily during Navratra celebrations.

He said, '' I am serving here for past 25 years but I have never seen such a low number of devotees during the nine day Navratra celebrations.'' The toll in the stampede, meanwhile, has touched 200 mark with lodging of 50 to 60 FIRs at various police station here in respect of deaths of those victims who were not enlisted in official toll lists of 147 people.

Divisional Commissioner Kiran Soni Gupta said the FIRs had been lodged by the kins of those who reportedly died in the incident.

''This happened because relatives of deceased had taken the victims directly to their home and their name probably could not be included in the official toll lists'', Ms Gupta said.

The confusion over the death toll loomed yesterday too. While the official records described the toll at 147, unofficial reports had put the figure at 196-197.

However, the officials and Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje herself had categorically stated yesterday that the toll was at 147 and higher figures might be due to doubling of entries in the hospitals' records.

UNI SS SB KN2037

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