The tragedy at Kollam temple in Kerala on Sunday could have been averted had the local administration’s instructions been followed.
As it emerges, the local authorities had refused to give permission for fireworks, but were hurled with communal slur by local Hindu groups.
A report in Indian Express said that officials at every level recommended denial of permission to the Puttingal temple for the fireworks show, and a day before it, banned the display. The powerful temple administration simply ignored the order, helped along by local politicians with an eye on elections.
Quoting government sources the paper reported that both Additional District Magistrate A Shanavas and District Collector A Shainamol, who were instrumental in denying permission for the fireworks, were also bullied and threatened by local politicians and Hindu groups, with communal motives attributed to their actions.
Shanavas and Shainamol, both Muslims, had refused to allow the fireworks to happen until Saturday, a day before the tragedy killed more than 100 devotees.
“But the temple authorities managed to get the support of political parties. The fireworks display is held dear by many, it is an emotional issue. It was only in the evening that the temple announced that the show would be held. Since it is election time, the temple authorities were confident that no one would stop them,” a source was quoted by Indian Express.
Police was expected to implement the ban but they remained mute spectators in large numbers at the fireworks venue on Saturday night.
Kollam City Police Commissioner P Prakash now defended his forces claiming that the ban order was only against “competitive” fireworks. “The organisers requested us to allow the show as a ritual at least. We asked them to come to us with permission. Just before the event, they said they had got the permission. When police demanded a written order, they refused to show it and started the show.”