A massive stampede which could have claimed many lives was averted on the hills of world famous Balaji temple at Tirumal Tirupati in the wee hours of Friday.
A heavy rush of devotees, especially the large presence of VIPs who got a break-darshan (having a darshan while other devotees’ queues were stopped) for four hours, is believed to be the reason for the mild stampede outside the temple. Dozens of women, children and old persons were injured in this jostling and police had to use force to maintain queues. There were 1.5 lakh devotees on the hills at the time.
The problem aggravated at 3 am on Friday as the queues extended to 4km from the main temple on Tirumala hills. All the queue complexes were filled with devotees since Thursday night. The queues were supposed to move at 4 am but they didn’t till 5am due to VIP break darshans.
When news spread that a large number of VIPs were having a darshan by stopping the common devotees, some people in the queues attempted to surge ahead. The security staff stopped them near the temple premises and a mild stampede took place.
Slogans were raised against the executive officer (EO) and joint executive officer (JEO) of Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD) that administers the world famous Balaji temple. Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu spoke to the police officials and sent more forces to control the crowds.
EO Anil Kumar Singhal and JEO Srinivasa Raju came out of the temple and joined the police in pacifying the angry devotees. The situation was brought under control by 7am and the break darshan of VIPs was stopped by then. When there was trouble in the queues outside, several VIPs including former PM H.D. Deve Gowda, CM Chandrababu Naidu’s wife, Bhuvaneswari; Supreme Court judge Justice N.V. Ramana, Hyderabad High Court judges Justices Ramalingeswara Rao, Sunil Chowdary, Shankara Narayana, Amarnath Goud and Nagarjuna Reddy and dozens of ministers, MPs, MLAs, sports persons and cine stars were inside the temple.