BHOPAL, India - India has suspended police and government officials over a stampede near a temple that killed at least 115 people, police said Tuesday, as recriminations fly over the country's latest religious festival disaster.
Twenty-one people, including all 17 police from the local station, have been suspended after devotees were crushed to death or drowned on Sunday near the temple in the central state of Madhya Pradesh.
Outrage has been mounting over the tragedy in Ratangarh town, site of another deadly stampede seven years ago, with authorities under fire over policing levels following claims the panic was aggravated by baton-charging.
"We have suspended the entire staff of the concerned police station which includes two sub-inspectors and 15 other officers for not doing their duty of regulating the crowd and preventing the stampede," deputy police inspector general D. K. Arya told AFP.
A commission of inquiry was expected to include the officers in its investigation into exactly what happened and who was to blame.
"It is going to be difficult for these men as a judicial commission will now probe the role of these officers who have been removed from their posts," Arya said.
The state government said it was also suspending four officials: the collector of Datia district, the sub-divisional magistrate and two senior police officers.
The government released a statement late Monday announcing all of the suspensions, after the chief minister was heckled during a tour of one of the hospitals where victims were being treated.
Medics were battling to save the lives of 10 people classified as critically ill following the tragedy, which took place on a bridge.