Throwback Thursday: The Tragic Gowari Stampede That Shook Nagpur In 1994

The stampede that killed 114 and injured more than 500 people is a tragic event in Nagpur's history.

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A city's history is made of jubilant events, as well as bloody ones.

In the heart of the Orange City lies an oft-ignored memorial that marks one such tragic event - the Gowari Stampede of 1994.

Source: wikipedia

The proximity of the Shaheed Gowari Smarak to the Vidhan Bhavan is not coincidental.

During the Winter Assembly of 1994, almost 40,000 members of the Gowari community around Nagpur were marching towards Vidhan Sabha to present their demands to the government. The predominantly nomadic, agro-pastoralist community had been demanding Scheduled Tribe status.

Source: wikipedia

On November 23, the protestors were being held off at RBI square (now Samvidhan Chowk) by the police for a long while.

When they were unable to meet any officials, unrest grew within the crowds, and they tried to break police barricades. The police were a hard time keeping control and issued multiple warnings.

That evening, the protestors closed in on what they thought was a government vehicle approaching them, to hear their petition. It was, however, a police vehicle, and the police, apprehending violence, resorted to baton charging.

This led to widespread panic among the protestors, who tried to escape. It resulted in chaos, and many men, women and children were caught in the stampede. As people ran helter-skelter, many were trampled underneath their feet, and some suffered from asphyxiation. Some were injured by barbed wire as they tried to escape by crossing fences.

In the stampede that lasted a little over an hour, 114 people had died, and more than 500 injured.

Autopsies later revealed that almost all deaths had taken place due to trampling and suffocation.

Source: frontline

Roughly 18 hours after the incident, Madhukar Pichad, then the Minister for Tribal Development, resigned, accepting moral responsibility for the tragedy.

The state government of Maharashtra appointed the Justice SS Dani Commission to investigate the matter - only to find that no party could be implicated in the event.

It was, however, noted that relatively moderate crowd dispersion techniques, like water jets and rubber bullets should have been used by the police before resorting to lathi-charging.

Source: wikipedia

Today, over two decades since the incident, the Gowaris are continue to struggle to seek amends. The promised government jobs for members of every martyr's family are yet to be given out. 

What remains, meanwhile, is the memorial at Zero Mile, and the Sitabuldi flyover - officially the Aadivasi Gowari Shaheed Uddan Pul - to remind Nagpur and Maharashtra of the gory tragedy.

 


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Anagha Wankhede (WRITER)

Potterhead, gourmand, culture junkie, INTJ. Aspires to be Lady Olenna Tyrell. Dreams of getting paid for travelling, eating and watching TV series all day. Presently settled for writing about it.

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