Punjab minister and local MLA Navjot Singh Sidhu said the mowing down of 61 Dussehra revellers by a train in Amritsar was an accident and that nobody had done it intentionally.
He, however, said there was a “big negligence” and asked his detractors not to do politics over the incident.
“It was an unfortunate incident. I talked to few people who told me that some people were standing on the rail track and some were sitting on a stone near the track,” the minister told reporters.
“When effigy of Ravana was lit, some people retreated back. Then the train came with a great speed and there was no horn and people did not come to know (about the approaching train) and it happened in a matter of just one or two seconds,” he said.
Defending his wife Navjot Kaur Sidhu, who was accused of leaving the accident site without bothering about the victims, the state culture minister said she was attending to patients at the hospital when allegations were being levelled against her.
“When I talked to my wife Navjot Kaur Sidhu Friday, she was in a hospital,” he said.
“I fought elections from here because of my wife. She has been working here. Friday night, when accusations were being levelled against her, she was with patients. She called me up Friday. She came to know about the incident before reaching home. She then immediately reached here,” Sidhu said.
Witnesses at the scene of the accident had earlier alleged that the event was held without the permission of the authorities.
Meanwhile, the Congress leader visited local hospitals and met the patients and their relatives Saturday morning.
Sidhu said when he learnt about the accident, he was shocked. He added that he was away to Calicut for a function on Friday.
Refusing to point fingers, the minister said, “Nobody has done it deliberately. However, there is a big negligence (behind this incident)…when I talk about negligence, some people did not even understand their responsibility”.
“Nobody had any intention to do this. There was no motive,” he said, adding the incident was an irreparable loss.
He also requested not to give the incident a “political shape”.
“The question is that the accident should not be given political shape. It is an accident. Do not make false allegations and do politics on this issue, Sidhu said.
At least 61 people were killed and 72 injured Friday evening after a crowd of Dussehra revellers that had spilled onto railway tracks while watching burning of Ravana effigy was run over by a train near here, officials said.
The train was coming from Jalandhar when the accident occurred at Joda Phatak near Amritsar, where at least 300 people were watching ‘Ravana dahan’ at a ground adjacent to the tracks.
People shouted slogans against Navjot Kaur Sidhu, who was present as chief guest during the event, alleging she left the venue after the accident. She, however, said she had left the place before the accident took place and rushed to the hospital the moment she came to know of it.
“The effigy of Ravan was burnt and I had just left the site when the incident happened. Priority is to get the injured treated. Dussehra celebrations are held there every year. People who are doing politics over this incident should be ashamed,” Navjot Kaur Sidhu said.
SAD leader Bikram Singh Majithia had also accused the former local MLA of “running away from the accident site”.
(With PTI inputs)