Panic as stubble set on fire near Mann’s rally venue in Gurdaspur

Panic gripped hundreds of people gathered at the Baba Kar Ji Stadium to listen to Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann’s speech after some anti-social persons set wheat stubble on fire in 5-7 acres adjoining the venue.

The CM was scheduled to arrive at 3 pm to address the election rally organised by AAP workers.

However, around 2.45 pm, a farmer noticed the fire and immediately raised an alarm. The organisers rushed out of the stadium to see several acres of land engulfed in fire.

Panic reigned supreme as the AAP leaders unsuccessfully tried to pacify the 4,000 strong audience. A security staff member told the organisers sitting on the stage that CM Mann had cancelled his visit and was going to New Delhi.

The parking lot, where nearly 200 tractors and tractor-trolleys were parked, was just yards away from the site.

Farmers ran helter-skelter, adding to the chaos and confusion. The fire threatened to engulf the parking area, following which farmers rushed to drive their tractors out of the lot. Several cars and two-wheelers, too, were parked there. Scores of people rushed out of the stadium complaining about a burning feeling in their eyes due to the smoke emanating from the stubble fire.

Raman Bahl, Chairman of the Punjab State Health Corporation and the designated halqa in-charge of Gurdaspur city, requisitioned the provision of services of fire brigade stationed nearby. The fire brigade was stationed near the parking area in the anticipation of the CM’s visit.

Batala MLA Sherry Kalsi, who is also the party candidate for the Gurdaspur parliamentary constituency, and Gurdeep Singh Randhawa, halqa in-charge of the Dera Baba Nanak Assembly seat, were sitting on the stage when the fire was first noticed. They rushed outside to pacify the situation even as people started running here and there, seeking directions from their leaders.

Bahl has demanded the registration of a criminal case against the miscreants. He and other AAP leaders have also sought a comprehensive inquiry into the sequence of events leading to the fire. Randhawa said the situation, which could have taken a turn for the worse had a stampede taken place, was triggered by opposition parties.

“Surveys have revealed that AAP candidate Sherry Kalsi is in a comfortable position. This has disturbed the opposition parties. The probe will reveal which rival party leaders were responsible for the fire that could have devoured many lives, had it not been controlled by our workers,” said Bahl.

DC Vishesh Sarangal said, “I have taken notice of the incident. Strict action will be taken by the administration against those responsible for setting the stubble on fire.”

According to officials, a “highly unsavoury situation” could have developed had the CM arrived on time. “Destiny has saved us today,” said an officer.

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