Jhabua blast: CM Chouhan, ministers face angry locals

RSTV Bureau
Jhabua : Onlookers gather at the site of September 12, 2015 explosion in the town of Petlawad, Jhabua in central Madhya Pradesh on Sunday. More than 80 people were killed, scores left injured after a powerful blast had ripped apart a residential building.  Photo - PTI

Jhabua : Onlookers gather at the site of September 12, 2015 explosion in the town of Petlawad, Jhabua in central Madhya Pradesh on Sunday. More than 80 people were killed, scores left injured after a powerful blast had ripped apart a residential building.
Photo – PTI

Protesters on Sunday heckled Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan near the site of the massive blast that left 89 people dead as anger spilled onto the roads in Petlawad town, while the main accused who allegedly had BJP links evaded arrest for storing mining explosives.

Chouhan and his Cabinet colleague Antar Singh Arya faced the wrath of slogan-shouting locals who blocked their path at the new bus stand square close to the site of the tragedy.

Gauging the public anger, the two leaders squatted on the ground after being gheraoed and gave a hearing to the protesters for more than 15 minutes before leaving for the mishap site, eyewitnesses said.

Protesters, including Congressmen, came out on the roads in large numbers shouting slogans against the state government and district administration, alleging that it had not taken appropriate steps to prevent the tragedy and demanded stern action against officials for the lapse, eyewitnesses said.

The protesters also shouted slogans demanding sacking of District Collector Aruna Gupta and also allegedly manhandled the area’s Sub-Divisional Officer of Police (SDOP) A R Khan, who tried the clear the way for the Chief Minister.

Chouhan, who visited the mishap site and also went door-to-door meeting the affected families, said he will stay put in Petlawad to oversee relief work till “normalcy is restored”.

Interacting with media at Petlawad, Chouhan said, “I will stay here till normalcy is restored and oversee the relief work myself. I will stay here tomorrow and day after tomorrow and after that if the situation demands and meet every family affected by the tragedy.”

He said the state government will request the MP High Court to appoint a sitting judge to probe the explosion.

“Guilty will be punished at all cost and no one is going to be spared,” he assured.

He also said that the financial help of Rs 2 lakh announced for each family will be reviewed and might be enhanced. Apart from Rs 50,000, free treatment will be provided to the injured, he said.

The Congress demanded a CBI probe and alleged that he was was allowed to store explosives in a busy area against the rules as he was the district head of BJP’s Vyapar Mandal and accused Chouhan of “complete abuse and misuse of power”.

State Congress chief Arun Yadav demanded that a CBI probe be ordered in the explosion. After visiting the blast site in Jhabua, Yadav alleged that Kasawa was an RSS and BJP man and that he had been booked some years back for storing explosives unlawfully in Jhabua.

Meanwhile, police have launched a manhunt to arrest Kasawa.

“We have booked Kasawa under IPC section 304 (man slaughter or punishment for culpable homicide not amounting to murder) and section 3 (punishment for causing explosion likely to endanger life and property and section 4 (punishment for attempt to cause explosion, or for making or keeping explosive with intent to endanger life and property) of Explosive Substances Act yesterday,” Petlawad Sub-Divisional Officer of Police A R Khan told PTI.

Police have carried out searches at some places to arrest Kasawa, he said.

At least 89 people were killed and nearly 100 injured after a massive blast caused by mining explosives stored in a building ripped through a crowded area in Petlawad town.