In a country where cricket is religion, the Indian cricket team`s victory parade at Marine Drive in Mumbai was a stampede waiting to happen. The pictures that have been out since July 4 on social media show a very sanitised version of the event – mostly aerial views, talking about “Cricket being a religion” but none that showcase the mayhem it was for young, old and female fans on the ground.

With the announcement a day prior, many fans travelled from all over and even in the packed Mumbai local trains, most like devotees chanting their way to the stadium with “Vande Mataram”, “Bharat Mata Ki”, “Mumbai cha Raja Kaun Rohit Sharma”, and even “Jai Shri Ram”. While the regular trains were full and brimming, many Mumbaikars travelled by the AC locals only to be met by the ticket checkers, who usually aren`t there in any other crowded locals on normal days but were having a bountiful day, knowing how many ticketless travellers would be on them.

Only chaos ensued as this reporter was caught in the crowd like many other Mumbaikars trying to exit Churchgate station at 4 pm but were met with a sea of youngsters chanting and making their way out onto the street walking towards Marine Drive from different lanes. While the wide roads could accommodate the people en route, standing between the Nykaa showroom and Pizza By The Bay, it only got worse.

Chaos and crowds: The unforeseen challenges at the Cricket victory parade
Situated at the turning, it was a complete hindrance for everyone standing there due to the constant flow of cricket fans looking to proceed closer to the start of Trident, where the anticipated victory parade would commence. The situation worsened as several mothers and fathers with their daughters, standing next to this writer, were constantly being pushed in all directions. Unfortunately, there wasn`t a single official or volunteer in sight to regulate the crowd flow. At one point, a daughter had to push back but was met with her father’s fear of dealing with the boisterous crowd. It only got worse, as they, including this writer, narrowly missed tripping and falling. Fearing a stampede, we made our way out of there, followed by several others who were heard saying, “Let’s go back. It is better to leave than risk falling in this crowd if there is a stampede.”

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It was clear that the local authorities were either unprepared for such a large turnout or had grossly underestimated the number of fans who would gather. While mid-day’s latest report stated that they anticipated a crowd of 1 lakh, the actual number swelled to as many as 2.5 lakh people. The crowd repeatedly surged against the barricades, cars, and footpath, much like the waves at Marine Drive, ready to spill over after being teased by people sitting on the promenade during the monsoon.

The situation deteriorated further as even after an hour, there was no sign of the Indian cricket team arriving or passing by for their victory parade. They were not just 30 minutes but two hours late. The result? Disappointed fans started leaving as early as 6 pm and 6:30 pm with the team bus nowhere in sight. “It is better to leave than risk getting caught in a stampede,” one group remarked. “Don`t go ahead, we will get stuck and there could be a stampede,” cautioned another group of middle-aged men who, after their work hours, had come to watch but retreated within minutes after seeing the mounting crowd. During this chaos, two girls nearly collapsed. While one was guided out by a police official from the center of the crowd, another walking next to this writer was barely able to stand and was being helped by friends and passersby to find a safe place to sit.

Deciding to give the victory parade another try, this writer moved onto the street rather than staying stuck on the footpath. Meanwhile, many fans had climbed the ledge at the streetlight near Pizza By The Bay and even the tree outside Nykaa to get a better view. Initially, standing in the new spot felt like a breath of fresh air, but it quickly became worse. There was not only pushing in all directions but also backward, next to an empty police van, causing many people to almost fall backward without any control. It wasn’t long before this writer’s watch broke and got tangled in the hair of a nearby female fan, leaving everything to fate and balance.

The situation continued to escalate, and it was best to get out onto the road and head towards Churchgate station. Walking through the street, there were many shoes and chappals abandoned by fans who had given up and preferred to walk barefoot rather than search for them in the worsening crowd. Several reports state that the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation collected over 9,000 kilograms of waste, including rubber chappals, plastic bottles, and other garbage. But how can one blame only the people when there were no garbage bins in sight? Even if they were present, how could anyone wade through the sea of fans to dispose of their garbage properly?

Next street, same story
It wasn’t any different in the street leading up to Jai Hind College, and neither was it any better in the parallel lane housing Wankhede Stadium leaving many disappointed fans to travel back. While there was possibly no entry into the stadium till this writer was present at 7 pm, people on the local train were heard saying it had got full by 4 pm itself.

Interestingly, fans standing on the promenade and near Trident didn’t face the wrath of the cricket-crazy city and country, as they had come as early as 2:30 pm with their friends. While it all looked good through an aerial view, the ground reality was unsafe for youngsters, the elderly and parents who had come with their newborn children – hoping for a glimpse of the winning team.

Unfortunately, there was not enough planning to handle such a large crowd. With the glory of the World Cup win at fever pitch, none of the concerned authorities involved in the planning of the event had considered if Marine Drive could have handled the crowd. Unsurprisingly, Marine Drive residents reported that neither the BCCI nor the police had informed them about the event. It could have been much worse if there had been a medical emergency for the residents.  As reports emerge about the garbage collected, how can one blame only the people when there were no garbage bins in sight? Even if there were bins, how could anyone wade through the sea of fans to dispose of their garbage properly?

While the Indian cricket team won a billion hearts with their victory, it wasn’t as glorious for the fans who travelled from far and wide to watch – many of them left disappointed and visibly cautious of getting stuck in a stampede.

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