The Janmashtami Accident
Janmashtami celebrations were held in full swing this year at IIT Delhi, with hostels planning Dahi Handi breaking events and DJ nights. Coming only a few days after the extravagant Independence Day celebrations, the festive atmosphere of the campus was at an all-time high. However, the festivities were cut short this year in an unfortunate accident when a student participating in the Dahi Handi celebrations lost his balance and had a nasty fall from the human pyramid, injuring his head. The incident raised many questions. Had appropriate permissions been taken for the event? What were the safety precautions in place? And could this unfortunate mishap have been avoided?
The Dahi Handi event was held on the front lawns of the Jwalamukhi hostel, starting around 2:30 pm. The registration form was floated the previous evening, and the deadline was 12 noon the next day. It was an inter-hostel event, with each hostel sending in a single team comprising 25 members. The event's objective was to form a human pyramid to reach a Handi about four levels high and subsequently break it.
The concerned student was a member of the Girnar team. As they made their formation, he climbed to the top of the pyramid and smashed the Handi. By doing so, he now lacked any support to hold on to and lost his balance, causing him to fall and hit his head. While the impact was reportedly on the mattress, it did not provide sufficient cushioning, and the student’s head started bleeding as he lay unconscious.
In order to gain more clarity about the entire incident and find answers to the questions raised, BSP conducted a thorough investigation and conversed with participants, witnesses, organisers, and the student injured in the accident. We inquired about the student's condition, permissions taken for the event, the safety measures put in place as well as the general conduct of the event.
Our findings suggest that the student, fortunately, did not suffer any concussion. After the fall, the student fell unconscious, started bleeding and was reportedly rushed to the IITD hospital on a motorcycle by two people. From there, his batchmates and seniors from the Girnar hostel accompanied him to AIIMS, where further medical assistance and reports confirmed that he incurred no significant damages. The student was discharged from AIIMS on the same day and has since recovered.
Upon inquiry, the organisers assured BSP that the requisite written permissions were taken to host the event from the Dean (did not reveal who) and the security office. It should be mentioned that proper names and written documents were not provided to us. Security officers were present at the venue and acted promptly to give the necessary medical assistance. Though, it should be noted that there was no ambulance ready at the venue to cater to sudden injuries. The organisers claimed that since the IIT Delhi hospital ambulance was merely 3 minutes away, they relied on that for any unfortunate accidents.
With regards to the safety precautions, the organisers informed us that they had anticipated a fall radius and secured the area with bed cushions, and the victim fell on a mattress. The mattress did lower the impact of the fall; however, it was clearly not enough to prevent injury completely. The representatives also said that the student might have been hurt by the broken pieces of the matki. However, the medical report of the student states that the injury was caused due to a fall from a height of 12-15 feet.
The spectators at the event informed us that anti-cheering, a characteristic of most competitions at IIT Delhi, was also observed. This was also accompanied by the throwing of water buckets and balloons, which made the possibility of an accident even higher.
Though requisite permissions and a few safety protocols were in place, they were not enough as a stunt like forming the human pyramid always carries a risk of injury. Moreover, the event was scheduled at very short notice, and most hostels decided to participate just half a day before the event and did not get adequate time to practice. Further, the persistent anti-cheering at the event makes us question if the auspiciousness of Janmashtami was lost during the event.
Moreover, the anti-cheering was detrimental to the safety of the participants. Dahi Handi, as well as other similar activities, stunts or sports, always have risks associated with them, but more preparation and better crowd control can avert untoward accidents like this.
Written by: Adnaan Mansoor, Amogh Sharma, Mahima Mukherjee
Graphics by: Ishaan Popli, Shankh Gupta