Pilgrims flocking to a popular Hindu shrine in Indian Kashmir lost their lives on the first day of the new year

At least 12 people were killed and scores were injured, some seriously, after a row broke out outside a Hindu shrine in a small town in the Indian-administered part of Kashmir, sparking a deadly stampede.

The tragedy took place outside Mata Vaishno Devi shrine, dedicated to the Hindu Mother Goddess Devi, in the town of Katra on Saturday. Marking the first day of the year, worshippers streamed to the shrine en masse as the clock struck midnight.

The scene descended into chaos after two groups of pilgrims waiting for their turn at the shrine began sparring with each other, local police and media reported.

“The incident occurred around 2:45 am, and as per initial reports, an argument broke out which resulted in people pushing each other, followed by stampede,” Police Chief Dilbagh Singh told ANI news agency.

A large-scale rescue effort was launched in the aftermath of the events. About two dozen people were injured in the melee and were taken to various hospitals in the area, local media reported.

The pilgrimage was briefly suspended, but was resumed soon afterwards.

Indian PM Narendra Modi expressed condolences to the families of the victims, ordering “all possible medical aid and assistance to the injured” to be provided.

“Extremely saddened by the loss of lives due to a stampede at Mata Vaishno Devi Bhawan. Condolences to the bereaved families. May the injured recover soon,” he tweeted.

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