For the past four years, this lady living 50 metres from the temple, is fighting against the fireworks

This brave 80-year-old woman was the only one to fight against Kollam temples fireworks
news Kollam Fire Monday, April 11, 2016 - 09:39

At least 107 people have lost their lives and several other injured in a massive fire that broke out at Paravur’s Puttingal temple at Kollam in Kerala in the wee hours of Sunday. As details of this man-made tragedy and the audacity with which rules were flouted became apparent, the house that was most sought after was that of eighty-year-old woman, Pankajakshi Amma.

Though many people living near the temple were against the fireworks' extravaganza and the competition held every year, it was only Pankajakshi who had the courage to file a complaint against the temple.

For the past four years, her daughter who is based in London with her family was worried about her mother who stayed alone in her house just 50 metres from the temple, fighting it out.

The additional district magistrate’s order disallowing the festival clearly states that though many locals did unofficially complain, only Pankajakshi dared to file an official one.

However her battle was all in vain, as the fireworks went awry, killing at least 109 people, and leaving around 383 people injured.

(Pankajakshi's drawing room after the incident)

On Saturday morning, she claims that a few men had arrived at her house to threaten her.

"Some men came here and threatened us saying we will conduct the competitive fireworks display and if we are not allowed to do so, we will kill all of you and dump you in the river," she told TNM.

Her son-in-law Prakash, who had arrived a few days ago from London said, "Once the ADM’s report became public, the choicest abuses were hurled at me and threats were also issued against me. On April 9, at around 10:30 pm, two people came and abused my mother-in-law. My mother-in-law told me not to do anything as the DM will take care of it. Those two people came again and flung the notice on my face. After that, I went to the temple at around 11:30 pm when the fireworks started, as I couldn’t sit in the house because I was so tense."

Prakash and his wife say they saw two injured people being taken out, but the fireworks still continued "I think there were two casualties and I could hear the sound of ambulances approaching. Somethinghad happened and the ambulances arrived. Yet the fireworks display continued to go on in full force. After 10 minutes, there was this huge explosion. Electricity snapped and th entire area was plunged into darkness after the massive explosion. We couldn’t see a thing,” he said.

Each year the family stays in a relative’s house during the fireworks. When the rest of the family returned early next morning,not only was their house extensively damaged but several body parts could be strewn everywhere on the temple grounds.

"This time’s ‘kampam’ was a special one. There is a big pit which is dug and a hollow pole gets erected in it to launch the fireworks. What kind of madness is this? They are destroying people’s lives," Pankajakshi adds.

Though the terrible tragedy has come as a huge wake-up call for the villagers, the octogenarian fears that the fireworks will sooner or later resume at some point. She vows to continue her fight and resort to legal steps to ensure a total ban on fireworks display here.

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