AR Rahman concert fiasco: Police begin probe; two IPS officers shunted

Fans continue to recount the horror on social media and other platforms

72-Rahman A.R. Rahman | AFP

Two days after chaotic scenes played out at AR Rahman’s Marakkuma Nenjam concert in Chennai, the police have started the investigation on reports of overcrowding, mismanagement and chaotic traffic congestion at the ECR road, where the event happened. Chief Minister MK Stalin’s convoy was caught in the traffic, leading to the transfer of two woman IPS officers. 

The AR Rahman concert which was scheduled to happen in August was postponed to September 10, due to heavy rains. ARR fans then took to social media and said that they were waiting for the day to come. On September 10, the Adityaram Palace venue on the East Coast Road (ECR), south of Chennai was jam-packed with fans and well-wishers of Rahman. But in a while, the venue turned into a chaotic place due to overcrowding and complete mismanagement. Children were displaced and women were harassed in the crowd.

Disappointed and angry ARR fans took to social media to express the ordeal faced tey faced during the concert at the venue. Women were molested and many children got displaced. Speaking to THE WEEK, Fahad Yunus, Photographer and assistant director, said how he and his friends had to protect his partner from being molested. “If things had gone wrong for just a minute there would have been a stampede,” says Fahad. A staunch fan of ARR, Fahad decided to reach the venue at Adityaram Palace on East Coast Road on time. Fahad, three of his friends and his partner left the city at around 5 p.m. to reach the venue at 7 p.m. But his car was stopped three kilometres before the venue as there was traffic. He parked his car and decided to walk to the venue with his friends and partner. But they had to walk three kilometres -- the pathway was dark and very narrow. As there were more than 1,000 people walking, Fahad and his team also decided to go. It took almost 30 minutes for them to reach the entry gate. As he reached the gold entry gate he saw many people coming out and it was getting overcrowded. “The people who were coming out were actually inside the gold entry and decided to leave the venue. So we also decided to get back. This is when things became worse. It took 20 to 25 minutes for us to come out. Those 20 to 25 minutes were the most horrible time for us. Extremely crowded. Children crying. I was worried because I got my girlfriend with me; she is from north India. My friends and I surrounded her and got her out safely,” Fahad explains. Incidentally, there were no sign boards to guide the fans to the entry gates from the car park to the venue from the main road or any security arrangements by the event organisers. 

A young lawyer practising at the Madras High Court recounted how she was pushed and molested several times. “It is a nightmare that has made me sleepless for the past two days. I am not able to come out of the ugly scenes which unfolded there. I tried to hide my breasts by holding my hands close to my chest. But nothing helped me,” the lawyer told THE WEEK. The lawyer had a gold entry pass. “The title of the concert was Marakkuma Nenjam (will my heart forget?). Likewise, I will never forget this experience for a lifetime,” tells the lawyer. 

The Tambaram police have begun a probe into alleged mismanagement, overcrowding and also the traffic chaos, after instructions from Director General of Police Shankar Jiwal. Immediately after the probe began, the ECR jurisdictional Deputy Commissioner of Police Deepa Sathyan was shunted out and kept on a compulsory waiting list. According to the Tambaram police, the organisers had sold 20,000 tickets more than the venue capacity. While the hall capacity was only 20,000 the organisers are said to have sold 35,000 to 40,000 tickets. Police are also looking into the logistics mismanagement -- like the car parking facilities. 

“Mistakes do happen. I understand that he wouldn’t want his fans to go through this. But what is making me even more angry is the response from AR Rahman. I saw people traumatised. But nothing happened to him. Why can’t he give an honest apology?” Asks Fahad.