The Quint travelled to Bhadrak, a little more than 130 kilometres from Odisha’s capital Bhubaneswar, to examine the fallout of the communal violence that hit the town last week. The following is a photo essay on the shops gutted by raging mobs on Friday, the 7th of April.
The summer of 1991 was the last time Bhadrak had witnessed a Hindu-Muslim riot. However, 26 years later, all it took to spark communal violence was a Facebook post that turned ugly and abusive. A failed peace committee meeting ended with mobs rampaging across town – breaking in, looting and eventually gutting dozens of shops.
Local shopkeepers say that the damages caused runs into the crores.
The following is a 360-degree photograph of a general store that was burned down in Bhadrak’s Chandan Bazaar.
Communalism That Cost Crores
At the time that Muslim mobs were attacking shops owned by Hindus in places such as Chandan Bazaar, Hindu mobs were lighting up establishments owned by Muslims on Town Hall Road, in Hanif Market and so on.
Arson took down the plastic market on Town Hall Road as well.
Sheikh Habib’s shop on Town Hall Road sold plastic products. Today, he is left salvaging the little that escaped the flames.
“The state government must compensate us for our losses,” demand the shopkeepers who have lost all in Friday’s violence.
Then, and Now
“This was Shop Number 1, Loknath Market,” says 35-year-old Sarfuddin Khan as he shows us old photographs of his ‘Fancy Footwear’ shop.
He then stares dejectedly at what the fire has left behind. Nothing but rubble.
Fifty years worth of hard work was ruined in one hour.Rajkumar Gupta, whose grocery shop in Chandan Bazaar was gutted by a mob
'The Cops Failed Us'
They broke in, looted my supplies and destroyed my shop. Four policemen stood by and watched. They were outnumbered by the mob. I lost up to a crore in one day.Krishan Murari, Grocery Shop Owner
The administration hasn’t even come to inspect our burned shops yet, and it’s been a full five days since the violence. Till how long are we supposed to preserve the evidence and stay shut?Owner of a shop that was gutted by a mob in Bhadrak’s Chandan Bazaar
Sheikh Tabarak Ali sold stationary products and cosmetics at his shop on Court Road. On Friday afternoon, he shut shop at 1 pm and left for afternoon prayers. “After namaaz, I had my lunch and went home for a nap. I was coming back to reopen the shop around 5 o’clock in the evening.”
But on the way, I saw people with torches and swords and didn’t dare venture any further. Later in the evening, I called the Guptas who live next door from my shop. They told me that the mob had burned my store.
'Give Us Our Due'
Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik flew in to Bhadrak on Wednesday and is reported to have asked the district collector to identify the genuine victims of the violence so that arrangements can be made for their compensation .
As normalcy returns slowly but surely to Bhadrak, the shopkeepers who have lost lakhs and crores in last week’s violence ask how long that process will take. For it is they who have borne the brunt of last week’s communal violence.
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