An uneasy calm prevailed in the communally sensitive town Bhadrak in Odisha where violence erupted on Friday evening.
The situation continued to be tense on Saturday even as hordes of police personnel staged flag marches on streets of the town warning people to remain inside. Curfew was imposed for an indefinite period keeping the volatility of the situation in mind.
“Situation is by and large peaceful on Saturday. There has been no report of any violence from the town,” said K.B. Singh, Odisha Director General of Police, who along with Home Secretary Asit Tripathy is camping here.
The town witnessed communal violence over posting of objectionable remarks against Hindu deities in a social networking site. Police administration had imposed prohibitory orders under Section 144 of CrPC to control the situation on Thursday. But after a peace committee meeting failed to broker peace, the situation went out of control on Friday evening.
Houses of both communities were attacked, dozens of shops were set on fire and police personnel were targeted in the evening. There was no report of any casualty.
The scar of Friday’s violence could be seen on Saturday morning as smoke billowed from shops. As many as 18 fire tenders were engaged across the town, said Sukant Sethi, State Fire Officer.
Kacheri Chhak, Chandan Bazar, Charampa Chhak and the area around the Town Police Station were the worst hit.
“The situation was allowed to deteriorate. We are yet to fathom the wisdom of the district police, which allowed a bike rally after a peace committee talk failed on Friday afternoon. In the first place, there should not have been any assembly by any communities. Strong words exchanged in the rally led to eruption of violence,” said Mozahid Akhthar Khan, a resident of Charampa Station Bazar.
Chandan Bazar bore the brunt of the violence. Houses were attacked and people saved themselves by locking up from inside. “More than 100 miscreants entered my house on Friday evening, set two bikes on fire and torched all furniture. My mother fortunately stayed inside a kitchen room to escape from wrath of the rioters,” said Pawan Bagaria, a resident of Pawan Bazar. At least 15 godowns in the area were looted and set on fire by rioters.
Police forces were mobilised from neighbouring districts and Bhubaneswar to keep the situation under control. The curfew would remain in force till Sunday morning and the next course of action would be chalked out after assessing the situation, said Dillip Das, Bhadrak Superintendent of Police.