Clashes between Muslim and Sikh mobs on Saturday have shattered the hopes of an Eid celebration for thousands of people, who had laboured throughout the year in anticipation of the holy occasion.
As mobs went on the rampage, gutting shops and vehicles, they left in their wake stories of financial and livelihood losses. Vegetable and fruit vendors along the two major roads in Saharanpur — the Delhi Road and the Ambala Road — watched helplessly as their fruits and vegetables rotted in the open.
A 48-hour long curfew meant that these vendors could not even venture out to rescue some of their produce.
“These fruit vendors, mostly Muslims, suffered major losses in the clashes and it will take them a long time to come out of the shock,” said Sudhir Joshi, a resident of Mill Road.
Most of the fruit shops in the area belong to Muslim vendors, whose livelihood depends on the sales they make on a day-to-day basis. When curfew was imposed on Saturday morning, they had no time to take the fruits someplace else. Hundreds of boxes of mangoes, pears, bananas, pomegranates, jamuns and apples decayed in the open.
Vegetable vendors also suffered the same fate.
“These were not mere shops for the people but their only source of income, where they worked hard throughout the year to raise their family and save a little to celebrate Eid,” said Kamil, owner of a wood-carving factory, adding that the vendors “should be given adequate compensation”.
The workers in wood-carving industries were the only ones who were paid some money for the extra work they put in for Eid.
“We had no cash and ATMs also ran out of money,” said Abdul Rehman, general secretary of Handicraft Artisans and Exporters Association, which does an annual business of over Rs.
300 crore. “But, we somehow managed to pay the labourers so that they could celebrate Eid.”
Rehman said that it was not vendors alone who suffered in the riots; barbers, tailors and other daily wage-earners have also been forced to the streets as their shops were also set on fire.
Authorities have said that the riot victims will be compensated for their losses.