The administration in Odisha’s Bhadrak extended curfew in the riot-hit coastal town until 8am on Sunday in view of simmering tensions over ‘objectionable’ Facebook posts that had sparked communal violence over the past two days.
“Barring few incidents of looting and ransacking, there has been no large-scale violence or casualties reported ,” Odisha director general of police KB Singh said on Saturday. “No once should react to messages on social media or rumours,” he said.
Bhadrak in coastal Odisha witnessed violence after some allegedly disparaging comments were posted on the Facebook page of a RSS-linked Viswa Hindu Parishad(VHP) activist on Ram Navami. Agitated VHP and Bajrang Dal activists thereafter took to the streets, demanding the arrest of the culprits. Several shops in the town were ransacked and set on fire during the protests.
On Saturday, the main market of the town by the side of National Highway 5 wore a deserted look with smoke still smouldering from shops that were set ablaze.
“I had gone to a nearby tea stall when I heard slogan shouting. By the time I could come back, the rioters had set everything on fire,” said a vegetable vendor. Kacheri Bazar, Chandan Bazar, Charampa Square and the area around the Town Police Station were the worst hit neighbourhoods.
Police officials said 35 persons from both Hindu and Muslim communities have been arrested over their involvement in the last two days’ riots. Three separate FIRs have been registered by two groups over the unrest at Bhadrak Town Police Station.
Local people alleged that the situation deteriorated due to lack of administrative foresight. “There was no district collector since March 31 when the incumbent retired,” said Ranjit Kar, a resident of the town.
Meanwhile, CM Naveen Patnaik and other politicians appealed to locals to maintain peace. Union minister for petroleum and natural gas Dharmendra Pradhan said he has requested union home minister Rajnath Singh to send two companies of central paramilitary force to Bhadrak to deal with the situation.