ITANAGAR, Feb 28: While the capital complex is cautiously picking itself up after the recent anti-PRC agitation, tales of misery are starting to pour out of several corners.
The weeklong protests in the capital have left a trail of destruction and losses running to crores of rupees as unscrupulous miscreants, taking advantage of the situation, had a field day looting shops in the capital during the agitation.
One of the oldest and well-known shopping complexes in the capital, Takar Complex, was attacked for three straight days. The first few floors of the complex are in ruins, and smoke continues to spew out of several corners of the building.
It is feared that the building, owned by senior cabinet minister Nabam Rebia, may collapse, and security personnel have been deployed to prevent people from getting injured in their attempts to get a closer look at the destruction inside.
Several shop owners of Takar Complex said each shop contained merchandise worth approximately Rs 30 lakhs, which could not be saved. Most of the shop owners are gripped by fear and remain inside their homes.
On Thursday, a few of them reached the complex to try and salvage the few items not destroyed in the fire.
“Others are still rummaging in the debris in a bid to save some of the items. It’s useless. The fire has devoured everything, but they are desperate now,” said a restaurant owner.
She informed that most of the shops were uninsured.
“My restaurant was also not insured, but my loss is not much, compared to what the others have suffered,” she said.
“I have not stepped out of the house ever since the chaos started. There were rumours that we would be attacked. We were helpless. All of the items in my shop are gone. There is nothing to salvage,” said another terrified shop owner.
While some are still in shock, others see no business prospects anymore and are leaving town.
A shop owner, whose shop was located on the third floor, said, “They did not reach my shop, but now the building is on the verge of collapse. We are leaving for Assam with our belongings for good.”
Another shop owner said although the market welfare committee has been seeking compensation from the state government, they are yet to get any relief.
An onlooker said the incident must have left a terrible imprint not only on the business community but also on people intending to visit the state.
“People will now probably think several times before investing in Arunachal. Why would anyone want to risk their life to set up a business here? It may take years to come out of this trauma,” he said.
Not only apparel shops, but jewellery stores, banks, ATMs, insurance offices, liquor shops, etc, located in Takar Complex were also either destroyed or looted.
The Adidas and Reebok showrooms opposite the cinema hall in Naharlagun were also attacked and set on fire. The loss is estimated to be of approximately Rs 2 crore.
The building, owned by local MLA Techi Kaso, was the only one in the vicinity to come under heavy attack.
“The shops had several new arrivals, most of which were burnt in the fire. The worst thing was that everyone was looting the merchandise after destroying the shop. My husband and I had taken loans to set up the shop, and now everything is gone,” the shop owner said.
Sohum shopping complex near the Barapani bridge reportedly incurred losses amounting to over Rs 15 crore.
The building, owned by state BJP vice president Tame Phassang, also housed a hotel on a lower floor. The hotel was scheduled to open in the next few days.
A relative of Phassang informed that, apart from jewellery, branded clothing, expensive toys, furniture and other household items stolen from Sohum, several of the hotel’s items were lifted by the miscreants.
“The air conditioners, televisions, refrigerators and geysers installed in the rooms were ripped off the walls. Gym and restaurant items were also stolen. Even the curtains and sofas in the rooms were looted,” he informed.
An FIR has been lodged at the police station regarding the vandalism and loot, he added.
Miscreants also used the opportunity to loot several mobile phone stores and some jewellery stores in the capital region.
A government official, whose vehicle was set on fire along with the others parked at the DK convention centre in Itanagar, also shared his plight.
“I had saved for several years to buy my car. I bought it with my hard-earned savings, and it was gone in a flash,” he said, on the verge of crying.
Another man, who along with several others was trapped inside the convention centre till early morning, expressed dismay at the damage caused to the Abo Tani statue situated in front of the centre.
“After being trapped all night like rats, the sight of the burnt cars was a shock to us. But the saddest part was the damage caused to the statue of Abo Tani. I don’t understand what led them to damage it,” he said.
The protests also took on a communal tone, and many left their homes in the capital.
One person, after reaching Namsai, informed that he and his family followed an army convoy to get out of the capital.
“I covered my older son under some sheets and asked him to lay down low inside the car till we reached Assam,” he said, wondering when it would be safe to return to the capital to resume work in his office.
While the streets have been cleared of the burnt and damaged vehicles and the usual traffic has resumed, fear still grips the hearts of many. It can only be hoped that time will restore normalcy and heal the wounds.