Published: Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Editorial

Street vendors bear full brunt

Gutting small businesses a harsh denial of livelihood

Street hawkers and vendors faced the full brunt of daylong pitched battle law enforcers fought with Hefajat-e-Islam activists on May 05. Sadly, most of these small business owners have been operating in the vicinity of the Baitul Mukarram mosque for years. They have borne witness to successive violent processions and hartals by one party or another in the many movements that have come and gone. Yet none has faced the ferocity of the wholesale arson that Hefajat-Jamaat-Shibir activists enacted in the area. Indeed, some four hundred or so makeshift establishments have been burnt to smithereens and all that is left is ash.
What possessed these people to go after the livelihoods of poor, hardworking people is of course a mystery. There is no answer to the mindless violence unleashed by these activists. It speaks of a collective lack of conscience, since nothing was spared, not even books containing religious text like the Holy Quran and hadith books. And we are supposed to believe that these bigots stand for religion? No establishment large or small, corporate or small escaped their mindless fury. While businesses had the protection of the buildings they were housed in and are covered by insurance; it was poor soul eking out a living on the street with his or her makeshift shop that faced the full brunt of violence that engulfed Motijheel on May 05.
Some form of compensation from authorities is surely in order. Many of these small businesses, numbering more than 500 by some estimates owe money to creditors. Since law enforcement agencies were unable to guarantee their security, it is only just that some mechanism is worked out through which these small traders may recuperate some of the losses sustained.