Amid attack fears, people from NE flee Bangalore
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The Bangalore City railway station was flooded with them waiting to board the Guwahati Express scheduled to leave the city at midnight. Most of them were from Assam. The Railways sold as many as 5,600 tickets for the three unreserved coaches on the train. With more people arriving at the station, a special train was scheduled to leave an hour after the express.
Late on Wednesday evening, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde spoke to Karnataka Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar and asked him to ensure the safety of people from Northeastern states. Shettar, who also got a call from Assam CM Tarun Gogoi, sent Deputy CM R Ashok to the station to assure the people travelling to Guwahati that they would be safe in the state.
Shettar told PTI that police officials had also been using the public address system at the railway station to reassure the people.
Karnataka DGP Lalrokhuma Pachua, who incidentally hails from the Northeast, clarified that no complaints had been filed at any police station on threats or harassment to the people from Assam.
The panic came a day after a 22-year-old Tibetan college student was stabbed by two unidentified motorbike-born men in neighbouring Mysore, who apparently suspected he was from the Northeast. Although those fleeing Wednesday didn't seem to have heard about the incident, they spoke about violence against people from the Northeast in other parts of India.
Assamese were fleeing Hyderabad too on Wednesday, although the panic was on a much smaller scale and only small groups left by two trains during the day, police said. Some of the scare here was attributed to the attack on a security guard in Cyberabad last Saturday even though it was not related to the clashes in Assam.
The hundreds of Assamese at the Bangalore railway station, mostly men in their 20s and a handful of families, were leaving construction, security, retail and office administration jobs after the panic triggered by word of mouth over the last few days.
"There have been attacks on people from Assam and the Northeast in different parts of India. People are saying there will be attacks in Bangalore as well after Ramzan. There were reports of some people from Assam being troubled in one part of Bangalore. We want to go back to our families," said Ranjith, 22, who worked at a retail outlet after arriving in the city about a year ago.
"We have spread the word among all our friends. It may be a rumour but we don't want to take a risk. We want to be with our families in Assam at such a time. We will see the situation for a while and decide if we want to come back," said Ripen, 21, a friend and colleague of Ranjith.
Some at the station claimed the government of Assam had sent out a message asking all Assamese to return. "Our government has asked us to return. Our employers and landlords in Bangalore have suggested we go back if we apprehend danger," said Mitra Lal Upadhyay, a security labour contractor who claimed he was sending 40 boys back to Assam as they feared for their lives.
An office boy and security guard at a private firm for nine years, Jayanth, 27, said he was going back because his family was panicking over news of attacks on Assamese people and the violence in Mumbai was a factor as well. Some employees referred to direct threats of violence after Ramzan being made to them, others referred to an alleged video of a brutal attack in Assam being circulated among Muslims for which reprisals are being planned, while still others referred to alleged warnings from the police itself.
The Bangalore police however claimed they had not initiated any measure asking people from the Northeast to move out of the city. The police seemed unaware of the situation until senior state intelligence officials visited the railway station. "People from Assam are going back home for the festival period, that is why they are present in large numbers," a police official at the railway station said.
In Hyderabad, Kiran Tiwari, director of a security agency that employs hundreds of people from the Northeast and Orissa, said that some of his employees told him they received calls and text messages saying they would be attacked after Ramzan.
"I think someone is trying to create mischief and scare them. Some of my staff asked to go home after they received calls from other employees but all of them chose to stay back as of now. I believe it is more about a scare due to everyone calling each other rather than a specific threat from anyone," Tiwari said. Some Bodos who work in restaurants in the city left last week as they were concerned about their families back home due to the violence there.
Hyderabad Police Commissioner Anurag Sharma said that the police were trying to probe the origin of the rumours. But there were no attacks on people from the Northeast, he added.
with ENS, Hyderabad
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