The 50-paise terror campaign
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The week gone by has been a week of 50-paise terrorism in Bangalore. It was as cheap, quick and easy as starting an SMS rumour and sending it forth into the city, then watching it spin into a frightening text tornado. In the aftermath of the Assam violence and the riots in Mumbai, Bangalore reeled under the impact of a swirling rumour which sent a large community of people into panic mode and drove thousands to flee the city within a matter of hours. The ensuing terror refused to subside for days.
Ironically for India's tech hub, technology came to bite it in the back. SMS threats circulated in great waves. On social networks, doctored photos of bleeding limbs, bloody faces and videos with hazy faces made the rounds. Local television stations endlessly aired footage of the panic.
It is like nothing that tech-savvy and global Bangalore, India's IT hub, has ever seen. The government, the police and railway officials were taken completely by surprise as thousands of Bangalore residents of north-eastern origin started thronging the ticket counters and platforms at the city's railway stations, bus stations and even the airport. They all were frantic to take the first available means to return home. It was nothing short of an exodus.
Many young men and women were incoherent in their panic. They had heard from fellow north-easterners that, following the bloody violence in Assam and a spontaneous riot in Mumbai, they would be targeted next for vicious retaliatory attacks after the end of Ramzan early next week. Stories of initial warning attacks were being relayed by SMS, those departing said. They each had dozens of such text messages to show.
Api Raikhan, 23, a hairdresser, said she and her friends had received several warning messages asking them to leave. "I'm really scared," said Raikhan, a Manipuri who has worked in the city for four years. Fellow Manipuri Gladson Ningle, 24, a salesman at a sports store said he and his friends had shut themselves indoors for the past few days. They desperately wanted to return home but train seats were impossible to get and airfares to Dimapur were exorbitant.
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