NEW DELHI, Aug 16: The people of the Northeastern region living in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra are feeling the States following a threat perception against them.
People from Assam and other northeast states are fleeing to their home States after some of them were targeted by miscreants in Maharashtra in the past few days, officials said on Thursday. Since early this week, an estimated 1,500 northeastern people have returned home from Mumbai, Pune and Nashik.
People from the northeast were safe in Karnataka, Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde said on Thursday while warning that those spreading rumours would be severely punished. “I request the nation through you, don’t spread such rumours... there is peace, all steps have been taken,” Shinde told reporters outside parliament.
“Strict action will be taken against people who spread such rumours,” he added.
Home Secretary RK Singh echoed his message. “There is no incident in Karnataka, this is just rumour. People need to avoid rumours... There is no incident... full stop... no incident,” Singh said.
An estimated 5,000 people from the northeast fled Bangalore in special trains to Guwahati as rumours spread of violence specifically targeting those from the region following the ethnic violence in Assam.
On Wednesday evening, Karnataka Home Minister R Ashok visited Bangalore Central railway station and made repeated appeals to crowds of northeast students and professionals, assuring them of safety.
Two special trains to Assam were run by South-Western Railways on Wednesday amidst escalating demands for tickets.
Police on Thursday scotched rumours that students from northeastern region living in the city would be attacked in retaliation for the ethnic violence in Assam.
“We are assuring students and others from northeastern states residing in Bangalore or other parts of Karnataka that they are safe. They need not rush back to their homes fearing attacks as rumoured by unscrupulous elements,” Bangalore Deputy Commissioner of Police (intelligence) Vincent S D’Souza told IANS.
Deputy Chief Minister R Ashoka, who holds the home portfolio, directed police to use all communication modes to assure the people from the northeast that they were safe and would be given full protection against any attack.
“We are using SMS, Facebook, Twitter, television channels, radio and other media to spike the rumours. We assure the people from the northeast, especially students in Bangalore, Mysore, Mangalore and other cities, not to believe in rumours and fear any attack on them,” D’Souza said.
“We had to scramble to arrange at a short notice two special trains of 20-22 coaches each around midnight to Guwahati in addition to the daily Bangalore-Guwahati Express and Bangalore-Howrah Express as a whopping 6,000 unreserved tickets were sold since Wednesday afternoon at booking counters in city railway station,” South Western Railway spokesman Suvankar Biswas told IANS.
Since regular trains to Howrah and Guwahati were fully booked for over a week due to holidays since Wednesday till Monday, all those who were desperate to leave the city were forced to buy unreserved tickets and board the first available train to Assam.
“Even those who could not get reservation to Howrah or Guwahati are opting to buy tickets up to Chennai so as to catch any northeast-bound trains from there. This is the first time we are seeing such a big surge in sale of tickets for these trains on a single day - that too in off-season,” Biswas said.
The sudden overcrowding of platforms late on Wednesday and frantic calls by railway officials for deployment of additional personnel from the Railway Protection Force and city police to prevent any untoward incident forced even the Deputy Chief Minister to rush to the city station and plead with the frenzied students to desist from leaving the city.
“We are taking all measures to ensure people’s safety across the state and protect them from being attacked or harmed by anyone. Security of citizens is our foremost duty,” Director General of Police Lalrokhuma Pachau told reporters here.
“We request all, including the media, to allay fears of attacks on students from the northeast region or any part of the country and report to the nearest police station on rumour-mongers who are trying to spread fear,” he added.
In a related development, Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar assured Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that people, especially students from the northeast, would be given protection to ensure their safety and security.
The government should ensure the safety of people from the northeast, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Sushma Swaraj said here Thursday. She added that the party would take up the issue in both houses of parliament Friday.
Students from the northeast, the BJP leader said, were getting SMS threats, asking them to go back to their States.
Addressing reporters in parliament, with students from the region who came to meet her, Swaraj said: “There are Bodo students here, and students from other northeastern States as well. They have been getting threats that they should go back.”
“After Kokrajhar, northeast students are being targeted. There is violence at some places, some place there is rumour,” she said, referring to the ethnic violence in Assam that claimed over 70 lives. IANS