Thousands of panic-stricken people from the northeast herded together at Bangalore’s central railway station for the second day on Thursday to head home amid reported threats from vigilante groups that they would be attacked if they remained in the city.
A senior railway official said about 6,000 people left for the Northeast by two special trains on Thursday and nearly 7,000 left on Wednesday. The exodus is linked to the clashes between Bodo tribals and Muslims in Assam in which at least 77 people have been killed since July 20.
A packed compartment of an Assam-bound train at Bangalore railway station on Thursday. PTI photo
The stabbing of a Tibetan college student in Mysore on Tuesday may have added to the fear. Most of those leaving Bangalore — Hindus and Christians — are college students or people from the poor sections of the city’s 3-lakh-strong population of northeasterners.
Security guard Charan Basmat, 31, from Assam's Udalguri district told HT at the railway station: "One of my friends from Assam was beaten up last week and the police didn't even register a case. I have no belief in the Bangalore police. I'm going back home to my parents."
In Pune, railway officials said about 3,000 additional passengers left in extra coaches attached to two trains heading for Kolkata and Patna on Thursday.
Northeastern students were assaulted in five separate incidents on August 8 and August 9 after an MMS clip showing Muslims being attacked in Assam and Myanmar was circulated in Pune. Fourteen persons have been arrested for attacking the students since then.
In Hyderabad, more than 2,000 people from the northeast, mostly Bodos, have left for their home states since Saturday. They include 300 on Thursday. The departures followed an attack on Bodo security guard Milal Saiki, 21, near the Hitech city.
The seriousness of the situation prompted PM Manmohan Singh to declare in Delhi on Thursday that "we must work together to ensure that all people from other states do not feel threatened by rumour-mongering and SMSes. We have to maintain peace at any cost".
Home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde told reporters outside Parliament, "I request the nation through you, don't spread such rumours... there is peace, all steps have been taken."
Karnataka chief minister Jagadish Shettar told representatives of northeastern organisations in Bangalore, "The entire government is with you. We will protect the interests of the northeastern people."
All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen chief and Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi said, "No such incident has happened. These are all rumours spread by vested interests. Anybody is safe and welcome to stay in Hyderabad."