The images bore an uncanny resemblance to Partition snap-shots. Trains packed with people barely able to find standing room, ferrying refugees in their own land.
Even the overflowing toilets were choc-a-bloc with panicky residents of the North-East. Everyone fleeing an unknown enemy,
everyone desperate to get back to the security of their own homes.
Two trains from Bengaluru chugged into Howrah station on Friday carrying thousands of passengers en route to Guwahati. Many more are on their way.
“What else could we have done? Did we have any other alternative apart from leaving Bangalore? It was a difficult and painful decision to take,” Sushil Degga, who worked as a security guard in Bangalore, told Hindustan Times during the train’s brief halt at Howrah.
As soon as the first train, the Bangalore-Guwahati Express, rolled into the station, a security cordon was thrown around its occupants. Only food vendors were allowed near so that the hungry passengers could grab a bite. “Yes, extra security was deployed to prevent any untoward incident,” a railway protection force officer said.
Many passengers got off the train and rushed towards the platform toilets. And with good reason. “Come and see what the toilets look like,” Degga said.
But why are these people so desperate to get back to their homes? “There were rumours in offices and in the markets that we might be attacked at any time because of what’s happening in Assam. We didn’t verify the rumours, but we didn’t take any chances either,” said Jyoti Chayeng, a student of a Bangalore-based engineering college, who is returning to Guwahati with several others. “I called up my parents and they told me not to spend even a single night in Bangalore,” she added.
Mitinga Brahma, who hails from Assam’s strife-torn Kokrajhar district, had a similar story to tell. “I lived in Bangalore’s Electronics City. On Tuesday, I went to a market where I heard that Assamese had been attacked. That night, I decided to give up my job and return to Assam with my family,” he said.
“I really don’t know how I’ll earn a livelihood in Assam. I have to start all over again,” said Raju Nath, who worked as a waiter in a Bangalore restaurant.Threats trigger exodus
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