Appeals and assurances of safety by the Karnataka government notwithstanding, people from northeast continued to flee the state in hordes for the third consecutive day today, driven by rumours of impending attacks.
The exodus so far confined to Bangalore has now spread to some other parts with people of the northeastern region living in Mysore, Mangalore and Kodagu arriving here in trains and buses and rushing to railway counters to buy tickets.
More than 15,000 people have fled the city in the past two days following the rumours, official sources said today.
The Railways had sold 9,718 tickets for the two special trains that headed to Guwahati last night, Divisional Railway Manager, Bangalore, Anil Kumar Agarwal, said on Friday morning.
Officials estimate the number of people from the northeast, including students, residing in Bangalore in the range of 2.5 lakh and 2.75 lakh.
The government continued to reach out to the community urging them to stay on and assured them that it is committed to safeguarding their lives and property in Karnataka.
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"We on behalf of people of Karnataka and Government once again reassure the people of the northeastern Community that they are safe and welcomed in Karnataka", the government said in an advertisement, signed by chief minister Jagadish Shettar and home minister R Ashoka, published in newspapers today.
The Government said no violent incidents have been reported. "We thereby urge not to heed to rumours and rest assured that stringent security measures have been deployed to prevent any untoward incidents".
Strict action would be taken against anyone spreading rumours. "We also request the north-eastern media not to go by unconfirmed reports which can create further fear and confusion," Shettar and Ashoka said.
"The exodus of Northeast people from the city is not due to threat factor, but due to anxiety to be with their parents at a time when Assam has been gripped by violence," law and parliamentary minister S Suresh Kumar said.
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Official sources said Railways have arranged a special train to Guwahati which would leave in the afternoon. "Looking at the demand for tickets to northeastern states, we may arrange some more special trains," a railway official said.
Karnataka chief minister Jagadish Shettar, home minister R Ashok, DGP Lalrokhuma Pachau, himself from the northeastern state of Mizoram, and Bangalore Police Commissioner Jyotiprakash Mirji have repeatedly assured the northeastern people of their safety, but rumours have overwhelmed them.
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The Intelligence Bureau and state police are yet to ascertain the source of the rumours.
The State Home Department has ordered surveillance of social media sites to check for people who are distorting facts and circulating false information.
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Suresh Kumar also requested Shettar, who is in Delhi today, to urge Railways to arrange for as many special trains as possible to clear the rush as he expects more people from the North East to leave.
Anirban Das, a software engineer, said that he had decided to flee Bangalore after hearing rumours about the danger.
"We heard we could be attacked and so boarded a train and reached Guwahati," he said.
The chief minister of Assam, Tarun Gogoi, said he was in touch with the Central government and other state governments "to ensure the security and safety of people from Assam".
He also urged students to stay where they were and not return home.
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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."
(With inputs from PTI, AFP, HT)