Ganesh Prasad Yadav feels safe now after having arrived in Patna. He is one of the hundreds of Bihar migrant workers who have chosen to flee Assam after a bloodbath unleashed by militants in the northeastern state. He had seen many of his compatriots being killed in front of his eyes.
Yadav, in his late 20s, was happy working as a milkman in Dibrugarh in Assam. That was till the carnage by militants of the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA). Now the native of Samastipur district is relieved to be back.
"I have witnessed the killing of many of my own people. I am lucky to be alive. I decided to return to my village instead of facing the risk of death. The situation is totally unfavourable to us in Assam," Yadav, still in a state of shock, said.
The feeling of fear and insecurity following the killings is palpable among many of those who arrived in Patna station.
"We decided to return for our safety and security. There was no guarantee of life in Assam for us," said Santosh Mahto, who arrived from the worst-hit Tinsukia district with his family members.
Mahto, in his late 40s and a resident of Vaishali district, said Bihar migrant workers in Tinsukia were panic-stricken after the killings. "Now we shall have to think twice before returning to Assam," Mahto, who worked as a labourer in Tinsukia for over 10 years, said after alighting from the Brahmaputra Mail at Patna junction.
There were dozens of such migrant workers returning home with similar painful stories. "Look, only those from Bihar were the targets in Assam. There were a few other Hindi-speaking people mistakenly identified as from Bihar. Fear for life is haunting all the Bihar people there," said Maru Das, who used to work as a rickshaw puller in Dibrugarh.
Railway officials here confirmed that a large number of migrant labourers from the state had returned from Assam in the last two days. "All the trains coming from Assam are full of labourers from Bihar," a senior railway official said on Tuesday.
The ULFA militants shot dead more than 60 migrant workers from Bihar in a spate of attacks especially in Tinsukia and Dibrugarh districts.
According to an estimate, nearly 200,000 migrant workers from Bihar have been working in different parts of Assam, mostly at brick kilns, as rickshaw pullers, fishermen and labourers. Some have also set up small businesses.
Officials in the labour department said that migrant workers were mostly Dalits and from other backward castes and also very poor. They had migrated to Assam to earn their livelihood.