New Delhi/Bangalore: Assurances from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and opposition parties in Parliament on Friday failed to assuage the fears of people from north-eastern states, who continued to rush back home from other states on rumours of planned attacks on them.
Railway officials estimated that around 15,000 people from north-eastern states had left Bangalore in the past three days, although fewer people boarded trains heading back home on Friday compared with the days before.
The exodus is happening over fears of a backlash following ethnic conflict between Bodo tribals and Muslims in Assam that left 77 people dead and at least 400,000 displaced.
There were sporadic incidents of violence on Thursday in Assam but on Friday the state was calm, according to government officials. No untoward incident was reported from any other part of the country either.
Singh said his government is taking action against those spreading rumours of attacks. “We will do everything to provide them (people from north-east) security,” Singh said. “We must curb all the elements which are out to create trouble on this sensitive issue.” He added that people from the North-East had as much right as anybody else to study and work in any part of India.
Home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde said the government is investigating whether the rumours had been instigated from outside the country.
Sushma Swaraj, leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha, stressed the need to rise above party lines and send a clear message that people from the north-east had the freedom to live, work and study wherever they wished to in the country.
National Commission for Minorities chairperson Wajahat Habibullah said the violence in Assam was a result of clashes between Bodos and “resident Muslims” and not Bangladeshi immigrants.
The Union government banned bulk phone text messages for the next 15 days to quell rumours that triggered the exodus.
In Bangalore, South Western Railways divisional railway manager Anil Kumar Agarwal said the railways had sold 9,718 tickets for two special trains that headed to Guwahati on Thursday night.
The Karnataka government issued advertisements in Bangalore’s leading newspapers requesting people from the North-East to stay back in Bangalore. “We on behalf of people of Karnataka and government once again reassure the people of the north-eastern community that they are safe and welcomed in Karnataka,” chief minister Jagadish Shettar and state home minister R. Ashoka said in the advertisements.
Shettar was in New Delhi on Friday morning to discuss the situation with members of Parliament from Karnataka. He also requested the Railways to provide additional trains.
Mint’s Shauvik Ghosh and PTI contributed to the story.