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Mass exodus of N-E people from K’taka, Maharashtra continues

Bangalore/Mumbai: A mass flight triggered by rumours of imminent attacks on people from the Northeast in Karnataka ebbed on Thursday, but many from the region began fleeing neighbouring Maharashtra.

Hours after Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh and Karnataka Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar intervened, a semblance of sanity returned to the state, arresting what had threatened to become an unprecedented exodus.

But the numbers who have already left has touched some 8,000, officials said.

The flight began on Wednesday after rumours that people from the Northeast would be attacked to avenge the ethnic violence in Assam gripped Karnataka – a state home to many thousands from all over India.

As many as 5,000 men and women, mainly students, professionals and workers, packed two special trains that left Bangalore for Guwahati late Wednesday, taking the authorities unawares.

More left on Thursday night by more special trains.

It was all blamed on widespread rumours that Northeastern people would be targeted on Eid day on Monday to avenge the killings of Muslims by tribals in Assam.

Even as authorities brought the situation under control in Karnataka, people from Assam and other northeastern states began to exit Maharashtra, officials said.

Since early this week, an estimated 1,500 have returned home from Mumbai, Pune and Nashik, police and railway officials said.

While over 300 Assamese left early Thursday from Pune and Nashik each, another 400 quit Mumbai on Wednesday.

Pune Assistant Commissioner of Police Sanjeev Singhal said there was no cause for people to leave.

“They are apparently influenced by some MMSes being circulated,” he said.

Last week, at least 10 people from the Northeast, mostly students, were brutally beaten, sending shockwaves in the community. Thirteen people have been nabbed for the attacks.

After a telephonic conversation with the Prime Minister, Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde urged people from the Northeast living in Karnataka not to be misled by rumours.

Offcials said hundreds had decided to stay back in the city.

On Thursday, a group of Congress MPs from the northeast met party chief Sonia Gandhi. One MP informed that Sonia shared their concern and blamed ‘vested interests’ for the rumours.

Shettar on Thursday appealed to the Northeastern people not to leave Karnataka.

“Our police will offer full protection to you all. There is no reason to worry. Believe in our government and not in rumours,” he told a delegation of some 200 students.

Deputy Chief Minister R Ashoka announced stepped up security in areas populated by people from the Northeast.

According to police, about 2,40,000 people from the Northeast live in Bangalore.

Shettar said: “Bangalore is not only cosmopolitan but also a safe city for anyone, especially those from other states.”

As regular trains to Howrah and Guwahati were booked for over a week due to holidays, those desperate to quit Bangalore on Wednesday bought unreserved tickets to board the first available train to Assam.

Some left for Chennai to take trains from there.

In Bangalore, Muslim leaders and groups appealed to people from the northeast to stay put in Karnataka.

“Don’t leave Bangalore, dear Assamese friends. We love you!” and “Bangalore is safe. No need to fear. Stay back!” read some of the placards carried by 50 student activists at the Bangalore railway station. (IANS)

‘Rumours perpetrated by fundamentalist group’

Dr Walter Fernandes of the North Eastern Social Research Centre, Guwahati, informed The Shillong Times that the mass exodus of Northeastern people from Bangalore over fears of a backlash was fuelled by SMSes created and forwarded by a fundamentalist group Bhagat Singh Kranti Sena, the same group that was behind the attack on Team Anna member Prashant Bhushan inside the Supreme Court Premises.

Dr Fernandes also informed that around 100 members of the same group, armed with lathis, were standing outside the Bangalore railway station on the pretext of protecting people from the NE.

It was also learnt that leaders of six Muslim organisations based in Bangalore and the secretary general of the Karnataka Federation of Muslim organisations have informed the Northeaster people that no Muslim will plan any violence in the holy month of Ramadan and that the rumours are false. They have stationed a few thousands of their cadres all over Bangalore to prevent any attack on persons from NE.

On Thursday morning, a delegation of NE people met the Karnataka Chief Minister, the Chief Secretary and the DGP to demand security.

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