SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — Thousands of people from north-east India are fleeing the southern city of Bangalore amid rumours they will be attacked in retaliation for communal violence in their home state.
Hundreds of students and workers from Assam state crowded Bangalore's main railway station on Thursday to try to board trains leaving the city, while officials tried to assure them of their safety.
The exodus followed clashes in Assam in recent weeks between members of the indigenous Bodo tribe and Muslims that left more than 50 deaths and left 400,000 in displacement camps. The violence has spilled over to other states where Bodos and other ethnic tribal members from the impoverished north-east have migrated in search of jobs.
Those fleeing Bangalore said they had heard that text messages were circulating which warned of attacks by Muslims.
Jagadish Shettar, the chief minister of Karnataka state, met Assamese and Muslim leaders separately on Thursday in an effort to restore calm. Bangalore is the capital of Karnataka.
Shettar said no one had seen any threatening text messages and authorities were trying to find out who was behind the rumours. He said police and security forces were on alert and telephone helplines had been set up to offere a sense of security to people in the city.
Despite Shettar's assurances, many north-easterners said they felt insecure.
"As a person from the north-east, we always stick out in a crowd. And sometimes that makes us afraid of being easy targets," said Ganesh Khanal, a clothing worker trying to board a train at Bangalore station.
Khanal said he had been living in Bangalore for nearly three years but was returning to Assam as soon as he could secure a ticket.
Decades of ethnic strife in India's north-east have forced hundreds of thousands of young people to move out of the region in search of education and employment. They find jobs mostly in the service sector of big cities, working in restaurants, shops and airlines.
Also trying to leave was Rita Sarma, a college student.
"Everyone is saying don't panic, nothing will happen," Sarma said at the railway station. "But I can't help feeling scared all the time."
Railway authorities were adding coaches to trains heading to Gauhati, the main city in Assam. India's home minister, Sushil Kumar Shinde, said extra trains were running between Bangalore and Assam.
The recent rioting in Assam between ethnic Bodos and Muslim settlers mainly concerned land rights. The rioting has largely been brought under control, although sporadic outbreaks have occurred over the past few days.
On Saturday, two people died and dozens were injured in Mumbai in clashes between police and thousands of Muslims protesting against the deaths last month of Muslims in Assam. Violence has also been reported in the southern city of Hyderabad and the western cities of Pune and Nashik.—www.shafaqna.com/english