Exodus of northeast people continues

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NEW DELHI, August 18 (Agencies): Gripped by rumour-fuelled fears of impending attacks, people from the northeast continued to flee southern cities on Saturday despite assurances of safety from the State governments. However, the exodus in Bangalore showed signs of subsiding with the railway authorities saying that the ticket sales to the northeast States have reduced.

Four days after the exodus of persons from the northeast began in Bangalore, the number of those leaving is beginning to drop according to indications from Railway authorities.

In confidence building measures, six companies of Rapid Action Force have been deployed, besides increased police patrolling in areas prominently inhabited by people from the northeast states, official sources said.

Even as a few hundreds of northeast people waited outside the city railway station to leave for their home States, fearing reprisals for the Assam violence, railway authorities this morning did not announce any special trains.

They said it is too early to take a call to arrange for special trains unless ticket sales reache a cut off point of 2,500 a day. “Based on ticket sales, we will arrange for special trains. As of now sales have been slow-paced,” railway authorities said.

However, they said they would take steps to arrange for special trains if ticket sales increase through the day as it did yesterday. They said eight special trains had been arranged in the last three days, apart from three regular trains which had ferried nearly 30,000 people to their home States.

Northeast people continued to flee the city for the third consecutive day on Friday with hundreds thronging the Chennai Central railway station.

The Central Railway station here has been seeing a flow of anxious northeasterners desperate to get tickets for their onward journey in spite of assurances of safety and no untoward incident targetting them being reported.

Police said though Tamil Nadu has never seen incidents of violence against people from the northeast, reports of incidents and rumours in other States seem to be disturbing their parents back home, who want them to come back.

Chennai City Police has set up a round-the-clock control room and helplines exclusively for north easterners.

However, not many students are leaving the city. “The city’s colleges have many students from the northeast on the rolls, most of whom are living in the hostels or in groups. So not many of them feel the need to leave,” a student from the northeast who did not wish to be named, said.

In a bid to reach out to the fleeing northeasterners, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa has assured them that the State was peaceful and that her government would take steps to ensure their safety.

The spectacle of fear-stricken residents from northeast swarming Pune railway station in a desperate bid to head for their home States, has had a benumbing effect on the second capital of Maharashtra which is still coming to terms with what could have been a potentially catastrophic serial bomb explosions a few days back.

Despite stepped up efforts by authorities, social organisations and help groups to remove the fear stalking hundreds of students and workers from Assam and Manipur, rattled by beastly attacks in the last four days in Kondhwa, Hadapsar and Cantonment areas of the city, they continued to make a beeline towards the railway station.

Their only goal for the time being appeared to catch Azad Hind Express that leaves the city every evening for Howrah.

“We are returning as our parents are worried. I will come back but as of now I am leaving with nine of my friends from Imphal,” said a female student at the railway station.

Police believe that doctored MMSs and SMSs were the main provocation behind the attacks since August 12 in which about 15 northeast residents in certain localities were targeted. Two of the 13 persons arrested by police reportedly confessed that the MMS and SMS that depicted violent incidents in Myanmar and Assam turned them vengeful, sources said.

After approaching Facebook, Youtube and Google to remove some “objectionable links” and five videos in respect of the Assam violence, city police have now filed a complaint against “unknown persons” under the IT act, accusing them of exploiting the social networking sites to spread offensive, false and intimidating messages .

According to City Police Commissioner Gulabrao Pol, who has circulated a message in the city guaranteeing safety of northeast people and asking them not to heed rumours, the situation had been totally under control after police swung into action to book the culprits.

He, however, admitted that police had not been able to stop the people from leaving the city mainly due to the fear factor stemming from unfounded rumours and threats of a backlash.

Over 4000 northeast residents have so far reportedly left the city in the last few days, with railway authorities arranging for extra bogies to accommodate a continuously swelling number of passengers.

Mischievous text messages claiming that people from the northeast will be targeted in Delhi, particularly after Ramdan, have started circulating with police today urging the community not to believe in them and stating that adequate security measures have been taken.

“Fake SMSs about northeastern people being targeted in Delhi, particularly after Ramdan, are being circulated. Do not believe them. Situation is normal. There is no violence against people from northeast,” Robin Hibu, Joint Commissioner of Police, said.

He said police have reviewed the security for northeast people with senior officials in the district, Special Branch and PCR.

Delhi Police Commissioner Neeraj Kumar tweeted late last night, “Friends from NE please do not go by rumours being spread. They are rumours and only rumours. Please discard them. We are with you. No need to panic.”

“Situation is peaceful. Highest alert is on. Police had meetings with northeast residents in Janakpuri, Mahipalpur, Munirka, Mukherjee Nagar for proper coordination of security”.

Please report any disturbing incident to us. We are with you for help,” Kumar tweeted

“More visible patrolling in northeast-dominated areas is continuing. Any rumours just dial 100, inform local police,” Mr Hibu said.

If anyone has any doubt, he said, one can contact him at phone numbers 011-25315003 and 9810083486 or on his email [email protected]

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