New Delhi: Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh on Friday assured migrants from India’s northeast that they were safe as thousands fled Mumbai, Bengaluru and other cities fearing a backlash from violence against settlers in Assam.
Railway authorities have started extra trains from Bengaluru and other cities for the two-day journey back to Assam. Some media reports said that by Friday as many as 15,000 had left cities in the south and west.
“What is at stake is the unity of our country. What is at stake is communal harmony,” Dr Singh told parliament.
“I assure you ... that we will do our utmost to ensure that our friends and our children and our citizens from the northeast feel secure in any and every part of our country.”
Some websites have fuelled communal tension by misusing pictures of Tibetan monks at a funeral service after an earthquake in eastern Tibet in 2010, while writing about violence in Myanmar involving Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims.
“It is the obligation of all of us, regardless of the party, that we work together to create an atmosphere where this rumour-mongering will come to an end,” Dr Singh said.
Analysts say political parties and religious organisations have been exploiting the ethnic tension in the northeast for their ends.
The Hindu nationalist opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) blames the Assam riots on uncontrolled immigration into the state from Bangladesh.
It says the Congress party, which leads the coalition government, allows immigration to win votes from new arrivals.
Interior ministry officials declined to put a number on the exodus, but in just one city — Pune in the west — railway officials said that at least 3,000 more than usual had taken trains to Kolkata, gateway to the northeast, since Monday. In Bengaluru, railway authorities laid on two extra trains on Wednesday night to take about 7,000 people to Assam.
Meanwhile, an estimated 2,000 people from the northeastern states were seen on Friday morning jostling for space on crowded trains leaving for Howrah in West Bengal and Guwahati, Assam, from Mumbai’s Lokmanya Tilak Terminus at Kurla on Friday.
This is in addition to an estimated 3,000 people who have already left Maharashtra from Nashik and Pune in the past three days.
The panic started after some MMSes and SMSes reportedly claiming that people from Assam and other northeastern states would be attacked after Eid Ul Fitr, started circulating from some unidentified sources earlier this week.
Taking a stern view, Home Minister R.R. Patil on Friday again warned that stringent action would be taken against those found circulating or forwarding such threat MMSes or messages on mobile phones.
“All people from Assam and northeast India are absolutely safe and have nothing to fear in Maharashtra. If they encounter any problems, they should immediately approache the local police,” Patil told Marathi private television channels.
Since early this week, an estimated 5,000 people from Assam and other northeastern states have returned home, leaving their jobs, education and houses in Mumbai, Pune and Nashik.
Pune Assistant Commissioner of Police Sanjeev Singhal Thursday assured the people there is no cause for the people from northeastern states to leave the city.
“They are apparently influenced by some MMSes being circulated and are leaving. We have appealed to their community leaders not to panic and avoid forwarding such MMSes,” Singhal said after holding a meeting with representatives of the northeast people in the city.