World | India

Thousands of fleeing northeastern people reach Guwahati

Rapid action force troops deployed as exodus slows to a trickle and Assam ministers visit Hyderabad

  • IANS
  • Published: 17:15 August 18, 2012
  • Gulf News

  • Image Credit: AP
  • Supporters of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) stage a protest against what they say is illegal migration of Muslims from Bangladesh to India, in Mumbai

Guwahati: Frustration and despair etched on their faces at leaving their jobs, thousands of people from the northeast, mostly youth, arrived in Guwahati on Saturday on the three special trains arranged by the Karnataka government.

The panic-stricken exodus ensued in wake of threats or rumoured threats of attacks on people from the northeast as retaliation for the communal clashes in Assam’s Bodo areas last month.

“I have been living in Bangalore for last five years. Some of my friends were threatened by some local people from the minority community that we have to leave Bangalore before August 20 or face dire consequences,” Bitopan Baruah, a native of Upper Assam’s Sivsagar district told IANS outside the Guwahati railway station.

“We decided to leave immediately and boarded the special train at Bangalore railway station on August 15,” said Baruah, who worked as security supervisor in Sai Kripa security agency and was presently posted in a firm, Adarsh Packaging.

“The work is important but to be alive is more important. I would surely go back but only if the situation improves,” he said.

About 40 other young men of the same areas in Sivsagar district also returned in the same train. All of them have been working either as security guards or in some hotels and restaurants.

The story of everyone, who fled home due to the threat being circulated either through mobile phones or physically in a few cases, was almost the same. The individual stories of everyone indicate the strong presence of rumours, which had seemingly led to their flight.

“I have not received any threats on mobile. Some people armed with knives and daggers came to our room a few days back and asked us to leave the state by August 20. They also referred to the recent clashes in three districts of Assam and warned us of dire consequences,” said Diganta Pegu of Dhemaji.

“We tried to request them not to attack us but to no avail. What can we do in such a situation? My friends also informed that four people from the northeast were killed in Bangalore a few days back and that 11 youth of the northeast had gone missing in Bangalore in the last one week. So we decided to leave immediately,” he added.

“We also heard that the Muslim organisations will attack all the northeastern and Assamese people in particular after the holy month of Ramadan is over. We are told by people that the Muslim organisations will attack us to avenge the recent clash between the Bodos and Bengali-speaking Muslim settlers in three districts of Assam. My family is entirely dependent on me so I decided to return,” said Pankaj Gogoi of Jorhat, who had been working in Inox Multiplex in Bengaluru.

The return will cause a further headache for the Assam government as most of them are from remote parts of the state like Lakhimpur, Jorhat, Majuli, Sibsagar, Dhemaji, Udalguri, Kokrajhar where there is hardly any scope for employment. Agriculture is also not an option to earn a livelihood due to perennial problems like floods and erosion.