New Delhi: UPA chairperson and Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Sunday warned of swift action against people behind the violence in Assam and those "spoiling" harmony in the wake of the exodus of Northeast Indians in some states. "What is happening to Northeast Indians is shameful. The guilty should be punished," she said.
Sonia said the country belonged to all Indians and that they have a right to live in any part of the country. She also expressed concern on Assam violence and said, "Whatever happened in Assam is a matter of great sorrow and concern. Legal action should happen swiftly against those responsible for the incident, whoever they are."
She was addressing a ceremony to confer the 20th Rajiv Gandhi National Sadbhawana Award in New Delhi in which Prime Manmohan Singh was present along with his senior cabinet colleagues and party leaders. The award with a citation and Rs 5 lakh cash was given to DR Mehta, the founder of Bhagwan Mahaveer Vikalang Sahayata Samiti.
"All sections of the society should come together to create such an atmosphere. This is true service of humanity," she said noting that the situations that have arisen in the country today are the one related to social unity and harmony.
"If we look at the history since Independence, the biggest challenge before the country has always come from those elements, who are enemies of social harmony and unity. Those, who have faced these elements and fought with them are the true warriors and in present circumstances, I consider only them true patriots," Sonia said.
"The Centre and state governments should take stern action against those disturbing social harmony," she said on Assam violence and exodus of Northeast Indians.
The Congress president said late Rajiv Gandhi always fought against social communal tensions, violence and and hatred and sacrificed his life fighting them.
The Prime Minister said that Rajiv Gandhi knew very well that India can progress only when all the countrymen can live together with peace, tolerance and harmony.
Meanwhile, the panic among Indians from Northeast seems to have subsided as the sale of train and air tickets has come down.
Lesser crowds were also seen in the Guwahati-bound trains from Mumbai and Bangalore. Officials in Mumbai said there were a few empty seats in the Guwahati Express. The Bangalore railway station also saw lesser crowds.
However, over 30,000 Indians from the Northeast have already left Bangalore after rumours of retaliatory attacks after Assam violence spread in the city.
The Karnataka government is keeping a close watch on the law and order situation in the state. Five companies of paramilitary force and the state police conducted flag march in areas where Northeast Indians are in majority - Austin Town, Audugodi and Koramangala.
Helpline numbers have been set up by the Manipur government at the Guwahati station: 9435118534, 9435554909, 9436017654, 940145150. Helplines have also been set up for students and people from Arunachal Pradesh: 9864016193, 9435114076, 9854491360.
The Centre has also issued directions to all Internet service providers to disable any hateful content targetting the Northeast Indians. Bulk SMSes and MMSes have also been banned for 15 days to contain panic.
Home Secretary RK Singh on Saturday said that morphed images circulated online that were responsible for creating panic among Northeast Indians in some southern states originated in Pakistan.
Pakistan has, however, rejected the allegation saying RK Singh's statement is "careless."
On Sunday, Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde called up Pakistan Interior Minister Rehman Malik and sought his cooperation in checking misuse of social networking sites hurting communal sentiments in India. Malik in response said that if India can produce evidence proving the rumours originated in Pakistan, they will surely take action.
(With additional information from PTI)