New Delhi: Decrying rumours about attacks and panic that gripped the people from Northeast in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday made an appeal to remain vigilant and maintain peace at any cost. "We must work together to ensure that all people from other states do not feel threatened by rumour mongering and SMSes. We have to maintain peace at any cost," Singh said at an Iftaar hosted by him when asked about the exodus of people hailing from Northeast from the three states.
Around 11,000 students and professionals from the Northeast left Bangalore afters rumours, sparked off by chain SMSes, in the aftermath of Assam clashes led to panic and a sense of fear.
The Prime Minister said he had spoken to Karnataka Chief Minister Jagdish Shettar and Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan and was constantly in touch with Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi. He said he was yet to speak with Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Kiran Reddy. "We have to maintain communal harmony. We have to be vigilant," Singh said to a question on whether he was concerned about the effects of Assam violence spreading to other states.
"All political parties must work together to give a feeling of confidence to all affected people," he added.
Meanwhile, the exodus of Northeast people from the city is not due to "threat factor", but anxiety to be with their parents at a time when Assam was gripped by violence, Karnataka Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister S Suresh Kumar said. "In my interactions with NE people flocking the railway station since morning, most of them have told me that they were not leaving the city due to threat factor, but they were eager to be with their parents," he said.
The railway authorities have arranged two special trains apart from one regular train to Guwahati. The 8 pm special train has already departed with several hundreds of NE people pushing their way through doors and windows.
"Our relatives in the Northeast are calling us back due to security reasons," one of the Northeast students said in Bangalore.
The Centre said there was no threat to anyone from the region living anywhere in the country and warned of strict action against rumour mongers.
Facing a similar situation, Hyderabad Police Commissioner Tirumal Rao said that there is nothing to worry and asked the people from the Northeast to not panic. "There are about 1700 people from the Northeast living in the IT city. Almost 45 per cent of them have left the city in the last 4-5 days. It is mostly because of pressure and worry from their families. The situation in Hyderabad is normal. We want to tell people not to believe in rumours. We are holding meetings to build confidence. Security in certain areas is being beefed up purely as a confidence building measure," he said.
"There is nothing to worry. The entire government is with you. We will protect the interests of the northeast people," Karnataka Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar told representatives of organisations of people from the region at his official residence.
"If rumours are spread, strict action will be taken against those who indulge in such activities," Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde said.
Extra trains to Assam have been pressed into service to help people who wanted to leave Karnataka, Shinde said, asserting that the situation in the state was peaceful.
On reports that people from the northeast were attacked in other parts of the country, Home Secretary RK Singh said in Delhi, "There is no threat to the people of the northeast in any part of the country."
The government says there is no need to panic. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde have spoken to Karnataka Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar. He has also called a high-level meeting with senior police officials and Northeast community leaders.
Ranjan Biswas, PRO divisional office Bangalore, said, "There were too many people going to Guwahati, so we had to give them two special trains."
The influential All Assam Students Union on Thursday held prominent minority leader and president of the All India United Democratic Front Badaruddin Ajmal responsible for the mass exodus and fear psychosis among students and persons of the Northeast. "There is a fear psychosis among students in the states of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra as a direct result of the communal politics played by Ajmal," AASU advisor Samujjal Bhattacharjee alleged in a press conference.
The student body warned Ajmal "not to give communal colour to the violence in Assam" and appealed to the students not to panic and refrain from rushing back. The former student leader said he had personally talked to the Karnataka Chief Minister and Home Minister who have assured all security.
He said at least three overcrowded trains would be reaching here from Bangalore tomorrow and that thousands of panic-stricken people were stranded in various stations of those states including Secunderabad.
Meanwhile, Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi on Thursday appealed to students and people from Assam and other parts of the Northeast to refrain from rushing back to their home states in panic. "I appeal to students and other persons especially those who are in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, that they should not get panicked and (not) rush back. Rumour mongering is on, but Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has personally talked to the chief ministers of the two states to ensure security," Gogoi said in Guwahati.
The Chief Minister made the comment in the wake of reports of mass exodus of people, particularly students, who were fearing a backlash following the widespread violence in lower Assam.
Railway Minister Mukul Roy said, "There was maximum rush of passengers for Assam from Banglore and Chennai in the last two days. So in order to clear extra rush and avoid any law and order problem due to heavy demand for tickets, we provided two special trains from Bangalore to Guwahati."
Two special trains carrying panic-stricken students and professionals of Northeast have left Bangalore for Guwahati. While one left on Wednesday, another was dispatched on Thursday.
Roy said the number of bookings for Guwahati-bound trains increased many fold in the last two days. "Generally about 300 tickets are booked for Guwahati which rose to 6000 in the last two days," he said.
Railways also informed about the development to Home Ministry and PMO about the sudden rush for Assam and special arrangement being done to clear the rush.
Describing it as a "standard practice" to press special trains into service during rush period like Kumbh mela, Durga Puja or any other festive season, Roy said, "We regularly provide special trains on a particular route to clear rush."
There have been similar attacks elsewhere as well. Thirteen people were arrested for allegedly beating up Northeastern students in Pune last week. The Pune police met members of the Muslim community urging them to disregard a controversial MMS clip that has been doing the rounds.
Police say the clip is doctored and aimed at creating communal tension. A case has been filed against unknown persons for circulating it. Security is being stepped up at colleges in the city.
Meanwhile, a Tibetan college student was stabbed in Mysore by two people who suspected him to be from the Northeast.
With Additional Inputs from PTI
- CNN-IBN appeal: Don't spread rumours and panic
- Northeast people in Karnataka, AP and Maharashtra jittery after rumours of attack