People from the North East living in cities like Bangalore should stay where they are, said Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi this afternoon. He phoned the Chief Minister of Karnataka yesterday to request that students and young professionals in Bangalore be reassured that no attacks have taken place in the state against anyone from the North East.
An extra train has been organised for tonight from Bangalore to Guwahati to accommodate a surge of passengers. Officials stress the rush is because of the long weekend that's coming up. Last night, two special trains left Bangalore. The state's Home Minister R Ashoka visited the train station to reassure passengers that no community is at risk in Karnataka.
Student representatives of Bangalore's North Eastern community met the Chief Minister this morning; they also met with Muslim leaders who have said they will share messages of peace. "Those feeling unsafe may take shelter in our homes and mosques. But please do not leave the city. It is yours as much as it is mine," said Akbar Ali, Convenor, Bangalore's Muslim Welfare Association.
Some students in Bangalore who belong to the North East have reported receiving threatening SMS-es. Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde said intelligence officials are trying to identify the senders of these messages, as well as those spreading rumours of attacks against different communities. Doctored photos on social media are also being circulated, say sources, resulting in tension. Sources have, meanwhile, said that the government has asked security agencies to monitor social websites for rumours that could spread panic among those from North East.
After reports of new ethnic violence in Assam, the Army will be deployed in the state to help maintain law and order; the state government has formally sought its assistance today. Two columns of the Army will be stationed in Nalbari, an important town in Lower Assam which has been hit by ethnic violence.
The Press Trust of India reports a car, a bus and a bridge have been set on fire in Baksa, which is in Lower Assam, and was one of the districts affected in the recent clashes between Bodo tribals and Bengali-speaking Muslims. Nearly 80 people have died in the last month in the ethnic clashes. Till recently, four lakh people were packed into relief camps
Congress MPs from the Northeast today met party chief Sonia Gandhi. Among the group was Union Minister of State for Development of Northeast Paban Singh Ghatowar. "She told us that peace must be restored and we Indians must live together," Mr Ghatowar told Press Trust of India.
Yesterday, Mr Shinde and the Prime Minister had called Karnataka Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar, who heads the BJP government in Karnataka, asking him to ensure the safety of the thousands of students from the North-East who live in Bangalore. The PM was also briefed about the situation in detail today.
In New Delhi, senior BJP leader Sushma Swaraj said, "Panic due to rumours in Karnataka is a very serious issue. The Karnataka government will do everything to protect the people from the North-East. It is a case of concerted effort to create divide among people." She also urged the governments of Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra to build confidence among people from the North East who study or work in cities like Hyderabad and Pune.
Over the weekend, a demonstration in Mumbai against the violence in Assam was attended by thousands; it ended in a riot with an armed mob attacking the crowd, policemen and reporters.
(With inputs from Agencies)