Bangalore: In Pune and Hyderabad, there is a sense of greater calm today among students from the North East, who have spent the last few days worried about whether they are potential targets, as warned by some inflammatory text messages and videos circulating online. In Bangalore, five people have been arrested for spreading rumours, reports PTI. Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar has been warning that the police is identifying those who are trying to disturb the peace by deliberately misreporting facts.
The government has asked relevant agencies to scan all social media platforms to check for inflammatory and offensive content, following which, the Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DIT) has issued an advisory to all intermediaries in terms of provisions of IT Act and Rules to take action for disabling all such content on priority. Cellphone operators have been told to block all bulk SMS-es and videos - so nobody can send a message to more than five people at a time.
The Prime Minister said in Parliament "We want to send out a message to all those who want to jeopardise our unity that this House stands united and we will work together to control the elements who want to create trouble." All political parties said the need of the hour is to ensure Indians from the North East that they are safe and welcome to work or study anywhere they want.
Bangalore was hit hardest by rumours that the ethnic violence in Assam, in which nearly 80 people have been killed, would ricochet across Karnataka, where an estimated one lakh people from the North East lives in and around Bangalore. In the last two days, four special trains left the city for Guwahati. Tonight, one more train has been organised. The huge rush was attributed partly to the long weekend, but many students admitted their parents were worried and wanted them home at least temporarily. The Karnataka government responded to the exigency with tact and skill - the Police Commissioner and Home Minister visited the train station to reassure commuters there is no cause for panic; the chief minister met with student representatives and told them noting would be done to hurt them on his watch. Muslim leaders spread messages of peace, urging people from Assam, Manipur and Mizoram to stay on. There are fewer people now boarding that special train to Guwahati from Bangalore - a sign that the edginess is gradually dissipating.
Helplines have been set up in Hyderabad (040-27852333 and 23261166), Bangalore (080- 22250999, 080-22942222) and Chennai (09840295100, 09677066100 and 09789088100).
The government has said those who are spreading rumours online and through text messages will be identified and punished. Junior Telecom Minister Sachin Pilot told NDTV that social media sites have been asked to take down objectionable content. He cautioned that the government is not in favour of banning Facebook or Twitter even for a few days, as one MP suggested today in Parliament.
(With Inputs from Agencies)