As the train from Guwahati chugged into the city railway station on Thursday, relatives, friends and members of welfare groups lined up on the platform to receive Bangalore’s northeast residents who were returning nearly a fortnight after they fled the city by the thousands.
It isn’t that they were at peace now, as many of their faces, tired from the three-day journey, also wore anxiety and uncertainty. A substantial number of them were workers, employed in the services and security sector. Many of them told The Hindu they were returning because they were convinced nothing untoward would happen now. “We panicked because of all that we thought was happening around us. We still don’t know if it was true, but I know that I cannot afford to not earn my salary,” said Tipku, a young Sikkimese man who worked as a security guard. He said that his monthly salary of around Rs. 5,000 funds the education of two siblings back home.
When asked if they thought life would return to normal now that they are back, many spoke about the “huge losses” that they had to incur when they were forced to leave overnight. Tongpand, a middle-aged Naga who returned with his brother and sister, said that they had sold many of their belongings at throwaway prices. His gearless bike was sold for Rs. 8,000, while his sister, Chakjemenla, said she left behind a lot of her luggage at their house in Neelasandra. “Many people even let go of their security deposit and just left overnight. We’ll now have to start afresh,” she said. She clarified that there was no “tension” in her homeland.
An Assamese woman, who works as a beautician and is doing a part-time MA course here, said that on returning home, they realised that a lot of reports were false. “The same TV channels that were talking about threats and killing were saying that it was all a false alert,” she said. Her sister, an assistant at a crèche here, said that the situation was much more volatile in their village.
Among the few hundreds that arrived in the two trains on Thursday, very few were students. A group of engineering students at the railway station were happy to find two classmates there to receive them. “Many of them mailed us and offered us space in their homes. We just went because our parents were worried.”
Viko, member of the Naga Students’ Association here, said that students have been returning since two days. “The word is out that things are safer and that nothing will happen,” he said.
Activists from several organisations turned up at the Bangalore East and city railway stations to welcome those returning, and reassure them of their safety.
“We distributed pamphlets and gave them cards with our helpline number. We want them to know that if they need anything, support groups here can help them and they need not leave again,” said Rini Ralte, professor at United Theological College and part of the Peace and Solidarity Forum.
The helpline has been receiving several calls from those who had fled as part of the mass exodus that commenced on August 15.
Keywords: northeast residents