‘Scared for their lives’, they pack up and head home

The mass exodus of residents from the northeast residing in Bangalore appears to be a culmination of days of panic following rumours and unsubstantiated accounts of violence from some areas of the city and Mysore.

On Wednesday night, thousands thronged the Bangalore City Railway Station, belongings in hand, to travel back to their hometowns. Many of them told The Hindu that they were “scared for their lives” and they would return if the situation went back to normal.

Most of them conceded that they had not “directly” witnessed or even known about cases of violence, but that there were “strong accounts” of intimidation from members of a community.

Many of them attributed this to the recent clashes in Assam and religious strife reported in Myanmar.

When contacted, student unions, representing different northeastern communities, were unable to cite a single registered case of violence. However, they claimed that incidents of violence had been reported in Neelsandra, Anepalya and some parts of Wilson Garden and Ejipura.

Many of them appeared to have made their decision to leave on the basis of reports by the regional media in Assam. “Our families are calling us back because they are watching television reports that people are being stabbed in Ahmedabad, Pune and Bangalore. They do not want us to take a risk,” says James, who works in a food chain here.

He said that students felt safer as they lived in colleges and would be protected by college authorities. “We have no one here,” he added.

‘No distinction made’

Tiken, a native of Manipur, said that his State was peaceful but people did not make a distinction between residents of different States. “They think everyone with a similar face structure is from Assam.” he said. Mr. Tiken also added that he was sure that this wasn’t just about a community, and that there were many who would want to take advantage of the situation of “mistrust and insecurity”. His Assamese friend, who was also headed home, told The Hindu that he had learnt that “troublemakers had aggravated the ‘minor situation’ in Assam”, and that something similar could happen here. The group comprising 10 persons are all employed in security agencies.

Many of them, having lived and worked here for years, were angry that they had to leave. While some have taken leave of absence, others have simply vacated their premises.

“When there is panic and fear we cannot sit back and wait for something to happen. If something happens who will save us,” asked Rose, who works in a beauty parlour here. She said that there was a meeting of Manipuris who live in Neelsandra two days ago where they had decided to seek police protection. However, since then, things had become worse, and we are being told that a “riot-like situation” could break out after the weekend.

A trader, Shiraz Mohammed, who was also at the railway station heading to Chennai, said that he had not heard of any such conflict or “planned attack”. “This is something happening so far away. Why will people here want to target them?” he said and referred to northeastern residents as a “very docile” population.

His friend, Akram, said that this must be the handiwork of “mischief-makers” who are spreading rumours to create panic.

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