Assamese flee Bangalore over safety fears

Aug. 17, 2012 at 6:30 AM
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BANGALORE, India, Aug. 17 (UPI) -- India's prime minister has called for calm as thousands of people northeastern India but now living in the southern city of Bangalore fear for their safety.

No deaths or violent incidents have been reported but rumors of threats against people from India's remote northeastern states, including Assam, have sent thousands flooding into Bangalore's main train station to buy tickets out of the city.

Southwestern Railway in Bangalore reportedly has been inundated with people buying tickets to Assam and the company put on extra trains to cope with the demand, a report by The Times of India said.

Around 7,000 tickets more than usual have been sold, including more than 2,000 tickets sold Thursday to people traveling to Guwahati, the largest city in Assam.

The situation at the city railway station was chaotic as thousands of people from northeastern India and Nepal, Bhutan and Tibet nationals thronged to get tickets, The Times of India report said.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh condemned the "rumor-mongering" and appealed to everyone, including political parties in Bangalore, to show there is no threat of violence against anyone and that peace should be maintained.

"All political parties must work together to give a feeling of confidence to all affected people," he told reporters at his residence in Delhi during an Iftar event -- the evening meal when Muslims break their fast during the Islamic month of Ramadan.

Singh also said he had spoken to the chief ministers of Karnataka, Maharashtra and Assam states about the need to remain vigilant and maintain communal harmony.

Bangalore, in the southwest state of Karnataka, is India's third largest city with a population of around 8.5 million people, 2011 census data indicated.

The city is home to many of India's major international companies including IT consultancies Infosys and Wipro. It also has been among the fastest growing urban areas, attracting people from every corner of India because of job opportunities.

A report by NDTV said Bangalore, Hyderabad and Pune are on guard against aftershocks of the ethnic violence that hit Assam hard in the past month and in which nearly 80 people died.

The Ministry of Home Affairs has ordered surveillance of Web sites and social networking sites to identify people misreporting facts and urging people to instigate violence, NDTV said.

Families in Assam also have been urging relatives back to the state, a Press Trust of India and Times News Network report said.

"We got calls from our families in Assam that there is violence against northeast residents in Bangalore and south India," said a native of Assam.

"Although we are afraid of going home because the situation over there is equally worse, but we would be assured if we are amid our people. We definitely feel insecure in these states."

A 2001 census showed Bangalore was nearly 80 percent Hindu by religion. Muslims made up just less than 14 percent, Christians nearly 6 percent and Jains and others around 2 percent.

In Assam, around 65 percent of the population is Hindu and around 31 percent is Muslim. Christians and other groups make up the rest.

The recent ethnic clashes in Assam have been between the Bodo peoples -- the vast majority claim to be Hindu -- and Muslims.

In his address to the nation on Independence Day this week, Singh said the government was doing "everything possible" to provide relief to the people affected by the violence, NDTV reported.

"The incidents of violence which occurred in Assam recently are very unfortunate," Singh said.

"I know that these incidents have resulted in the disruption of the lives of a large number of people. We fully sympathize with those families which have been affected by the violence."

He said the central government in New Delhi would work with the state governments to ensure ethnic violence doesn't happen in other parts of the country.

Around 200,000 people are displaced because of ethnic violence and fears over safety, most living in relief camps, NDTV said.

Singh also said there has been a reduction in violence in the north eastern states.

"We are engaged in dialogue with many groups there so that they can join the mainstream of development," he said.

Talks are ongoing with major insurgent groups including the Nationalist Socialist Council Nagaland, the United Liberation Front of Assam and the National Democratic Front of Bodoland.

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