Ru­mour is Vil­lain in Ban­ga­lore

Nearly 15,000 peo­ple from the North- East flee the city as they fear for their lives

India Today - - NATION - By Sowmya Aji

As Ban­ga­lore­ans watched with shock and hor­ror, nearly 15,000 peo­ple from the North- East left for their home states on Au­gust 15 and 16 in the big­gest ever ex­o­dus seen here, trig­gered by an In­ter­net and SMS hate cam­paign against them.

Sto­ries of many small tiffs be­tween lo­cals and peo­ple from the North- East are trick­ling through, with some North­East­ern­ers claim­ing that their land­lords had sug­gested to them that they should go away for some time. A stab­bing at­tempt on a Ti­betan in Mysore on April 13 is also said to have caused fears that he might have been mis­taken for a per­son from the North- East.

Jnan­pith awardee U. R. Anan­thamurthy, call­ing the ex­o­dus “hor­ri­ble”, main­tained that the panic was purely based on right­ist ru­mours. “This sit­u­a­tion is be­ing cre­ated us­ing In­ter­net and the elec­tronic me­dia as the right­ists have a very strong pres­ence on them. If the elec­tronic me­dia says there is a fear, it be­comes a fear,’’ he told IN­DIA TO­DAY.

Kar­nataka Chief Min­is­ter Ja­gadish Shet­tar held a re­view meet­ing on Au­gust 16 with North- East rep­re­sen­ta­tives, lead­ers and students along with the law and or­der brass. He stated that there was no need for ei­ther a panic or an ex­o­dus. Deputy chief min­is­ter and home min­is­ter R. Ashoka him­self went to the rail­way sta­tion on Au­gust 15 and an­nounced over the mega­phone: “Broth­ers and sis­ters, I as­sure you all that Ban­ga­lore is safe for you. I will take full re­spon­si­bil­ity for your safety, please don’t go like this. In fact Ban­ga­lore is safer than the var­i­ous other states that your trains will go through, please stay here.’’

Panic and hys­te­ria were such that the first train- full left even as the min­is­ter was mak­ing the an­nounce­ment. Kar­nataka’s se­nior po­lice of­fi­cer, DGP Lal­rokhuma Pachuau, who him­self be­longs to Mi­zo­ram, has failed to man­age

PANIC AND HYS­TE­RIA WERE SUCH THAT THE FIRST TRAIN- FULL LEFT EVEN AS THE MIN­IS­TER WAS MAK­ING THE AN­NOUNCE­MENT.

the sit­u­a­tion. Pachuau also made an ap­peal, stat­ing: “There has been no as­sault or harass­ment re­ported at any po­lice sta­tion in Ban­ga­lore. The ru­mours are un­founded and base­less. If any­one fears for their life, the po­lice will give them full pro­tec­tion.’’

Many lo­cal Mus­lims have tried to calm ten­sions. Deputy chair­man of the Ra­jya Sabha K. Rehman Khan said: “All these fears are based on ru­mours, with no real ba­sis. The Cen­tre and the state gov­ern­ment have as­sured the North­East­ern community of their safety. Any­one could have started the SMS chain. The po­lice must find out who started the ru­mour and bring the guilty to book.”

Mem­bers of the North- Eastern community have gone into over­drive on so­cial net­work­ing sites, try­ing to re- as­sure those in Ban­ga­lore, Hy­der­abad and Pune, ask­ing them not to give cre­dence to the ru­mours. Kadambari Chavda, a Ban­ga­lore res­i­dent, posted a pho­to­graph on Face­book, show­ing Mus­lim students hold­ing plac­ards at the Ban­ga­lore rail­way sta­tion stat­ing: “Don’t leave Ban­ga­lore. Dear As­samese friends. We love you.”

The re­cent riot in Mum­bai seems to be prey­ing on the minds of the oth­er­wise in­te­grated North- East community in Ban­ga­lore. So­ci­ol­o­gist Chan­dan Gowda said the death of a 19- year- old Ma­nipuri stu­dent Richard Loitam un­der mys­te­ri­ous cir­cum­stances on April 22 trig­gered protests in Ban­ga­lore and New Delhi and is said to have added to the fears, lead­ing to the mass ex­o­dus.

AP PHOTO

WOMEN OUT­SIDE ARAILWAYS­TA­TION IN BAN­GA­LORE

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