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Why are northeast residents fleeing major cities?

Last updated on: August 17, 2012 11:16 IST

An initial probe into the exodus by northeast residents from Bengaluru and other cities, fearing communal violence, reveals that the problem is multipronged in nature. Vicky Nanjappa reports.

The police have been able to verify five stray incidents from cities such as Bengaluru and Hyderabad. In Bengaluru, just one complaint was lodged at the Ashoknagar police station on Thursday night.

No doubt, there is panic in the minds of these people. But ironically, while speaking to nearly 20 students, one gets the impression that they have no incidents of their own to narrate.

All that they speak about is about incidents they have heard. One message that seemingly has caused the damage reads: 'get out before Ramazan because it will get worse after that'.

The police say that this message originated in Pune. There were incidents which led to a flurry of messages through SMSs and social networking sites. The first of the messages was put out by the police there which was more of an advisory. That message was then dissected and forwarded across cities where the density of people from the north east is high.

To add to the problem, some youth in Bengaluru, Pune and Hyderabad used this as an excuse to harass these people. These incidents were then reported on social networking sites -- to the extent that 3 lakh messages have been in circulation since the last 5 days.

The students started to get frantic phone calls from their parents and were told to return immediately. The respective governments have been trying to convince them to stay back, but the pleas of their loved ones back home overtook the assurances by the government.

The initial probe has found that these messages have been circulated by the panic-stricken northeast residents. They meet everyday and discuss stories of their friends who have told them about attacks.

However, when asked as to why no formal complaint has been registered they say that they are afraid to do so. The police on the other hand say that they have received no complaints and hence, that makes it difficult to probe.

Initial investigations have revealed that some miscreants have been harassing students, with absolutely no agenda. The probe has also revealed that some persons are taking advantage of the situation to gain holidays, which could extend up to a month.

Organisations and colleges are been very forthcoming with leave, and colleges have also assured students that the exams would be postponed for their sake. Organisations and colleges although have tried convincing these people to not take any risks.

A head of one such organisation said that some of their fears are genuine. "They want to be with their parents. Many say they fear for their lives while others from Assam say that they want to support their people who are facing a situation. Hence there is really not much we can do," he said.

The police have now issued instructions to telecom companies to track the persons sending such messages. They are also tracking messages on social networking sites and say that any such messages would be dealt with sternly.

However, at the moment the panic has simmered down, with Union Home Secretary R K Singh assuring that the situation was under control and there is nothing to fear.

Vicky Nanjappa in Bengaluru