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'We'll feel much safer if we're back in our home state'

Last updated on: August 18, 2012 21:51 IST

'We'll feel much safer if we're back in our home state'

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S Saraswathi in Chennai

As hundreds of North-Easterners continue to leave Chennai city following threats and rumours, S Saraswathi tries to understand their apprehensions.

Hundreds of tired, hungry and frightened North-Easterners continue to gather at the Central Station, Chennai, waiting for trains to take them back to the safety of their homes.

The crowds have not lessened since the last two days and more and more people are pouring in from other districts of Tamil Nadu as well. People have travelled all the way from Tuticorin and Madurai, hoping to catch a train to their home states.

"About 45 of us have travelled from Tuticorin," says Pranab Kumar, who works for a private firm. "There are more than 300 people from Assam working in this company and almost all of us have left. We reached the station this morning and have been asked to wait".

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Image: Hundreds of North Easterners continue pouring into Chennai station from across Tamil Nadu to catch a train to their home states.
Photographs: S Saraswathi

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'Where will we go if something happens?'

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When asked why they were leaving in spite of repeated assurances by the government and no incident targeting them being reported in Tamil Nadu, they say that their families back home are worried about their safety.

"Even the company we work in reassured us, but our families are very worried. We have been receiving phone calls continuously from them asking us to return home," he adds.

When asked if they plan to return, another says, "We will come back in a couple of months if things are back to normal."

The Chennai City Police has set up a round-the-clock control room and three helplines exclusively to help the North Easterners in spite of no incidents of violence anywhere in the state.

Rupam and his friends have travelled from Madurai.

"A group of 25 of us have travelled from Madurai yesterday and are waiting for a train to take us back to Guwahati. The authorities have told us that there is a train coming in from Bangalore this afternoon. We work at a granite factory in Madurai, and most of us decided to head back after we heard about the incidents in Karnataka and rumours of violence. Although we know that no untoward incident has happened as yet, we are still afraid. Where will we go if something happens? We will feel much safer if we are back in our homes," he says.

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Image: Most of the fleeing North Easterners say that their families back home are worried about their safety
Photographs: S Saraswathi

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'We don't want to get caught up here if any violence breaks out'

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There are a few who insist that they are not leaving out of fear. Rohit, who is accompanied by his father and two friends, says that he is returning home for a wedding.

"My sister is getting married next month, so we want to go back, he says.

Mohan and Dilshan, who work at a bakery in Chennai, say they are returning home as they miss their families. "We have been working here for the last two years and have decided to take some time off to visit our families", they say.

Though Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa has assured them that the state has always been peaceful and that her government would take the necessary steps to ensure their safety, they are still reluctant to stay.

Khomanath who works as security guard for a major IT company near Navalur, Chennai, feels that it is better for them to be in their home state at this time.

"We don't want to be caught up here if any violence breaks out," he says.

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Image: Although no untoward incident has happened as yet, North Easterners are still afraid
Photographs: S Saraswathi

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'More than 1500 North Easterners have left Chennai'

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Mohan Biswas and Sanmat Nath, who work as security guards for another IT company in Sholinganallur, also share the same sentiment.

"Our parents have called us after watching the news channels showing acts of violence in other states and are insisting that we return home."

Meanwhile, three special trains have left Chennai since Friday evening. These trains have been released by the South Central Railway from Bangalore and since these came fully packed, additional coaches were added to accommodate the crowd at Chennai.

"More than 1500 North Easteners have left the city and more are waiting," say the police officials in charge of guiding the people at the station.

The police officials barricaded the people at the platform and did not want reporters hovering near them.

"We want to avoid a stampede, especially when the train is entering the platform", said one of the police officials.

Most of the crowd looked worried and confused and were seen asking reporters for any information regarding available trains.


Image: Most of the crowd looked worried and confused and were seen asking reporters for any information regarding available trains
Photographs: S Saraswathi

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