Bangalore, August 16: It is sheer fear fuelled by rumour mills that has prompted North East people like Disen Basumataray, a technology student from Kokrajhar in Assam, to leave the city as they huddled together at the railway station here eager to get back to their homes.
Though the Bangalore-Guwahati Express leaves around midnight, many have reached the station since the wee hours considering it to be a safe haven than their temporary homes.
If it was Home Minister R Ashoka who was rushed by an anxious government to the railway station last night to persuade them to stayback, it was the turn of Law Minister Suresh Kumar today to continue the effort.
Kumar urged the North East people not to leave the city as no incident of attack on the community had taken place. "There has been no incidents of attack on North East people. There has been no single complaint filed in this regard," he said.
But the fears still lurks and those like Disen feel reaching their home alone would ensure peace for them. "We are in a state of panic after rumours that our community will be attacked. It is better to come to railway station than live in the city. I feel relaxed and safe at the railway station," Disen, who arrived at the station at 5 AM, told PTI.
He along with his three other friends are heading to Kokrajhar, ironically a place that reported fresh violence today.
Sazib Masahary, another technology student from Assam studying here, said he wanted to go back to his native since his parents asked him to do so.
"My parents asked me to come back to give them support in the wake of violence there. Also I feel unsafe here, inspite of the government giving us assurances," he said.
Rajeev, an employee working at a fishing company, said he was returning home after his friends and relatives told him about an attack on a North East person near Bidadi on the city outskirts, an apparent rumour.
RSS and ABVP patrol near Railway Station
Members belonging to RSS and ABVP, seen patrolling near Railway Station holding lathis and they have set up counters at the railway station trying 'to convince' the fleeing north east people that Karnataka was much safer than Assam.
Suresh Kumar said 11 additional coaches would be attached to today's train to Guwahati.
A top railway official said, "If there is a rush like yesterday, we have to think of arranging a special train."
The official also said the railways had yesterday sold about 6,000 tickets for North East destinations.
South Western Railway spokesman Suvankar Biswas said they were opting to buy tickets up to Chennai so as to catch any north east-bound train from there.
Bangalore Deputy Commissioner of police (Intelligence) Vincent S D'Souza said police are using SMS, Facebook, Twitter, television channels, radio and other media to spike the rumours.
A large number of people from the northeast, including students, reside in Karnataka, particularly in Bangalore where they are employed in call centres, hotels, beauty parlours and private security services, among others.
A mass flight triggered by rumours of imminent attacks on people from the northeast in Karnataka ebbed Thursday, but many from the region began fleeing neighbouring Maharashtra.
Hours after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Karnataka Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar intervened, a semblance of sanity returned to the state, arresting what had threatened to become an unprecedented exodus.
But the numbers who have already left has touched some 8,000, officials said. The flight began Wednesday after rumours that people from the northeast would be attacked to avenge the ethnic violence in Assam gripped Karnataka -- a state home to many thousands from all over India.
As many as 5,000 men and women, mainly students, professionals and workers, packed two special trains that left Bangalore for Guwahati late Wednesday, taking the authorities unawares.
More left Thursday night by more special trains. It was all blamed on widespread rumours that northeastern people would be targeted on Eid day Monday to avenge the killings of Muslims by tribals in Assam. Even as authorities brought the situation under control in Karnataka, people from Assam and other northeastern states began to exit Maharashtra, officials said.
Since early this week, an estimated 1,500 have returned home from Mumbai, Pune and Nashik, police and railway officials said.
While over 300 Assamese left early Thursday from Pune and Nashik each, another 400 quit Mumbai Wednesday.
Pune Assistant Commissioner of Police Sanjeev Singhal said there was no cause for people to leave.
"They are apparently influenced by some MMSes being circulated," he said. Last week, at least 10 people from the northeast, mostly students, were brutally beaten, sending shockwaves in the community. Thirteen people have been nabbed for the attacks.
According to Paban Kumar Kataky, president of the Assam Association of Mumbai, about 15,000 Assamese live, work or study in Mumbai. Another 5,000 are in Pune and Nashik each.
Besides, there are around 10,000 people from the other northeastern states spread out across Mumbai and Maharahstra.
Kataky told IANS that a majority of them worked with private companies or in the hospitality industry. The young were mainly students.
After a telephonic conversation with the prime minister, Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde urged people from the northeast living in Karnataka not to be misled by rumours.The prime minister told Shettar and Shinde to provide security to people from the northeast, Manmohan Singh's office told IANS.
Offcials said hundreds had decided to stay back in the city. On Thursday, a group of Congress MPs from the northeast met party chief Sonia Gandhi. One MP told IANS that Gandhi shared their concern and blamed "vested interests" for the rumours.
Shettar Thursday appealed to northeastern people not to leave Karnataka. "Our police will offer full protection to you all. There is no reason to worry. Believe in our government and not in rumours," he told a delegation of some 200 students.
Deputy Chief Minister R. Ashoka announced stepped up security in areas populated by people from the northeast.
According to police, about 240,000 people from the northeast live in Bangalore, a city of nine million.
Shettar said: "Bangalore is not only cosmopolitan but also a safe city for anyone, especially those from other states."
As regular trains to Howrah and Guwahati were booked for over a week due to holidays, those desperate to quit Bangalore Wednesday bought unreserved tickets to board the first available train to Assam.
Some left for Chennai to take trains from there. In Bangalore, Muslim leaders and groups appealed to people from the northeast to stay put in Karnataka.
"Don't leave Bangalore, dear Assamese friends. We love you!" and "Bangalore is safe. No need to fear. Stay back!" read some of the placards carried by 50 student activists at the Bangalore railway station.