People arrive to catch a train at Bangalore City railway station on Friday. Picture by Bangalore News Photos
Aug. 17: Arun Sarma was honest about why he was boarding the train to Guwahati.
He hadn’t visited home — Udalguri in Assam — in more than two years since taking up a job with a Pune hotel’s room-service department, and the conflict stories gave him a good excuse to wangle leave.
“My family is worried. We haven’t received any threats; there is no fear. But since they are insisting, and I haven’t been home for a long time, I’m leaving,” Sarma said this evening. “My friend from my hometown is leaving too. We’ll be back in 10-12 days.”
He isn’t alone. Although there have been a few stray attacks in Pune, quick arrests have prevented any real panic. For many of the 1,500 Northeast students and employees who have gone home, they confessed, the real reason was homesickness and pressure from their families.
Some, of course, had decided to be prudent following the registration of five FIRs last week over attacks on Northeast students.
“There may not be any ‘reprisal’ but I thought it’s better not to take a chance. We’ll return when this tension blows over,” said Lian Choy, a student from Mizoram.
Students in Mumbai were dismissive of media reports of an exodus. “We have not received any threat texts. The media needs to stop exaggerating,” said Kasturi, a political science student at SNDT University who hails from Guwahati.
“We have heard the rumours but we’re not leaving,” said Bhagyachandra Sinha of Manipur who works for a top-end spa in Mumbai.
The deputy resident commissioner of Assam Bhavan, Debashish Sharma, has been visiting universities and meeting labourers, security guards and others from his home state.
“I’ve met over 100 people in the past 5-6 days after receiving calls from their relatives in Assam. I asked one question to everyone I met: is all the talk of tension based on hearsay or has anything happened to you? Everybody said it was only hearsay,” Sharma said.
Despite the reports of an exodus, no special trains or additional coaches have been arranged from Mumbai.
“We haven’t had any extra rush; so no special coaches or additional trains had to be organised. These are all rumours,” said A.K. Singh, Central Railway spokesperson.
In Hyderabad today, police persuaded 50 Assamese employees of Mainland China hotel and 10 employees of Swagath hotel, who had packed their bags, not to leave their jobs and the city.
A gathering of northeastern students in the coastal city of Mangalore, 350km from Bangalore, held a meeting today and vowed not to leave the city.
Many mosques in Bangalore and Hyderabad have used the Friday prayers as a platform to convey a message of amity and request the northeastern community not to panic or leave.