Aug. 18: For the first time in four days, the Northeast community in Bangalore appeared a little relaxed today after security forces conducted flag marches in some sensitive areas of the city.
However, fresh arson was reported from Chirang district in Assam with goons torching four houses at Kungkrajhora under Bijni police station this evening.
The CBI, which is investigating seven cases related to the Assam riots, today announced a cash reward of up to Rs 1 lakh to anyone who could provide credible information leading to the identification or arrest of perpetrators of the Assam violence.
CBI spokesperson Dharini Mishra in Delhi said people coming forward with any information, photograph or audio-video clip which could lead to identification or arrest of the culprits involved in the Assam riots would be given a cash reward of up to Rs 1 lakh. People can give information on special helpline numbers 08811099997 and 08811099996, fax at 03664-241253, email at email@example.com or send to CBI Camp Office, Deosri, BRPL Guest House, New Bongaigaon, Assam. The identity of the informant will be kept secret, he added.
In Bangalore, the presence of CRPF and Rapid Action Force personnel seemed to do the trick when three days of repeated assurances from the state government and the Muslim community couldn’t stem the outflow of panic-stricken people.
Six companies of paramilitary forces and state armed reserve police conducted flag march in the sensitive areas of the city in the morning and evening. Armed with assault rifles and teargas launchers, they rode through Vivek Nagar, Adugodi, Wilson Garden, Austin Town, Neelasandra, Richmond Town and parts of Koramangala.
“The situation is completely normal and there is nothing to worry,” director-general of Karnataka police Lalrokhuma Pachau, who hails from Mizoram, told reporters in Bangalore. He said the deployment of paramilitary forces and state reserve police would continue till after Id.
Altogether 16 people have been arrested so far for either assaulting people from the Northeast or rumour-mongering. City police commissioner Jyotiprakash Mirji said three persons, identified as Anees Pasha, Tamiz and Shahid Salman, were arrested in connection with the text threats. This takes the number of those arrested for rumour-mongering to eight as five persons were arrested yesterday. Another eight youths are in custody for assaulting and threatening youths from the Northeast. Communication equipment, including a personal computer, was also recovered from a house today.
“Let me tell everyone that we are taking these activities very seriously. Anyone harassing them (people from the Northeast) or even asking them to vacate homes will be charged with IPC Section 153 A (promoting enmity among communities),” Mirji warned.
Local police stations also organised peace meetings with the Muslim community and people from the Northeast.
The governments in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu assured Northeast settlers of full protection and appealed to them to return, as did Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi and his cabinet colleagues visiting Bangalore and Hyderabad.
Gogoi told reporters this evening that everybody was working to allay fears of Northeast people and stem the rumour-triggered exodus. He appealed to those who had fled the southern states to return soon.
Assam transport minister Chandan Brahma, who is Bangalore with colleague Nilamani Sen Deka since yesterday, told The Telegraph that the Karnataka government and local people were taking proactive steps to allay fears and the situation had also improved after they interacted with Northeast associations, government and civil society groups. “Only 27 tickets of the Bangalore-Guwahati Express were sold today,” he said.
Confirming this, railway sources in Bangalore said no special train to Guwahati was run today as there were very few passengers but an additional general coach was added to the Yeshwantpur-Howrah Express which carried nearly 250 passengers to Howrah. Many passengers took the Bangalore-Chennai Express to take the Chennai-Guwahati train.
Karnataka home minister R. Ashok and governor H.R. Bhardwaj assured the people of Northeast origin of protection and appealed to them to return. Ashok has asked the police to maintain tight security for the next few days.
Some at the railway station said they would return to the city as they had no jobs back home. “I plan to spend some time with my family and return when things get better here,” said Sandeep Purnia.
Reassurances from the Muslim community also seems to have played a major role in boosting confidence.
City colleges with significant presence of Northeast students were closed for the weekend. “Initially I, too, was scared. But I am fine after the paramilitary was brought in,” Richard, a Manipuri boy studying in a city college, said.
Rajkumar Johnson from Manipur, an assistant professor in the department of mass communication at St Joseph’s College, said, “For the first time in the past few days (since the exodus began on August 15) I received just one call complaining of harassment.”
In Hyderabad, Assam industries minister Pradyut Bordoloi said the exodus had been stemmed. He expressed satisfaction over the security arrangements made to protect Northeast settlers and requested people to return.
Bordoloi and his cabinet colleague, Rakibul Hussain, today held a review meeting with Andhra Pradesh home minister Sabita Indra Reddy, who assured them of security and safety for Northeast citizens. Reddy said chief minister N. Kiran Kumar Reddy was in regular contact with his Assam counterpart and requested people to return.
Andhra Pradesh DGP V. Dinesh Reddy briefed the ministers about the special security arrangements for Northeast citizens. The ministers have visited colonies of Assamese migrants with local officials and community leaders, addressed a public meeting at Siddique Nagar and met Northeast students studying at the National Academy of Construction. “We told them not to worry about their families and to concentrate on their studies,” Bordoloi told The Telegraph. “Our efforts have resulted in stopping the exodus, which was triggered by rumours. No incident had taken place to warrant such a move,” he added.
Bordoloi said the jobs of those who had left were intact. “Their absence will be treated as leave. They should return as soon as possible because we don’t see any threat to them,” he added.
In Chennai, Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalithaa also appealed to the people to stay back.
Guwahati railway station today received a rush of passengers who had left the southern states over the past few days fearing reprisals following the Bodo-Muslim riots in Assam.