Bangalore cops scotch rumours as North-East students flee

Police Thursday scotched rumours that students from northeastern region living in the city would be attacked in retaliation for the ethnic violence in Assam, even as over 5,000 of them fled to Guwahati by special trains late Wednesday and in the early hours.

"We are assuring students and others from northeastern states residing in Bangalore or other parts of Karnataka that they are safe. They need not rush back to their homes fearing attacks as rumoured by unscrupulous elements," Bangalore Deputy Commissioner of Police (intelligence) Vincent S. D'Souza told IANS.

Deputy Chief Minister R. Ashoka, who holds the home portfolio, directed police to use all communication modes to assure the people from the northeast that they were safe and would be given full protection against any attack.

"We are using SMS, Facebook, Twitter, television channels, radio and other media to spike the rumours. We assure the people from the northeast, especially students in Bangalore, Mysore, Mangalore and other cities, not to believe in rumours and fear any attack on them," D'Souza said.

Wild rumours have been spreading, causing panic, that the people from the northeast region would be attacked after the Id-ul-Fitr August 20 to avenge the Assam violence, in which 74 lives were lost.

"We had to scramble to arrange at a short notice two special trains of 20-22 coaches each around midnight to Guwahati in addition to the daily Bangalore-Guwahati Express and Bangalore-Howrah Express as a whopping 6,000 unreserved tickets were sold since Wednesday afternoon at booking counters in city railway station," South Western Railway spokesman Suvankar Biswas told IANS.

Since regular trains to Howrah and Guwahati were fully booked for over a week due to holidays since Wednesday till Monday, all those who were desperate to leave the city were forced to buy unreserved tickets and board the first available train to Assam.

"Even those who could not get reservation to Howrah or Guwahati are opting to buy tickets up to Chennai so as to catch any northeast-bound trains from there. This is the first time we are seeing such a big surge in sale of tickets for these trains on a single day - that too in off-season," Biswas said.

The sudden overcrowding of platforms late Wednesday and frantic calls by railway officials for deployment of additional personnel from the Railway Protection Force and city police to prevent any untoward incident forced even the deputy chief minister to rush to the city station and plead with the frenzied students to desist from leaving the city.

"We are taking all measures to ensure people's safety across the state and protect them from being attacked or harmed by anyone. Security of citizens is our foremost duty," Director General of Police Lalrokhuma Pachau told reporters here.

"We request all, including the media, to allay fears of attacks on students from the northeast region or any part of the country and report to the nearest police station on rumour-mongers who are trying to spread fear," he added.

In a related development, Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar assured Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that people, especially students from the northeast, would be given protection to ensure their safety and security.

"The assurance was given when Singh called Shettar late Wednesday to express concern over unconfirmed reports of attack on students of the northeast in Bangalore and Mysore since Tuesday," an official from the Chief Minister's Office said.

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