[QODLink]
Central & South Asia
Thousands flee violence-hit Indian cities
Fearing a backlash over violence against Muslims in Assam state and neighbouring Myanmar, Indians flee southern cities.
Last Modified: 16 Aug 2012 20:27
Thousands of Indians from the northeast of the country fled southern cities after fearing attacks [Al Jazeera]

Thousands of Indians from the northeast of the country who live in southern cities are fleeing as fears grow of a backlash over violence against Muslims in the state of Assam and neighbouring Myanmar.

Hundreds of students and workers from Assam state crowded Bangalore's main railway station to try to board trains heading out of the city, while officials tried in vain to assure them of their safety.

Those fleeing Bangalore said they had heard text messages had been circulating threatening attacks by Muslims.

Jagadish Shettar, chief minister of Karnataka state, met separately with Assamese and Muslim leaders Thursday in an effort to restore calm. Bangalore is the capital of Karnataka.

Shettar said no one had seen any threatening text messages and authorities were trying to find out who was behind the rumours.

He said police and security forces were on alert and telephone helplines had been set up to give a sense of security to people in the city.

Despite Shettar's assurances, many from the northeast said they felt insecure.

"As a person from the northeast, we always stick out in a crowd. And sometimes that makes us afraid of being easy targets,'' said Ganesh Khanal, a garment industry worker trying to board a train at Bangalore railway station.

Khanal said he had been living in Bangalore for nearly three years but was returning to his home in Assam as soon as he could secure a ticket.

Over the weekend, two people were killed and 55 wounded when about 10,000 people rioted in the financial capital of Mumbai after Muslims held a protest against violence against members of their religion.

Fresh violence flared in previously calm areas of the hill state of Assam on Thursday, with a mob of hundreds of people burning a bus and a bridge, apparently in retaliation for a similar attack on a car, officials said.

Police opened fire to disperse another mob and one person was injured.

About 75 people have been killed and more than 400,000 displaced.

Myanmar clashes

Separately, at least 80 people were killed and tens of thousands were displaced in the western Myanmar state of Rakhine in days of clashes between members of the majority Buddhist community and minority Muslims that erupted in June.

The violence has angered Muslims around the world and raised tension in India where religious and ethnic divisions have simmered for decades, occasionally erupting into communal blood-letting.

Adding to the climate of fear was a knife attack on a Tibetan student in a town near Bangalore although the circumstances were not clear.

"Right now people from the northeast have got threats to vacate their houses and some of them got beaten up here and there," said Vivek Raj Kumar, a member of a group representing students from the northeastern state of Manipur.

Railway authorities laid on two extra trains on Wednesday night to take about 7,000 people on the two-day journey to Assam.

'Rumour-mongering'

Top interior ministry official R.K Singh called for calm and said people from the northeast were safe anywhere in the country.

He blamed "rumour-mongering" for the panic.  

Assam's Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi said rumours were spreading "like wildfire" over social media and mobile telephone text messages.

"New technology is responsible for spreading rumours. It moves faster and reaches more people," Gogoi said.

Analysts have accused political parties and religious organisations of exploiting ethnic tension for their ends.

The Hindu nationalist opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which has in the past been accused of fomenting Hindu-Muslim violence, blames the Assam tension on uncontrolled immigration into the state from Muslim-majority Bangladesh.

It says the Congress party, which leads a ruling coalition, allows immigration to win votes from new arrivals.

A BJP chief in the eastern state of Odisha called on Thursday for all illegal Bangladeshi immigrants to be identified and expelled.

610

Source:
Agencies
Topics in this article
People
Country
City
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
At least 25 tax collectors have been killed since 2012 in Mogadishu, a city awash in weapons and abject poverty.
Tokyo government claims its homeless population has hit a record low, but analysts - and the homeless - beg to differ.
3D printers can cheaply construct homes and could soon be deployed to help victims of catastrophe rebuild their lives.
Lack of child protection laws means abandoned and orphaned kids rely heavily on the care of strangers.
Featured
Booming global trade in 50-million-year-old amber stones is lucrative, controversial, and extremely dangerous.
Legendary Native-American High Bird was trained in ancient warrior traditions, which he employed in World War II.
Hounded opposition figure says he's hoping for the best at sodomy appeal but prepared to return to prison.
Fears of rising Islamophobia and racial profiling after two soldiers killed in separate incidents.
Group's culture of summary justice is back in Northern Ireland's spotlight after new sexual assault accusations.