Exodus continues; ban on bulk SMSes

Bangalore/New Delhi: Driven by rumours of impending attacks, the exodus of people from the Northeast spread from Bangalore to neighbouring cities on the third day on Friday, prompting the Centre to ban for 15 days bulk SMSes and MMSes across the country.

The decision was taken after reports of widespread circulation of SMSes and MMSes containing misleading information about Assam violence and threats of attacks to people from the Northeastern region. Under the order, no one from Friday will be able to send more than 5 SMSes in one go and more than 20KB of data through mobile phones during the ban period.

Notwithstanding assurances of safety by the Centre and the Karnataka government to the people of the Northeast, hordes of them living in Mysore, Mangalore and Kodagu made a beeline to the railway ticket counters here to return to their states.

More than 15,000 people have fled the city in the past two days following the rumours, officials said on Friday.

The Railways had sold 9,718 tickets for the two special trains that headed to Guwahati on Thursday night, Divisional Railway Manager, Bangalore, Anil Kumar Agarwal, informed. Officials estimate the number of people from the northeast, including students, residing in Bangalore in the range of 2.5 lakh and 2.75 lakh.

In Chennai, over 1,000 people from the Northeast were reported to have taken trains out of the city.

The exodus issue figured in both Houses of Parliament with members expressing solidarity with the people hailing from the Northeast.

Parliament expressed alarm at the fear psychosis that has gripped people from Northeast in some other parts of the country, with Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh warning stern action against those behind the ‘most reprehensible’ act of creating insecurity.

Both Houses of Parliament showed solidarity with the people of North East, with Rajya Sabha adopting a resolution demanding a thorough probe into the spread of rumours that have created panic.

Dr Singh asserted that the government would do everything to control the situation and provide security to people of North East as he decried use of incidents of Assam and other areas as an excuse for fanning rumours and creating insecurity.

Speaking on the burning issue in both Houses, he said North East region was ‘very sensitive issue’ and said those spreading rumours would be brought to book. He urged the people to maintain unity and integrity of the country.

His remarks came as Parliament, rising above party politics, spoke in unison against the panic created among people from North East in states like Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu.

The Karnataka government continued to reach out to the community urging them to stay on and assured them that it is committed to safeguarding their lives and property in the state.

“We on behalf of people of Karnataka and Government once again reassure the people of the northeastern Community that they are safe and welcome in Karnataka,” the Government said in an advertisement, signed by Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar and Home Minister R Ashoka, published in newspapers on Friday.

The government said no violent incidents have been reported. “We thereby urge not to heed to rumours and rest assured that stringent security measures have been deployed to prevent any untoward incidents”.

Strict action would be taken against anyone spreading rumours. “We also request the north-eastern media not to go by unconfirmed reports which can create further fear and confusion,” Shettar and Ashoka said.

The state government has decided to deploy six companies of the Rapid Action Force (RAF) in different parts of the city to instil a sense of confidence among the panic-stricken community. As rumours spread thick and fast, the Andhra Pradesh Police reassured people from the Northeast region of their safety. (PTI)

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