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Thousands of northeast people flee from Bangalore fearing attacks (Update: NE)

Bangalore, Aug.16 (ANI): Thousands of people, hailing from India’s northeastern states, fled from the city of Bangalore on Thursday, following rumours that they could be attacked in the wake of the recent ethnic clashes between Bodos and Muslims.

As per media reports, at least 5000 people from various northeastern states rushed to get rail tickets after rumours surfaced and spread across the city through messages and mails that they could be attacked as a reaction to riots in Assam.

Violence between the Bodos and Muslims first broke out on July 20, after unidentified men killed four Bodo youths. In retaliation, armed Bodos – who dominate Assam’s Kokrajhar and Chirang districts – attacked Muslims, suspecting them of being behind the deaths.

At least 77 people have been killed in the deadly riots.

Speaking to a reporter, John, a local hailing from Guwahati, said they were living in fear of being attacked any time.

“Everybody is saying that people from the northeast are being killed. I am also afraid. They had also hit my friend. We are working at a call centre. They have brutally beaten my friend,” said John.

Another local from the northeast, Ratul expressed similar views.

“I am looking for tickets to go back, as people are targeting natives of Assam. Somebody has beaten a boy from Assam, which has caused fear among the people, and because of these rumours, people are returning to Assam,” said Ratul.

The railways has made special arrangements for more trains to Guwahati as the number of people wanting to travel out of the state swelled overnight.

As the situation turned grim, Karnataka’s Home Minister, R Ashok, also visited the railway station and urged the people not to leave.

He also asked them not to pay heed to rumours and assured them of their safety.

“I request northeast students, and those who are working in Bangalore, don’t go to Assam. You stay here in Bangalore is very safe. You are staying for the past 10-15 years in Bangalore, and upto now, no incident has happened here. They are only rumours, and it is wrong news. Don’t believe rumours. Bangalore is safe and Karnataka is safe,” said R. Ashok.

Fearing for their lives, tens of thousands of Muslims and Bodos had fled from their homes in the remote hamlets of Assam along the border with Bhutan, and sought shelter in camps in larger towns.

Roving armed bands had set ablaze hundreds of tin-roofed homes, many made of hay and clay, in the nearly week-long orgy of violence.

Communal clashes have since ensued and fleeing survivors speak of large groups of men armed with automatic weapons surrounding entire villages, going on the rampage, gunning down people or hacking them to death with machetes. Hundreds of villages have been looted and razed.

In recent years, Hindu and Christian tribes have vented strong anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim sentiment against settlers from mostly Muslim Bangladesh, which neighbours Assam.

Tensions have long existed between the two groups in this region, famed for its lush tea plantations and as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s parliamentary constituency.

The Bodos have long fought for a separate homeland and after a 16-year armed struggle, they signed a 2003 peace accord with New Delhi, giving them autonomy over the four districts.

They say many of the Muslims, who over the years have grown to outnumber the Bodos, are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

The Muslims, who work for Bodos on their fields and construction sites or as rickshaw drivers, say they are Indian citizens and have voting rights.

This is not the first time that the two groups have clashed. In 1993, Bodos attacked Muslims and other communities resulting in around 2,000 deaths and thousands displaced. (ANI)