GUWAHATI, (Dr Walter Fernandes) — I had written to most of you in the morning (16 August) about the situation of the NE people in Bangalore. I had said that a few thousands had fled Bangalore because of false rumours spread by some groups. I had requested to tell your contacts in Bangalore and their relatives in North East India that they are safe and that they do not have to worry. They should not leave Bangalore. I am just back after a full day of meetings and discussion with various groups and this is the latest.
The first point is that it is true that many thousands have fled Bangalore but we do not know the exact number. The railways announced that 4,793 tickets were booked for Guwahati in a single day and they have put two extra trains on the route. I have not heard the latest.
Secondly we found out who was behind the false rumours. It is the fundamentalist group Bhagat Singh Kranti Sena – the group that was behind the attack on Prashant Bhushan inside the Supreme Court Premises. They have been sending SMS messages and writing on the facebook that the Muslims are planning a massive attack on them after the ID celebrations and that they should leave Bangalore. They spread rumours that there have already been many attacks and gave a mobile number to contact in case of attacks or fear.
One civil society person contacted that number and asked the person who claimed to be head of the Sena for details on the attacks. He said that he did not have any details but had only heard of attacks. That is where we stand.
Another rumour spread that seven people had died in Nelasandra and three more in Koramangala etc. on the outskirts of Bangalore. Inquiries showed that they were false rumours. Persons who visited the railway station tell us that around 100 persons belonging to this or some other similar outfit are standing at the station with lathis on the pretext of protecting people from the NE. All of it seems to be part of a well worked out plan to cause panic through false rumours. They have also been threatening people.
This morning there was a threat on the Sena facebook more or less like “You supporters of Bangladeshis, if you do in Delhi what you are doing in other places we will break both your hands and legs.” Another message said “Instead of punishing the Bangladeshis you are providing trains. You are anti-national.” (this is paraphrase, not the exact wording).
Have there been attacks? Yes, there were a few, some of them physical. Most of them took the form of Muslim house owners asking the NE tenants to leave the house for fear of attacks. Most of those who had suffered some physical attacks have left. We do not know who attaccked them. But the main problem is that people of NE live in fear and do not report any attack. It happened after L. Richard’s murder and it is happening again. They are afraid of going to the police. So the work during the day was to get details of any attacks suffered and to go to the police.
A meeting of persons from NE was held at St Joseph’s Arts and Science collegpt e. The hall has place for 400 and at least 200 were standing – All except 30 from NE, most of them students and also leaders of different NE organisations. The Principal of the college Fr Daniel Fernandes told them that these rumours are false and that they should not leave. He has offered them space in the college to stay. Some class rooms have been vacated and even girls will be allowed to stay there till it is safe to move out. They have extra protection at the entrance because the Sangh parivar can plan an attack. So they are safe inside and girls have been given the safest place.
Leaders of six Muslim organisations and the Secretary General of the Karnataka Federation of Muslim organisations told them that no Muslim will plan any violence in the holy month of Ramadan and that the rumours are false. They have stationed a few thousands of their cadres all over Bangalore to prevent any attack on persons from NE. Their protection will be the theme of the sermon in all the mosques of Bangalore tomorrow. Also two police officers told them not to believe the rumours. An NE delegation met the CM together with the Chief Secretary and the DGP. All of them are feeling the pressure of the combined effort of the NE-Muslim-civil society leaders and have assured them full protection. Some persons have gone out already to some sensitive areas in the suburbs to ensure their protection.
After the big meeting some of us met with the leaders of NE, Muslims and others to discuss the strategy. A coordination group has been formed with some NE, Muslim and civil society leaders. They will meet once in two days to review the situation. They will hold a joint press meet tomorrow. So please tell everyone that they are safe. Please give them the contact numbers:
Police control room: 080-22942222. 09480801020. The name of the police officer put specially in charge of this task is Mr D’Souza. (I have forgotten his first name. The coordinator of the civil society coalition that organised this meeting is: Manohar Elavarthi (0) 9483950202.
Please avoid all panic and reassure your people at home. The students keep getting frantic calls from NE. Please reassure them. Bye
Dr Walter Fernandes
North Eastern Social Research Centre
110 Kharghuli Road (1st floor)
Tel. (+91-361) 2602819
Fax: (+91-361) 2602713 (Attn. NESRC)