RUMOUR-MONGERING WINS, PANIC FLIGHTS CONTINUE FROM BANGALORE AND PUNE
SIKKIMESE STUDENTS IN PUNE AND BANGALORE CONVEY THEY ARE SAFE, BUT WISH THEY HAD REPRESENTATIVE BODY THERE TO FEEL MORE SECURE
GANGTOK, 16 Aug: Rumour-mongering has won the day, and reassurances from every concerned agency have failed to calm the panic which has gripped the people from Northeast in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra. For the second consecutive day today, students and professionals from the North East based in these three states continued to flee in droves, fearful that retaliatory attacks on people from the North East following the communal violence in Assam will eventually reach them if they stayed behind. The mainstream’s established ignorance about the people of the North East has convinced people from these parts that any backlash against the communal violence of Bodoland Territorial Autonomous District of Assam will sweep all people who might look like that they are from the North East. Needless to add, this includes the many from Sikkim who work and study in the cities in the grips of the latest wave of rumour-triggered fear psychosis.
Speaking to NOW!, Swabhaw Gurung of Sikkim who is working in Pune at present, informed that although there were reports of attacks on some North Easterns in the city last week, no new incidents have been reported so far.
Panic and fear have however gripped people from the North East residing in Pune, he said, adding that most choose to remain indoors while others are planning to leave the city as soon as possible. “Though the violence has largely died down, people from the North East are scared and most students are planning to head home... My brother who is also studying here is planning to leave in a day or two,” said Swabhaw.
The pall of fear is real even if the threat is largely imagined or instigated, but given that so many from Sikkim live in the panic-struck cities in question, the State Government, through the Director General of Police and the Chief Secretary enquired after the situation in Karnataka and sought special consideration for people from Sikkim based there.
The Director General of Police was approached by concerned parents and representatives from the civil society today regarding rumours of violence coming in from Bengaluru.
Following this, it is informed that the DGP contacted the Karnataka Police to check on the situation. The Karnataka police, as they have been maintaining all along, is also reported to have asserted to the Sikkim DGP that claims of targeted violence in Bengaluru are just rumours and reassured that all necessary action to keep people from Sikkim safe would be taken if required.
The DGP is also reported to have provided names and locations of where Sikkimese students live in Bengaluru and the Karnataka police, in turn, assured to send police personnel to provide security to the students in case of any untoward incident.
The Chief Secretary of Sikkim, Karma Gyatso, also spoke to his counterpart in Karnataka, SV Ranganath, today and conveyed the Sikkim Government’s concern about the safety of Sikkimese residing in Bengaluru, an IPR press release informs.
In response, the Karnataka CS gave full assurance as regards the safety of Sikkimese in Bengaluru and added that the law and order situation in Karnataka was under control.
Mr Gyatso has also requested the Speaker, KT Gyaltsen to take up the issue with the Karnataka Government during his visit to the State which is scheduled for 18 September.
The backlash against people from the North East came to the fore when a Muslim rally against the Assam riots held in Mumbai went out of control killing 2 and injuring some others. Following this, rumours of more attacks spread in other cities as well, especially in Bengaluru where there is a sizeable population from the North East. As the country celebrated the 66th Independence Day, news reports on the mass exodus of North Easterns from Bengaluru started pouring in. There are now reports of such mass exodus from Hyderabad and Pune as well.
Although attacks on North Easterns were reported from Pune from where there have been reports of almost 12 attacks on people from different parts of the North East, in Bengaluru the fear rides mostly on the basis of rumours - whether by SMS or word-of-mouth - about alleged attacks and alleged preparations for an attack.
A Sikkimese studying in Bengaluru, Kunzang Deki, tries to explain why the reassurances or clarifications are not having the desired effect and why fear and panic continues to spread in the city among people from the north east. “The police and the state administration are all saying that the situation is under control and full security will be provided to us but we do not feel safe. I haven’t seen any police patrolling or police personnel on the streets,” she told NOW!
“There have even been incidents of the police here warning students from the North East to be careful which adds to the fear,” she added.
A lot of students have taken a month’s leave from colleges and schools and are returning home, she added.
Kunzang, who stays in a PG accommodation, was leaving for her uncle’s place located in another part of the city, where she plans to stay till it is deemed safe.
Meanwhile, Swabhaw inform from Pune that two students and three working people from Sikkim [whom he knows] are returning home tomorrow. He is planning to send his wife back to Sikkim as well.
“The police have assured ample security for North Easterns here and individual state associations have provided helpline numbers… Sadly Sikkimese don't have an association or any helplines,” expressed Swabhaw.
Kunzang from Bengaluru also said that she is not aware of any association for Sikkim in the city.
On his take on the whole situation as a Sikkimese, Swabhaw says, “People have being misinformed and people with vested interests have taken advantage of the ignorance of the mainland Indians... It makes me feel unwelcome and marginalised in the Indian mainstream”.
Back in Sikkim in the meanwhile, student bodies have approached the authorities conveying their concerns regarding the security of Sikkimese students studying outside the state.
Students’ Union of Sikkim [SUS] convened an emergency meeting today on the recent incidents of attacks on the North Easterns in Pune and warnings spread through SMS in Bangalore.
An SUS press release informs that the meeting chaired by SUS president, Ugen Bhutia expressed its concern over the recent attacks on north-eastern students at Pune and strongly condemned such incidents. SUS also forwarded a letter requesting the “full proof security” for those from the North East, students in particular, to the Union Home Minister, the release informs.
SUS has further appealed to Sikkimese students in different parts of the country to have full faith in the administration and follow the security guidelines provided by the police administration in the respective cities.
SUS has also opened a help-line number to register the grievances of students in Bangalore so that the same could be forwarded to the concerned authorities through SUS. The helpline numbers are: 96478-74611, 80162-05290, 96354-04862 and 98323-08317.
Meanwhile, the Sikkim United Student Association [SUSA] submitted a memorandum to the Chief Secretary today on the security of Sikkimese’s students studying in different educational institutes outside Sikkim.
A SUSA press release informs that during the meeting, the Chief Secretary informed SUSA members that this issue has been taken seriously and informed them of his conversation with the Karnataka CS. Interestingly, the release adds that if some unfortunate incident were to happen to Sikkimese students outside Sikkim, then the Sikkim government will be held responsible.
The Sikkim RTI Forum joins issue with the incidents in the three states and its general secretary, DK Chhetri, in a press release issued today postures, “Its an outrage that our childrens are dying out there and the shameless NorthEast CMs have zipped their lips”. It needs to be clarified here that no incidents of violence against people from the North East have been reported to in Bengaluru and no fatalities have been reported from any of these attacks.
“If politics is a pressure game then, our North East Chief Ministers must speak unitedly to the Central Govt. to provide protection to our children or to form effective Law. We believe the Central Govt cannot bear the pressure if applied from a United North East Chief Ministers,” the release states, even adding, “The discrimination to our childrens has reached its height, and maybe we have reached the verge of retaliation for self protection”.