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Thousands flee amid fears of attack

Violence in Assam sparks widespread fear of reprisals

Thousands flee amid fears of attack
Students hold a meeting at Bangalore station as they prepare to leave the city reporters, Pune, Bangalore and New Delhi

August 16, 2012

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The Indian government today appealed for calm amid rumors of imminent ethnic attacks, following the recent clashes in Assam. The appeal came after media reports said around 9,000 people from northeastern India have fled Bangalore, capital of the southern state of Karnataka, after social networking sites spoke of possible attacks on them. The stabbing of a Tibetan student by two motorcycle-borne men in Karnataka’s Mysore district on August 14 added to the tension. Federal Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde warned that the government would take “strict action” against rumor mongers. But incidents of violence have been reported in Pune and Mumbai in recent days. More than 10,000 students from seven northeastern states study in various colleges in Pune. “We have been praying and seeking God’s protection,” said Daniel Renthlei, an engineering student from Mizoram who is living in the city. He told that northeastern students have temporarily shifted to safer places within the city. “However, we have not yet heard anyone leaving because of attacks.” Reverend David Ralte, a Protestant pastor from Mizoram, said the situation in Pune was tense. In Bangalore, where an estimated 250,000 northeastern people live, students were seen crowding the railway stations. Nearly 7,000 tickets were sold yesterday to passengers bound for Assam and two special trains left last night, railway officials said. Karnataka Law Minister Suresh Kumar went to the railway station to urge people not to flee. But a spokeswoman for a Bangalore student association said she had heard several reports of harassment and many students were planning to ignore his appeal and leave in the coming days. In New Delhi, workers at a helpline for northeasterners said that most people fleeing the cities were migrant workers. The helpline's Madhu Chandra urged the government to give proper security to the fugitives. “Fleeing from a place will not solve any problems,” he said. Meanwhile, Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi said he was monitoring the situation with his counterparts in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Maharashtra states. The clashes in Assam state, between indigenous Bodo tribesmen and Muslim settlers, have killed around 78 people and forced more than 400,000 to take shelter in relief camps. Related reports New law can mean jail terms for using racial slurs Agencies cannot access strife-torn Assam
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