Is there a conspiracy?
Rumour mongering over Assam violence has caused panic among the Northeastern students and professionals. An estimated 4,000 people who hail from the Northeast, but were living in Bangalore, are now rushing to leave the I-T city and return to their home states as a fallout of the recent communal clashes.
This is because they fear for their safety after many reportedly received anonymous SMSes saying they would be targeted in retaliatory attacks. “Our relatives in the Northeast are calling us back due to security reasons,” one of the Northeast students said.
Karnataka Home Minister R Ashok spoke on the station public announcement system and appealed the Northeast people not to leave Bangalore. “Bangalore is safe, don’t believe in rumours, don’t leave Bangalore,” he said.
The government says there is no need to panic. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde have spoken to Karnataka Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar. He has also called a high-level meeting with senior police officials and Northeast community leaders.
But not just Bangalore, there have been similar attacks elsewhere as well. Thirteen people were arrested for allegedly beating up Northeastern students in Pune last week. The Pune police met members of the Muslim community urging them to disregard a controversial MMS clip that has been doing the rounds. Police say the clip is doctored and aimed at creating communal tension. A case has been filed against unknown persons for circulating it. Security is being stepped up at colleges in the city.
Meanwhile, a Tibetan college student was stabbed in Mysore by two people who suspected him to be from the Northeast.
Could there be a concerted effort by a small group to use the violence in Assam to create a major security situation in the country?
If there is, then the group is small, because it does not seem to have to numbers to actually change the situation on the ground. It knows the fault lines in Indian society, and is trying to leverage these cracks to create a problem. It failed narrowly in Mumbai. It has not succeeded in Pune and Mysore. Has it begun to succeed in Bangalore?
In Pune, Mysore and Bangalore there is the same method: attack a small number of people, and then try to escalate the situation by spreading rumours. The reason why such a small number of people are being attacked is presumably because the group of criminals is small.
In Mumbai and Pune it was appropriate police action, even-handed and careful, that stopped these small fires from flaring into an uncontrollable situation. Bangalore also seems to need good policing. Perhaps bringing together Muslim community leaders with those from the Northeast might help.
17 August, 2012
Today, the media was full of pundits saying essentially the same things as above. New developments were reported by IBN Live:
With no let-up in the exodus of people from the northeast in Bangalore, Police cracked the whip arresting six people today on charges that included sending “false” SMSes while Centre banned for 15 days bulk text messages and MMSes across the country. Driven by rumours of impending attacks, the exodus of people from the northeast spread from Bangalore to other areas in Karnataka like Mysore, Mangalore and Kodagu on the third day today. Karnataka government said six persons have been arrested on charges of attack, intimidation or sending “false” SMSes to people from northeast even as it decided to deploy Rapid Action Force(RAF) personnel in Bangalore to instill confidence among the fear-struck people. Police have also detained some others for questioning,
[Siddique Nagar in Hyderabad, which is] filled with narrow lanes and indistinguishable apartments, lost some of its anonymity this week. This is where a few thousand men from the North East live in small tenements. Many of them work as security guards in the large software firms nearby; others are housekeeping staff. Now, there are policemen guarding them in Siddique Nagar.
Since Sunday, say some of those who live in Siddique Nagar, phone calls from worried families have urged the North Easterners here to head home, at least for a few weeks. Some have responded.
But the police has been patrolling areas popular among the North Eastern community to assure them they are safe. Leaders of different communities have also visited the area, urging residents to recognise this is their home, there is no need to leave.
“Hyderabad is for everyone, Muslims and Hindus. Just because there was trouble in Assam, doesn’t mean there will be trouble here. We have communal harmony here,” said Sheikh Jameel, in charge of a mosque at Siddique Nagar.
18 August, 2012
ET reports the lack of effective policing in Bangalore and UP, notwithstanding the political speeches in the parliament:
Attacks on people from the northeast in Bangalore and threat calls to students in Hyderabad on Friday deepened insecurity among workers and students and hundreds crammed into trains in Pune, Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad and even Goa, to head home.
Four Assamese men were stopped by unidentified assailants and attacked with soda bottles, said a complaint filed at the Ashoknagar police station in Bangalore. Elsewhere, three Manipuri men were beaten up near a bus shelter and in the third attack, a 23-year-old Manipuri man was thrashed while buying vegetables.
Karnataka home minister R Ashoka and law minister S Suresh Kumar held meetings with various trade organizations to instill confidence among migrants from the northeast working in their set-ups. On Friday, 2,000 people belonging to the northeast states booked train tickets out of Bangalore.
In Lucknow, public property worth lakhs was damaged when a group went berserk in the old city area while protesting the recent violence in Assam.
The surfeit of small scale violence is consistent with the theory that there is a very determined small group of people planning and creating trouble. Is this connected with the yet to be satisfactorily solved cases of bombings in various cities over the last year or so?
21 August, 2012
Dawn reports without comment India’s discovery that a significant part of the hate campaign was based in Pakistan:
“Our agencies have discovered that bulk of these messages have been uploaded on various websites in Pakistan,” Home Secretary R.K. Singh told reporters on Saturday.
“This is a first of its kind and we believe that it is highly reprehensible.”
The exodus was sparked by threats sent via mobile phones and the Internet that people from northeastern Assam state would be attacked by Muslims after the end of the holy month of Ramazan in reprisal for recent ethnic violence.
Local media reports estimated that over 35,000 people have fled the cities of Bangalore and Mumbai in recent days.
Washington Post reported:
India blocked about 250 Web sites and social networking sites Monday, accusing them of spreading inflammatory content that triggered panic among thousands of workers and students from the country’s eight northeastern states last week.
The government’s blame list ranged from Facebook to fundamentalist Pakistani sites, Twitter to text messages, and Google to YouTube videos. Authorities also barred the sending of text messages to more than five people at a time for two weeks.
The government said a number of Web sites had deliberately tried to inflame passions, hosting morphed videos of violence against Muslims in Burma and asserting that they were filmed in Assam. The images went viral and provoked riots by Muslim residents of Mumbai just over a week ago.
The last statement is an attempt to whitewash the lack of action. It should be clear that there are groups working inside the country to create trouble. They may be supported, in terms of organization, money, and material, from across the border. However, until the government takes steps to correctly identify these groups, isolate them and then punish them, such terror attacks can take place at any time.