Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh assured migrants from the northeast of the country that they were safe as thousands continued to flee from Mumbai, Bangalore and other cities yesterday, fearing a backlash from violence against Muslims in Assam State.
Railway authorities have laid on extra trains from Bangalore and other cities this week for the two-day journey back to Assam in the northeast. Some media reports said that by yesterday as many as 15,000 people had left cities in the south and west, including Mumbai and Pune.
“What is at stake is the unity of our country. What is at stake is communal harmony,” Singh told parliament. “I assure you ... that we will do our utmost to ensure that our friends and our children and our citizens from the northeast feel secure, in any and every part of our country.”
Muslims across India have been alarmed by clashes in recent weeks between people in the northeastern state of Assam and Muslim settlers from neighboring Bangladesh. About 75 people have been killed and more than 400,000 displaced.
Two people were killed and dozens were wounded last week when about 10,000 people rioted in the city of Mumbai, following a protest by Muslims against violence in the northeast.
Rumors of revenge attacks by Muslims have been swirling, many of which have been carried on social media and mass text messages.
“It is the obligation of all of us, regardless of the party, that we work together to create an atmosphere where this rumormongering will come to an end,” Singh said.
Analysts have accused political parties and religious organizations of exploiting ethnic tensions for their own ends.
The Hindu nationalist opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, which has in the past been accused of fomenting Hindu-Muslim violence, blames the Assam riots on uncontrolled immigration into the state from Muslim-majority Bangladesh.
It says the Congress party, which leads the coalition running the federal government, allows immigration to win votes from new arrivals.