By Robert L Sungte
On Friday Parliament spoke in one voice to calm panic-stricken North-Easterners living in mainland cities.
Bangalore : As families watched the proceedings on television, many had tears running down their cheeks – a manifestation of the emotional angst of living in fear and possibly being tagged a ‘refugee’ in one’s own country.
Homemaker Partei said she could not control her tears when Sushma Swaraj, Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, made an emotional appeal to her countrymen to stand united and protect people from the North-East.
“I was really moved and felt safe for a moment when Sushmaji said: ‘We should tell the people of North-East that you are our brothers and sisters and we will protect you. You should not go anywhere, this is your country’,” she said, feeling relieved that her feelings resonated in Parliament, no less.
Thousands like Partei who have decided to stay back and hope that Bangalore and other cities will see better days, even as many of their friends leave them behind in the rush to return to their native states. These families, professionals and students hope the government’s assurance on security is real. They hope there is no animosity or bad blood floating around. And they hope that their fellow citizens will stand by them during these tense times.
Bangalore has been one of the favourite destinations of thousands of North-Easterners, for education, work or simply to live. Many factors have contributed to this social phenomenon.
But Bangalore might be losing its decades-old precious facet - its welcoming attitude towards migrants.
“We have embraced the City as our own because of the unmatched friendly attitude of the local people not found anywhere in India and because of the climate. But, these sudden rumours that we will be targeted after Ramzan (August 20) has shocked us,” said Vanlallien, a pastor who has overseen his community’s welfare in Bangalore for over two years.
Many feel innocent people were targeted because of “lack of communication and awareness about people of the North-East states.” The North-East region is divided into eight states and is home to hundreds of ethnic tribes. But it appears that their diversity is not appreciated elsewhere - and their distinct looks led them to be branded as all being part of one clan.
“Why should people of Manipur, Meghalaya, Tripura, Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim be attacked for violence in Assam?” Randolf, a student leader asked, referring to the Bodo-Muslim clashes in largest state of his region. “We never hurt anyone or any community in our state.”
Similar views were echoed by leaders of several North-East communities.
Apprehensions of what could happen next remains a big concern specially for the student community. Almost all the students’ organisations have either postponed or cancelled their annual freshers meets and socials, usually held in August around Independence Day.
“We called off our annual Freshers’ Meet scheduled for August 18. However, we have appealed to our members not to panic,” said William P, information secretary of a students’ association.
However, on Friday indigenous Assamese Muslims clarified in Guwahati that they were not targeted by Bodo tribals. People are hoping normalcy will return soon.
Sadou Asom Gariya – Moria Desi Jatiya Parisad(SAGMJ), an influential body of about 25 lakh Assamese Muslims, held All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) chief Badruddin Ajmal responsible for North-East students and workers leaving Maharastra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
SAGMJP president Sahiruddin Ali Ahmed said, “Ajmal said the clash in Kokrajhar and Chirang was between Muslims and Bodo tribals. All Muslims are not involved in the clash. Ajmal is trying to consolidate his political position by indulging in communal politics.” The All Assam Students’ Union leaders who were present with Sahiruddin Ali Ahmed said the Bodos “are fighting with Bengali-speaking Bangladeshi immigrants.” Meanwhile, some incidents of ethnic and communal violence compounded the fear among North-Easterners in Bangalore. “If some people had the courage to attack us during broad daylight, one can imagine our feelings,” said Zari, a homemaker referring to the incidents.
However, those resisting fleeing back to the North-East are doing so to make a point - they don’t want to let divisive forces feel like they’ve won. And they don’t want to feel victimised - given that it is a fundamental right to move freely and reside anywhere in India.
“Running away would bring smiles to fundamental forces. We appeal to all Bangaloreans to stand with us in this time of difficulty. Besides, we don’t want to be refugees in our own country,” said Pranita, a sales girl.
Source: DH News Service