Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Thursday appealed to states to maintain peace at any cost as thousands of people from the northeast fled Karnataka, Maharashtra and other states fearing attacks.
Speaking at an Iftar hosted by him, the prime minister asked states to restore trust and harmony and ensure no one was targeted due to rumour mongering.
He said people should work together to ensure that people from other states “do not feel threatened by rumour mongering and SMSes” and urged all political parties to work together to give a feeling of confidence to the people.
The prime minister’s appeal came as the government made it clear there was no danger to people from the northeast in Karnataka and warned miscreants against spreading rumours about their safety.
Earlier, as thousands from the northeast fled Karnataka by special trains, the prime minister spoke to Karnataka Chief Minister Jagadish Shetter on telephone.
He told both Shettar and union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde to ensure the safety of people from the northeast in the state.
“The prime minister spoke to the chief minister last night. He also spoke to Shinde,” an official in the Prime Minister’s Office told IANS.
The mass exodus followed rumours that people from the northeast would be attacked in Karnataka to avenge the ethnic violence in Assam involving the Bodo tribals and Bengali-speaking Muslims.
On Thursday, a group of Congress MPs from the northeast met party chief Sonia Gandhi.
An MP who was in the delegation told IANS that Gandhi shared their concern and blamed “vested interests” for the rumours.
They MPs later met Shinde, who promised that northeast students and others in Karnataka would be protected.
Speaking outside parliament, Shinde warned those spreading rumour of strict action. “Don’t spread such rumours… There is peace, all steps have been taken.
“Strict action will be taken against people who spread rumours.”
Home Secretary R.K. Singh echoed his message.
“There is no threat to the people of the northeast in any part of the country,” he told reporters.
“There is no incident in Karnataka, this is just rumour. People need to avoid rumours… There is no incident… full stop… no incident,” Singh said.
On Wednesday evening, Karnataka Home Minister R. Ashok visited the Bangalore Central railway station and assured the northeast students and professionals that they were safe in the state.
Two special trains to Assam were run by South-Western Railways Wednesday amid escalating demands for tickets.
Bhatatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Sushma Swaraj and party president Nitin Gadkari asked the central government to ensure the safety of the people of the northeast in the BJP-ruled state.