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Thursday, February 25, 2021

Assam: Northeast crisis

Restoring status quo


Despite govt assurances, insecurity remains high
MONALISA GOGOI | Issue Dated: November 30, -0001, New Delhi

It is not a crisis restricted just to north eastern India. The exodus of North Eastern population from Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra in the wake of rumours that they may be attacked as a retaliation against the alleged atrocities on Muslims in Assam, has also affected these states.

Businesses which rely heavily on staffers from India's North East are facing the direct affect of this exodus, its impact felt most keenly in southern states like Karnataka. Retail, hospitality and business process outsourcing sectors are the worst hit as these employ people from the North East in large numbers.

To woo back those who had fled, Karnataka's Deputy Chief Minister R Ashoka on August 25 flew down to Guwahati and assured people of Assam and the seven sister states that Karnataka was safe. "Karnataka is safe," he told the media. Going a step further, he said that the state government would ensure that every person from the North East who had left in the wake of rumours and threats, was taken back by their employers.

According to Ashoka, there were about 3.5 lakh people from Assam and other northeastern states in Karnataka. "While a majority of them are with security agencies and the hospitality sector, we also have a sizable number working in the upper layers of the IT sector."

A day after he visited Assam, Ashoka made a short visit to Manipur. "We are all Indians and we are one. That's why I have come to Imphal to urge all those who fled Karnataka to return to their respective institutions and work places," he said, adding that special trains for the northeastern people to return to Karnataka would be operated from Guwahati from September 1. Not all are, however, convinced. Says Rupankar Sarma, "I want to go back to Bangalore, but my parents are worried. They are against my going back so soon."

But there are those who remain optimistic. Diganta Saikia, resident of Dhemaji, is keen to go back to Karnataka. "I have come to know from my friends in Bangalore that the situation is normal. After the assurances given by the deputy CM, I have decided to go back."

However, the president of Assam Public Works, Avijit Sarma, says, “I personally met about 7,000 people who had returned. In the wake of rumours, they just boarded a train and returned to their home states leaving their jobs. The government had assured them that they will get back their jobs. But the problem is that most private companies, where they were employed, have their own policies. They may not take them back.” However, the BJP government in Karnataka says it will leave no stone unturned to restore the status quo.

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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017