Guwahati: In groups small and large, people from the North-East who fled cities like Bangalore and Pune fearing violence following Bodo-Muslim clashes in Assam have started returning to work.
While a special train arranged by the Assam government left for Bangalore September 1, another train is expected to leave Guwahati on September 8.
Others are taking normal trains to resume lives in cities they have made their homes for years. But there is no palpable rush at railway stations.
"I am planning to return as there is nothing to do here," Binay Gogoi of Dhemaji district in Assam said.
"I looked for jobs in Guwahati after I returned from Bangalore. There are some opportunities but salaries are poor here," he said.
Gogoi worked as a security guard at a mall in Bangalore and returned to his house in Dhemaji along with thousands of others last month.
The eldest son in the family, Gogoi takes care of a family of five.
"I have heard from some of my colleagues who had stayed back that the company is going to reinstate those who fled. It`s better to go back early since I have to go back anyway," he said.
While there were some students and workers from Manipur and Nagaland in the first special train that left Guwahati, most passengers were from Assam.
It is still not clear just how many fled places like Pune, Bangalore, Chennai and other cities following rumours that people from the North-East would be targeted for the attacks on Muslims in Assam.
The rumours gained currency following SMS and MMS warnings from unknown mobile numbers. India later blamed Pakistan-based Islamist groups for the messages.
Eventually, some thousands fled to the North-East, packing trains. The worst hit were Pune and Bangalore. Most people who left were poorly paid workers.
Clearly, the rush to go back is yet to pick up.
North-East Frontier Railway spokesperson Jayanta Sarma said bookings in many of the South-bound trains from Guwahati are still open.
The Guwahati-Bangalore Express left some days ago from here with 299 vacant seats in the sleeper class.
Similarly, many seats are still vacant in other south-bound trains like Dibrugarh-Yeswantpur Express, Guwahati-Chennai Express, Guwahati-Ernakulam Express, Guwahati-Thiruvananthapuram Express and Guwahati-Secunderabad Express scheduled for departure on many days till September 15.
Yet, the Railways plan to run a second special train between Guwahati and Bangalore on September 8 because of a request from the Assam government, the official said.
Besides the special trains, seven trains depart from Guwahati for southern India every week.
Some who fled appear to be still apprehensive about returning to southern India.
Others like Nayan Moni Deka of Morigaon feel it was a mistake to have panicked and returned to Assam.
"There are no job opportunities here and so I must go back. Sometimes I feel that we had taken a hasty decision to return home, and that we should have stayed back," Deka said.
In contrast to a quarter century ago, tens of thousands of people from the North-East today study, work and live in northern, western and southern India. Last month`s rumours caused no panic in North India.