Pune: The spectacle of fear-stricken residents from North-East swarming Pune railway station in a desperate bid to head for their home states, has had a benumbing effect on the second capital of Maharashtra which is still coming to terms with what could have been a potentially catastrophic serial bomb explosions a few days back.
Despite stepped up efforts by authorities, social organisations and help groups to remove the fear stalking hundreds of students and workers from Assam and Manipur, rattled by beastly attacks in the last four days in Kondhwa, Hadapsar and Cantonment areas of the city, they continued to make a beeline towards the railway station.
Their only goal for the time being appeared to catch "Azad Hind Express" that leaves the city every evening for Howrah.
"We are returning as our parents are worried. I will come back but as of now I am leaving with nine of my friends from Imphal," said a female student at the railway station.
Police believe that doctored MMS and SMS were the main provocation behind the attacks since August 12 in which about 15 North-East residents in certain localities were targeted. Two of the 13 persons arrested by police reportedly confessed that the MMS and SMS that depicted violent incidents in Myanmar and Assam turned them vengeful, sources said.
After approaching Facebook, Youtube and Google to remove some "objectionable links" and five videos in respect of the Assam violence, city police have now filed a complaint against "unknown persons" under the IT act, accusing them of exploiting the social networking sites to spread offensive false and intimidating messages.
According to city Police Commissioner Gulabrao Pol, who has circulated a message in the city guaranteeing safety of North-East people asking them not to heed rumours, the situation had been totally under control after police swung into action to book the culprit.
He, however, admitted that police had not been able to stop the people from leaving the city mainly due to the fear factor stemming from unfounded rumours and threats of a backlash.
Over 4000 North-East residents who, in addition to students comprise workers hired by security agencies and construction firms as well as those employed with Chinese food joints, have so far reportedly left the city in the last few days, with railway authorities arranging for extra bogies to accommodate a continuously swelling number of passengers.
At a meeting held here on Friday, representatives of various organisations from the city as well as local corporators and MLAs exhorted the NE population here to stay put and ignore rumours as the situation did not warrant an exodus triggered by pressing of the panic button.
Rozin Singh, an MLA from Mizoram who was one of the invitees at the meeting, also addressed by top police officers and district collector, said, "I appeal to all North-East people in Pune not to leave the city as the situation is normal. Police have taken proper security measures to infuse confidence among people. There have been no fresh attacks in the city."
In addition to police helpline, some social organisations have floated their own helpline giving the numbers to the affected NE residents and providing them with food and medicine during their journey back home after failing to dissuade them from leaving the city.
A 24-hour-vigil is being maintained by police and paramilitary forces in Kondhwa and Cantonment localities of the city to prevent any untoward incident.