Indian leaders appealed for calm on Friday as natives of northeastern India now living in the south left en masse for a third day over safety concerns.
Thousands of Indians have fled southern and western cities in response to text-message warnings and threats said to be from Indian Muslims angered at recent ethnic clashes in the northeast.
Thousands of northeasterners who work and study in Bangalore – India's 4th largest city and information technology hub – are fleeing, fearing that recent violence in the northeastern state of Assam, which displaced some 300,000, would spread south.
Rumor and fear-mongering seem to be trumping hard evidence of any real threat, however.
“There was some talk about text messages saying that people would be attacked. But we do not know, really,” says 18-year old civil engineering student Takan Sama minutes before his train to Assam was slated to depart Bangalore rail station.
India has a history of communal and sectarian riots.
Tensions are particularly high after July riots in Assam involving local tribes and Muslim immigrants from Bangladesh sparked deadly counter-demonstrations by Muslims in Mumbai on Aug. 11, when two were killed and more than 50 injured. Then, starting Wednesday Aug. 15, which was India's 65th anniversary of independence from Great Britain, as the rumor went viral, Assamese and other northerners started leaving in droves via Bangalore's central rail station, trying to make the 2.5 day journey to Guwahati in Assam.
By Friday, northeasterners living in other big cities such as Mumbai and Chennai were also trying to head home, and local media reports Friday afternoon estimated the exodus so far to be anywhere from 15,000 to 20,000 people.