New Delhi, Aug 17 (IANS) MPs cutting across party lines Friday spoke as one in support of people from the northeast with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh declaring in both houses of parliament that everybody would together ensure that those from the region were safe in all parts of the country.
With thousands of students, professionals and others fleeing places like Bangalore, Pune and Hyderabad after rumours that they would be attacked, members in the Rajya Sabha and the Lok Sabha discussed the issue at length. Question hour was adjourned in both houses.
Addressing the Lok Sabha, the prime minister said: "It is our obligation to protect the people of northeast. The government will discharge its duty to the best of its ability so that the feeling of insecurity among people of northeast is brought under control."
"Such acts are most reprehensible. The unity and integrity of India is being threatened by some elements," he said.
Stating that the country belongs to them as much as to anybody else, he added in the Rajya Sabha: "As patriots we must send out the message to all those who want to disturb peace between any regions or communities that this house stands united that we will work together to give them security, to curb and effectively control all elements who are out to create trouble."
The prime minister also said that "rumour mongers" and "miscreants" would be brought to book.
The message was echoed by members of both houses.
"The government should create a helpline for students; deploy police around hostels and shopping malls. The house should pass a resolution to assure the northeastern students that the government and parliament will protect them," Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Sushma Swaraj said in the Lok Sabha.
Ninag Ering, Congress MP from Arunachal East constituency, said the government must punish culprits spreading rumours.
"There is a fear factor among students from the northeast. The government must identify and punish the rumour mongers. It is sad that people from northeast with Mongoloid features are being targeted across India," Ering said.
BJP leader Arun Jaitley added in the Rajya Sabha: "The onus and responsibility is on us to make sure this panic situation comes to an end this rumour mongering comes to an end".
Some members also urged the government to temporarily suspend the electronic messaging services through which threats and rumours were being spread.
The rare unanimity saw Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar say that the "serious and sensitive" discussion on the exodus of the northeast people was evidence of the house speaking in one voice.
To loud thumping of desks from the benches, she appreciated the sentiment of oneness in the house and said: "Northeast ke bhai-baheno, hum tumhare saath hain, yeh desh tumhara hai. (Brothers and sisters from the northeast, we are with you, this country is yours)."
Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde echoed the assurance of protection and said the Intelligence Bureau was probing if the source of hate messages against the northeast people was outside India.
"Lots of rumours are doing the rounds. I have asked the Intelligence Bureau to probe if the source of such messages is outside the country," he said.
Wild rumours have been spreading that people from the northeast region would be attacked after the Eid-ul-Fitr on Aug 20 to avenge the recent ethnic violence in Assam, in which more than 74 people were killed.
The rumours have caused over 6,000 students from northeast to flee to Guwahati from Bangalore by special trains till late Wednesday.