Following rumours of an impending attack on people from the Northeast, major cities in the South like Bangalore and Hyderabad are facing a mass exodus of North-eastern workers and students. Reacting to text messages, chain emails and messages on social networking sites, Bangalore citizens hailing from the Northeast fear of being targeted and attacked, and are leaving their jobs to get back to the safety of their homeland. Ironically, incidents of fresh violence were reported in the Assam district of Kokrajhar, in which at least nine were seriously injured.
Wednesday saw 6,900 passengers leaving Bangalore in Guwahati express, in addition to the two special trains arranged by the Indian Railways. Official reports also claim that 7,500 people left the city on Thursday night.
Anonymous text messages that spread the rumour of attacking of North-Eastern citizens incited this incident. According to the text messages, the people who failed to leave the city before August 20 would face serious consequences. A frisson of apprehension struck the citizens, who then left their jobs and thronged the railway station to get away from Bangalore. Despite repeated attempts from the both the State and Central governments to allay the fears regarding their safety, the citizens paid no heed to the consolation. This hysterical reaction has been caused clearly by baseless rumours. So far only one formal police complaint was received, regarding a threat of murder against a Bangalore citizen from Mizoram.
Fearing assault, most of the organizations like security agencies, restaurants, beauty parlours etc., where a considerable number of people from the northeast work, remained deserted. Even colleges and other educational institution prominently marked the absence of students originating from the Northeast. This is, despite the protection and free stay in the college campus, offered by the colleges for the safety of the students. Many colleges have been shut down till the situation becomes stable. Many employers in Bangalore reported the absence of their workers, who had left their jobs even without collecting their salaries.
The government has offered full protection and security to those who wish to stay back and continue their lives in Bangalore. The Chief Minister of Karnataka, Jagdish Shettar, was quoted as saying that there is absolutely no need to panic. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh also appealed to the masses to maintain calm and remain at peace, as the government works to bring the culprits into light. Assam Chief Minister, Tarun Gogoi also assured the people to stay wherever they are and not to believe in rumours.
Over the past few years, Bangalore has developed itself into being a major economic and cultural hub of India. Such an incident would definitely have a major impact on its economy as well. The hospitality, retail and other business sectors which have employed a large number of North-Eastern people would bear the brunt of this incident.
As per latest reports, even North-eastern citizens from Mangalore and Mysore have started leaving these cities. As the government works to bring the rumour-mongers into light, it has also set up a helpline for those in need. Propagating false rumours and spreading chaos and confusion is as punishable as being involved in a crime. As it would be a violation to stop these people from leaving their work and going back to their homeland, it would be better for the Government to arrange more trains and order tight security in the railway stations to avoid any further unfortunate incidents. I hope that government takes required initiatives to restore peace in these affected areas!