The combined power of the mobile phone, the Internet and the social media was on display in the crisis that led to thousands of people from the northeast fleeing Bangalore. What became clear was that rumour-mongers did not belong exclusively to either the northeast or the Muslim community. There were also other groups who may have helped fan the panic.

In mid-July this year, a Pakistani news portal,, carried an image of Buddhist monks wearing masks amid a sea of mutilated bodies. It turned out that the image was of the July 2010 earthquake in Tibet where the monks were engaged in relief work.

But the portal carried the image with the tag “The body of Muslims slaughtered by Buddhist Barma [Myanmar].” By the time protests from the Tibetan groups forced the portal to withdraw the image, the damage was ostensibly done.

The image went viral on the Internet and two weeks ago it found its way into the pages of a local Urdu newspaper, which also passed it off as proof of Muslim persecution in Myanmar. This image, along with a copy of the Urdu periodical, was presented to the Karnataka government as part of a dossier submitted by the northeast groups here on Thursday. There were emails and text messages calling on people to avenge the deaths in Assam and Myanmar.

Text messages played a particularly vicious role. A staccato SMS in Hindi sent to a Nagaland girl by her landlord’s help read: “Madam, do not get out of your house. There is lot of panga [trouble]. People from your caste [community] are being beaten. Seven women have been killed in Yelahanka [a suburb of Bangalore]. Don’t go to college tomorrow. I am only trying to help.”

There were several similar messages that claimed that people had been killed, raped and assaulted.

On their part, members of the northeast communities too relied on rumours rather than going by hard facts.

Vague statements

Asked to substantiate shocking claims of kidnap, assault, molestation and intimidation, they invariably came up with statements like, “It happened to a friend of a friend.” While some of these claims were quite elaborate in their description, these “details” differed from person to person. A popular rumour was that a girl from the northeast had been kidnapped. Some claimed that she had been killed, while others said she had been released and had gone home.

The surprise entrant in this war of propaganda was Tejinder Pal Singh Bagga’s Bhagat Singh Kranti Sena. On Facebook, the Sena claimed that a fatwa had been issued to people from the northeast to leave Bangalore by August 20 or face riots. Another post warned of counter-violence, if these communities were threatened, in Delhi.

To be fair, there were also Facebook posts such as these: “Bangalore Muslims are not against people from the northeast. Please do not spread rumours. We want peace. Bangalore is for everyone.”


Exodus hits security, hospitality sectors August 17, 2012

Eight held in Bangalore; over 10,000 leave cityAugust 17, 2012

Please come backAugust 18, 2012

Strangers in a place they call homeAugust 18, 2012

Exodus continues August 18, 2012

9 cases of assault, intimidation registered, 8 heldAugust 18, 2012

‘SMSs came from outside State’August 18, 2012

Colleges told to conduct special classes, postpone examsAugust 18, 2012

Assam Ministers arrive in cityAugust 18, 2012

Northeast students in city safe, but seek reassuranceAugust 18, 2012

Exodus hits private security agencies tooAugust 18, 2012

Governor: there is lack of communicationAugust 18, 2012

Panic-stricken students leave collegesAugust 18, 2012

Bangalore rallies behind its northeast residentsAugust 19, 2012

Tight security in placeAugust 20, 2012

Minister on midnight rounds to allay fearsAugust 20, 2012

Don’t flee, Muslim leaders sayAugust 17, 2012

Stung government on damage control modeAugust 17, 2012

Opposition criticises governmentAugust 17, 2012

Nerves stretched, all set to go homeAugust 17, 2012

Jumpy students fall for rumoursAugust 17, 2012

IT, security firms reach out to Northeast people September 3, 2012

‘Third-party involvement cannot be ruled out’August 17, 2012

Let's work together to stop exodus, says PMAugust 16, 2012

5,000 youths arrive in Guwahati from southAugust 18, 2012

Protect northeast people, BJP urges CentreAugust 16, 2012

After Bangalore, Chennai too sees exodusAugust 16, 2012

After rumours, northeast people flee Bangalore August 16, 2012

No threat to northeast people: Home SecretaryAugust 16, 2012

‘Our families are calling us back’ August 16, 2012

9 held for targeting N-E studentsAugust 14, 2012

Rumours, false reports spook Assamese in Andhra PradeshAugust 17, 2012

Special trains from BangaloreAugust 17, 2012

Don’t panic, says Gogoi; 9 injured in fresh violence August 16, 2012

Karnataka is the safest place for you, says Shettar August 17, 2012