It was not a regular morning at Orchids, a beauty salon in Adyar. Policemen were at the door with sheets of paper in their hands. “Even if they have left, it is fine. This is not some enquiry. We have come to tell you that you are safe and we are responsible for your safety,” said the policemen, after which a woman spoke to the staff all from Manipur and Darjeeling - in Nepali and handed over sheets with helpline numbers to them, urging them to report, “anytime they received a threat message or felt any danger-like situation.”
This was one of the confidence building initiatives launched by the city police. Commissioner of Police J.K. Tripathy said policemen fluent in Hindi spoke to people from Assam while members of various community associations spoke to people from other States. A manager at Naturals salon said that the situation was more or less under control. “Most people are coming back to work after we assured them about safety.”
RPF officials estimate over 18, 000 people to have left the city in the last five days from Chennai Central and Egmore. “These are people from across Tamil Nadu and also from other places," he said.
Madras Christian College Principal Alexander Jesudasan said they are in regular touch with the students and have assured them of all support. Loyola College professor Oscar Nigli said the students have been counselled so that they are not pressurised to leave. Lari Lyngdoh of Loyola College, a native of Meghalaya says: We have a good support system here. We have been given numbers. My State does not have that insurgency like Manipur or Assam, but I still didn’t think of going back, because I was sure of safety here”
Some of the students were also angry. Ahum, who hails from Manipur, and studies Economics here, feels that “the ones who left did so because there was no assurance of safety then. Instead of reassuring them, they just added more trains, and encouraged them to leave."
There are at least six welfare organisations for the Manipuris, who comprise the largest population of north eastern workers here, after the Assamese. “Most manipuris have chosen to stay back because there is good support,” said Thang Valte, former chairman, Zomi Christian Fellowship, that works for Manipuris.
Since many reports of alleged attacks in other cities involved Nagas and Mizos, people from both the communities have fled the city.
Benjamin L. Sailo, president of the Chennai Mizo Welfare Association said though the situation has stabilised now. “We got calls about the forwarded hate messages. Some mizos have fled and most of them had belong to the unorganised sector. None of the students have,” he said, urging all mizos to register with the organisation. The association has over 500 students and many workers.
As for the Assamese who have left the city in large numbers, the police believe “it was more a pull factor than a push one.” But Rafiq Khat, a security guard on OMR, who left for Guwahati in the Dhanbad Express on Monday says “It was a combination of everything. We just wanted to be with families, because there was a threat to their lives, and I heard some of our people were attacked in Kerala.”
Keywords: migrant workers issue