Howsoever intangible the source or origin of rumours, their effect on normal, everyday life can be devastatingly real. As students and workers from Assam and other north-eastern States flee south Indian cities fearing ethnically-targeted violence, India’s tenuous social fabric is once again under severe strain. Mysterious calls and text messages about impending attacks in retaliation for the violence against Muslims in Assam have spread panic among people from the northeast working or studying in south Indian cities. Apart from a handful of minor incidents in Bangalore, there was no violence on the ground there or in any south Indian city that saw thousands of people from the northeast quit jobs and leave their studies midway to return home. That rumours could set off such panic speaks to the sense of insecurity that the young migrants lived under. While people from the northeast had no difficulty in getting jobs and gaining admission to educational institutions in the south, they have discovered that their distinctive physical features always marked them out as outsiders. They filled a gap in the market economy, but found no social acceptance beyond their immediate environment. A few months ago, Richard Loitam, a student from Manipur, died under mysterious circumstances after he was assaulted by college mates over a trivial issue. Well before the current crisis, his death caught the headlines and unsettled migrants from the northeast in cosmopolitan Bangalore.

For all the technical means at their disposal, the authorities concerned do not appear to have expended much energy in trying to trace the source of this sinister rumour-mongering. Many of the SMSs circulating contain fabricated information about attacks by Muslims on people from the northeast, including killings, suggesting there are unknown individuals and groups out there actively trying to create panic and drive a wedge between these two minority groups. The intelligence agencies must spare no effort to identify these elements. Reassurances of security aside, what the panic-stricken people need are immediate, evident steps on the ground that enhance security and ensure peace. Over the long-term, ‘mainland’ India needs to be more welcoming toward its fellow-citizens from the northeast. Discrimination and harassment at the workplace and at educational institutions can breed deep insecurity, which could then, at the slightest trigger, lead to panic situations. There should be zero-tolerance of prejudice against ethnic or other minorities. This is the assurance with which every effort must be made to bring all those who have fled in the last 72 hours back to their homes, jobs and studies in the south.


Gogoi releases White Paper on migrants, seeks to allay fears on the issueOctober 20, 2012

Facebook to remove content inciting violence August 22, 2012

Government blocks over 250 websites August 21, 2012

Inflammatory messages: Kerala-based outfit under scannerAugust 21, 2012

To check rumours, bulk SMSs banned August 17, 2012

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

After rumours, northeast people flee Bangalore August 16, 2012

No threat to northeast people: Home SecretaryAugust 16, 2012

9 held for targeting N-E studentsAugust 14, 2012

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

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

Special trains from BangaloreAugust 17, 2012

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

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

Mischief potential of social media in full play August 17, 2012

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

Lok Sabha speaks in one voice to support northeast people August 17, 2012

City was good to us, say fleeing migrantsAugust 17, 2012

After Bangalore, Chennai too sees exodusAugust 16, 2012

Exodus from Chennai continues August 18, 2012

Crack the whip, Shinde tells Malik August 19, 2012

Security beefed up in Bangalore for Eid, NE peopleAugust 19, 2012

Exodus from Pune declines, says RailwayAugust 19, 2012

Back home, but what about their future?August 19, 2012

Strangers in a place they call homeAugust 18, 2012

India's charges baseless, says PakistanAugust 20, 2012

Northeast people in Hyderabad assured of safetyAugust 18, 2012

Don’t be swayed by rumours, appeals Assam all-party meeting August 18, 2012

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