Discrimination or rumour, what drove them away?

More than 20,000 people fled the city over rumours of violence. Why was there such widespread panic? What could have stopped them?

It is seven days since the mass exodus of residents of North Eastern states from different parts of India including Bangalore, started. Though the number of people leaving has reduced, it is estimated that around 24,000 have fled. What was the reason for the panic, while there have been numerous assurances from all quarters that this is a safe city?

Thousands of people from Assam, Manipur, Tripura, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh flock to places like Bangalore, Pune, Hyderabad, Delhi and Chennai every year in search of better education and employment opportunities. While they have easy access to colleges and different employment opportunities, their ‘Mongoloid features’ have always marked them as an outsider.

More than 20,000 North Eastern people fled the city over rumours of violence. Pic: Abhishek Angad

Misunderstood cultural norms a cause?

Johnson Rajkumar, is from Manipur and is an assistant professor in the Department of Mass Communication, St Joseph’s College of Arts and Science, Bangalore. Rajkumar says, people from the north eastern states are not integrated with locals.

He says that the working class migrants are not able to mix very well with society, which makes them more vulnerable. He adds, “We have been also denied renting spaces in Bangalore. The reason may be owing to our food habit, culture; we don’t know.”

Echoing  similar sentiments is Manohar Elavarthi, a human rights activist, who considers citizens from Northeast, a minority among minority. He says, “(they) are susceptible to attacks, assaults and discrimination because of the fact that men and women mix very well in their community. People think of them as immoral, specially about the women.” 

Elavarathi thinks that the community does not want to make noise about discrimination because it might make them lose out in Bangalore, like they did in Delhi. He adds that the community does not have a strong leadership here in Bangalore.  “Lack of a leader made them flee to their hometowns. Even though government promised to protect them, they did not rely on the government owing to complete lack of trust,” he adds.

What political parties think

While Chief Minister of Karnataka, Jagadish Shettar, has been reported to say that normalcy is has returned to the city and despite the rumours, there has been no such attacks.

N V Krishna Kumar, General Secretary – Media and Communications Wing, Karnataka State Janata Dal (Secular) believes that the rumour mongering was behind the exodus. But at the same time he lambasts the government for the deteriorating law and order situation in Bangalore.

When asked about discrimination against residents from northeastern states, he says that it’s not only they who are vulnerable. He says, “All minorities are exposed to such kind of atrocities.”

He pointed out a report that said the affected people were not able to lodge a complaint and police didn’t file an FIR. “Filing an FIR is tough even for a local Kannadiga,” he added.

Congress MLA, Roshan Baig agrees. He said the muslim community also faces similar discrimination. He said, “Muslims too are denied rental (accommodation) at various places like Jayanagar, JP Nagar or Malleswaram.”

He does believe though there was a fear psychosis, some politicians capitalising on the situation to push their own agenda, was a reason behind the exodus.

However BJP MLA, B N Vijayakumar denies any such connection between exodus and discrimination. He cites parents worrying in Assam due to the ethnic violence in the state, is the cause for this trend.  

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