Saturday, August 18, 2012

N-E Exodus : Connecting the dots

It was like any other holiday for me. 15th August meant a day off from office, getting up late, and then going for the flower show at Lalbagh, and later meet up with friends. I was excited about the day because I was getting another temporary tattoo for the day, and was to wear the new T-shirt I had bought from Kolkata. Of course, I had no idea in the morning as to what ironies the day would hold.

By the time I returned back home, it was 11pm already, and when I logged into my Facebook account, I saw a post by a friend about people from North East fleeing Bangalore because of the Assam Riots. It seemed weird to me at first thought why would people in Bangalore feel any effect of Assam riots? Then I saw another post by another friend about the same. I visited the website of a few national dailies and didn't find any news related to it, and thus dismissed it as something minor may be. But when I woke up the next day, the news seemed to be everywhere. What seemed strange and ridiculous was that the reason behind the exodus was messages doing the rounds that NE people will be attacked by Muslims because of the riots that happened in Assam. Even before I could gather what exactly was happening through the news sites, there were facebook photos and posts by some right-wing Hindu groups and other fundamentalist groups that were being shared that talked about how NE people were being threatened by muslims. One such misguided (and hate spewing) page Bhagat Singh Kranti Sena uploaded a photo saying a "fatwa had been issued against NE people" (the picture seems to have been removed now, after the same was reported in a newspaper article by THE HINDU). What was more astonishing to me was that even while the administration seems to have been taken by surprise at the exodus, RSS cadres were quickly deployed to "assure the people of their safety" in the Bangalore station. And as the "news" (or rumour) spread throughout the day, the message that was being clearly passed was that "people from the NE are being threatened by muslims, who will avenge the death of Bangladeshi immigrant muslims in ethnic clashes in Assam.

Probably what made the NE people believe these rumours were that a few days earlier, there was violence during a protest called out against the Assam and Myanmar "riots". Initial investigations have revealed that the violence was pre-planned. Nevertheless, it gave the right-wing parties another opportunity to mis-guide people, by posting pictures from the protest, and passing off islamic flags there as Pakistani flag and further spreading hatred against the community.

What seems strange is the way events have unfolded. The timing of these disturbances seems crucial to me. Parties have already started preparing themselves for the coming general elections. That such rumours should have spread before Eid, with a clear intent of passing the message that Muslims are out to harm NE people (and thus trying to create an overall environment of hatred against the community and increase communal tension). Also strange is the fact that the exodus should happen from Bangalore  and Pune. While Bangalore is BJP ruled, Pune and Mumbai are strongholds of Shiv Sena and RSS. Add to that how RSS seems to be prepared for helping those fleeing the city. A communal environment and disruption of harmony would only help in polarising the votes in the upcoming elections and by playing on the Hindu card, may be try and swing the "majority hindu votes". The govt has just come up with the report that most of the doctored pictures of Burmese Muslim killings originated from Pakistan, but that was already known. But the question remains, how did the SMS start circulating in the first place? How did the rumour mill start working? Who started "warning" (rather spreading the rumors about) the NE people against attacks by muslims? Isnt there a sinister political motive behind this whole development? Above all, how come only South India?

Amongst all this confusion, fear and panic had set in the people from North East, mostly students and workers. No attack was reported thankfully.. none happened in real. Both the state and central govt acted responsibly and tried confidence building steps. While the exodus seems to have eased a bit from banaglore, the panic that spread to Chennai and Hyderabad is yet to subside. AMidst all this, we can all pledge not to share things/information on these social networking sites without authenticating them.


Indian Satire said...

Infact when this whole mad rush started, I just could not understand what was happening. It seems a pre-planned mischief. North Eastern people have added to the cultural diversity of Bangalore. They are hardworking, sincere and citizens of the country as much as anybody is, so they have the right to study or work wherever they want

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