Memories of another exodus: from Bangalore to the northeast

BENGALURU: August 15, 2012. When India celebrated its 66th year of Independence , the city was tense. At night, thousands of people from the northeast living in Bangalore crowded the railway stations to return to their respective home states.

An overloaded railway had hastily arranged two additional trains to meet an unprecedented demand for tickets to Guwahati in Assam and beyond. When dozens of people left that night, it marked the largest exodus of migrants in the city.

There were no reported incidents of N-E people being attacked, but cases of violence and abuse along ethnic lines were reported in the local press in the days leading up to this exodus, increasing tension.

Authorities initially attributed the growing concerns as people heeding the rumors. A large number of threatening messages made the rounds as well, reaching the mobile phones of dozens of northern inhabitants, which were frantically sent to their friends.

But not all concerns were completely unfounded. On August 16, three formal complaints were registered with the Ashoknagar police, and on August 17, eight suspects were arrested and a few more cases were registered in the city. And suddenly, the perception of threat didn't seem to be based on itself.

At that time, the police and the department of origin had received severe criticism for not being able to instill confidence among those who fear for life. Lalrokhuma Pachuau, the then DG-IGP, despite being from Mizoram himself, had little impact.

As the exodus continued, the city's hotel industry, security agencies, and a few other sectors, which had hired people from the northeast, practically stopped.

Northeast dwellers felt helpless in 2012 given the authorities' lackluster response to some attacks on them in neighboring districts that triggered the panic, and today's migrants also feel powerless, though the reasons are entirely different. And so is the situation.