ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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India's Shame

Alienation, stereotyping and vulnerability were the reasons for the recent exodus of migrants from many cities.

The exodus of tens of thousands of migrants belonging to the north-eastern states from their places of work and study in major Indian cities such as Bangalore, Mumbai, Pune and Chennai is a stinging indictment of the failure of both the Indian state and nation to provide a sense of belonging to all its peoples.

What explains the fear psychosis that resulted in this exodus? Reports suggest that the students and workers who packed their belongings and left their jobs to go back home were frightened about possible reprisals following the recent ethnic clashes in Kokrajhar in Assam. A close look at the events tells us that this is not simply a case of irresponsible rumour-mongering or unsubstantiated news frightening the migrants from the north-east. That it took only unconfirmed text messages from their relatives – or messages over the social media to a lesser extent – to make them flee their new-found homes, even if temporarily, suggests how socially excluded and vulnerable they feel despite being an integral part of the economy that runs the cities they live in. That a migrant from Manipur in Bangalore felt threatened by reports about reprisals over rumoured attacks on Bodos in Assam showed how north-easterners knew themselves to be seen by the locals – as “outsiders”, in stereotypes, and even in racist terms. Migrants of all classes are constantly subject to discrimination and suffer local prejudice in the cities where they are based. It is clear that their experiences as migrants amplified the threats contained in those rumours.

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