Known to be people who rarely stray too far from home or hearth, it came as a surprise when people from the northeast began venturing out of their states to seek their fortune in faraway cities such as Bangalore, Hyderabad and Pune.
However, it was when the same people started returning home in unprecedented numbers over the last week — after threats were issued by local groups and “Pakistani” agencies — that the nation was truly taken aback.
“Till a few years ago, most cities hardly had any security guards hailing from northeastern states. But the last time we counted, Assamese people alone accounted for as many as 30,000 guards in Bangalore. Now, the reverse exodus has crippled security services in the city,” said MA Ramprasad, former secretary, Karnataka Security Services Association.
Mrinal Gohain, the regional manager of international NGO Actionaid, agreed. Elaborating on why people left Assam in search of jobs, he said: “Agriculture, the traditional mainstay, was in a state of decline, there was no economic activity, no construction... perpetual problems like floods, massive sand-casting — particularly in the north bank of the Brahmaputra — resulted in a huge loss to people’s livelihood. And interestingly, this phenomenon coincided with the emergence of Bangalore, Hyderabad and Pune as IT boom towns, increasing the number of blue-collar jobs.”
There were political reasons for the exodus from Assam too. And if Chandan Kumar Sharma — a sociologist at Tezpur University — is to be believed, decades of unabated immigration is not the only cause for the current chaos. “Besides other factors, various development projects also displaced a vast section of the indigenous peasant society. They had to migrate.”
However, on the positive side, the youths have carved out a good name for themselves in the cities they have settled in. “They are honest, and hardly ever complain or indulge in mischief,” said Ramprasad.