Irshad Hussain makes light of it. “I’m pretending to be a Jew from Bihar. They would not know what to make of that,” said the 27-year-old Assamese man, who works in Bangalore. Behind his humorous tone lies the fear of attack.
Rumours have been circulating that people from northeast India who live in Bangalore — nearly 2,000 miles (3,000 kilometres) — to the south, are about to be attacked en masse. This is because of violence that flared between Bodo tribes and Bangladeshi Muslim immigrants in Assam in July.
About 75 people have been killed, and more than 400,000 people are crowded into filthy refugee camps. This fear was based largely on an August 11 protest organised by Muslim groups in Mumbai against the attacks.
Two people were killed and more than 50 injured in the protest. After that, the nearby city of Pune, known for its colleges, witnessed attacks against students and professionals from the Northeast as retaliation for the perceived violence against the Muslim community. It was people from Manipur, a state near Assam, who seemed to have borne the brunt of the attacks. Why?
The attackers apparently thought that Manipuris — many of whom have facial features that more closely resemble their neighbours in Myanmar and southeast Asia — were Assamese. In Bangalore, there is uneasiness among the many workers who have come to India’s information technology capital from the Northeast. Thousands of them have reportedly tried to flee the city, fearing violence against them.