More than 400 migrant labourers have reportedly left Kozhikode and nearby areas over the weekend, after a smear campaign on social media claimed that workers from West Bengal and Northeastern states were coming under fatal attacks in several parts of Kerala.
Panic spread like wildfire among the migrant community in the state after an audio clip was circulated widely on social media platforms, especially WhatsApp groups which had hundreds of people from Bengal and the Northeast.
The audio clip in question states that a hotel owner in Kozhikode's Sweet Meat Street beat a Bengali worker to death and hanged his body on the street. Photos of some old mob killings from north India also accompanied the messages.
Two hotels in Kozhikode, which had employed migrant labourers, were forced to remain shut for the last two days after their workers left the state in a hurry and returned to their hometown.
Though the audio clip has been proved to be a hoax, it continues to cause panic among the migrant workers across the state and is forcing many of them to flee. Hotel owners have lodged complaints with the district collector and the city police commissioner against the campaign.
It is not clear if there has been an organised effort from anyone or any group to spread the hoax among the migrant community in the state and purposely create chaos. If yes, it needs to be investigated to find who is behind such a campaign.
The unfortunate episode draws parallels with similar incidents reported from across the country in recent years.
In 2012, thousands of panic-stricken people hailing from the Northeast boarded trains from Bengaluru and headed to Guwahati, following rumours of communal violence targeting them in the southern city. Several people were arrested in connection with the incident in the following weeks.