Fearful Texts Help Spread Ethnic Chaos in India

Hundreds of thousands are on the move amid threats of violence
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 18, 2012 7:58 AM CDT
Fearful Texts Help Spread Ethnic Chaos in India
Indians originally from the northeastern states disembark from a train originating in the southern city of Bangalore, in Gauhati, Assam state, India, on Saturday.   (AP Photo/Anupam Nath)

India is in the midst of ethnic unrest so volatile that it's challenging the nation's very "ideals of tolerance and diversity," in the words of the New York Times. The prime minister agrees: “What is at stake is the unity and integrity of our country,” declared Manmohan Singh. The unrest began with violent clashes in the remote northeast state of Assam between members of the indigenous Bodo tribe and Muslims. But in an information-age twist, social media and text messages have spread the panic to cities large and small all across the country.

Hundreds of thousands of people who had immigrated from the northeast to more prosperous parts of India are now flooding home, pushed by rumors that they'd be attacked by Muslims if they didn't leave, notes AP. "Everyone is saying don't panic, nothing will happen," says one college student in Bangalore headed back to the northeast. "But I can't help feeling scared all the time." What's more, she and others are returning to a region, Assam, still reeling from weeks of ethnic clashes that have left dozens dead and have sent up to 400,000 people fleeing to refugee camps. (More India stories.)

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