Nearly 400 migrant workers have fled from Kozhikode amid fears over fake audio clips that surfaced on WhatsApp, which said migrant workers from northern and eastern parts of the country were facing death threats in Kerala.
Kerala has a migrant population of 2.5 million.
Rumours were spread through WhatsApp audio clips and messages. One such fake audio clip said that a hotel owner in Sweet Meat Street in Kozhikode, beat up a Bengali worker and later put him to death by hanging.
The false campaign also used videos of mob lynching in the North to scare and trigger panic among the workers. The rumours were spread mainly among the migrant workers from Assam, Bengal and Orissa.
Two hotels were shut down in the city as many migrant workers left the city for their home states.
Saddam, a migrant worker, spoke to the media and said, “These are baseless rumours spreading in the social media. These audio clips are not true. We don’t have such threats against us in Kerala.”
“My family called me many times in panic. They are misinformed that the situation is dangerous here. My brother has gone back. My family is compelling me to go back” said Ayya, another migrant worker.
Ayya along with his friends though, have decided to go back to their state. A lot of workers are now fleeing the city even without collecting their daily wages.
Kerala Hotel and Restaurant Association (KHRA) has lodged complaints with the district collector and the city police commissioner against the false campaign doing the rounds in the social media.
The KHRA has asked the government to organise an awareness campaign in these states about the reality.
“We should inform the families of the migrant workers about the false campaign. The government has to take immediate action. Media should also step in and help us stop this false campaign. Hotels in fact are the safest for the migrant workers in terms of food and shelter” said Muhammed Suhail, District President, Kerala Hotel and Restaurant Association.
This is not the first time that migrants have flocked back to their states fearing threats. A similar incident had happened in Bangalore back in 2012. Thousands of migrant workers from North East had fled the city due to rumours that they will be targeted. And this despite the Karnataka government’s repeated assurances of their safety. The rumours were spread through SMSs, mails and other social network platforms.