A Saturday evening in Bangalore saw the Takshashila Institution organise a conclave on North Eastern Indians in Bangalore. An eclectic group, typically Bangalorean, belonging to different cultural and social backgrounds participated and opinions, questions and discussions floated freely. Though the conclave touched upon many ideas and thematic lines, the main thread running throughout was an attempt to understand the reasons which led an entire population within the city pack up and flee.
The discussion was opened questioning the theme of ‘identity’ and the status of the ‘minority’ in India. A participant from the North East threw light on the situation in his home land and explained the politics, power, and geography within and around it. The main point raised was the necessity to understand the multiplicity of identity and ethnicity in the North East states of India. Many questions were raised, pertaining directly to the Bangalore exodus – Why the reaction to a threat, whose source could not be located? Why the breakout of panic in Bangalore particularly? How real was the threat? Why did a certain population feel insecure in a city known for its migrant and cosmopolitan culture? What role did the media play, if at all? Which narratives were responsible in framing the situation? What was the political action and state response?
Amongst the many responses flying around and the validity of others being discussed, three crucial reasons for the panic at the railway station were explicated- The Eid rush traveling over the weekend, the pull factor from back home for the North Eastern populations and the threat messages circulated, especially to the business community. The participants belonging to the North East states spoke of their understanding of the situation and the reactions of other members of their community. Amongst the many reasons discussed, a consensus was drawn on the fact that more than the ‘push’ factor, the ‘pull’ factor from back home played a prominent role in their rush back to the North East.
The discussion meandered into different territories- delving deep into the solutions to such situations. Participants spoke about initiatives that should be taken to strengthen the social capital between the North Easterners and Bangaloreans. Some spoke of measures that need to be taken by the North Eastern community to integrate itself into the Bangalore culture and society and find a place for its identity. Many mentioned a need for changes in the political discourses at the state and national level while others examined the socio-legal practices regarding riots and violence within the country. The discussion also touched upon the need for quantitative data collection during such times- numbers and statistics which demonstrate the accurate figures rather than estimates and approximates.
The forum continued on, outside the peripheries of the formal discussion, with coffee and conversation flowing seamlessly. Participants exchanged experiences, anecdotes and insights with respect to the topic while the organisers smiled on and mused over the next conclave.