Video Producer: Maaz Hasan
Video Editor: Mohd. Irshad Alam
Cameraperson: Samyak Jadhav
Over the last few days, several migrant workers have left Chennai because of the panic spread around the state because of the viral videos that claim labourers from the north Indian states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh are being assaulted and harassed in Tamil Nadu.
On 7 March, I went to Chennai Central railway station to talk to some labourers and gauge the situation.
Alamgir Ali, a migrant worker from Uttar Pradesh's Gorakhpur, seems to have fallen into the fake news trap. He says,
"I have seen a piece of news where it was written that people from UP and Bihar should go back to their homes by 20 March. They would be killed if they were seen in Tamil Nadu after 21-22 March."Alamgir Ali, Migrant Worker
Alamgir has been living in Chennai since 2009-2010. "I have been living here since 2009-10. Because of the current situation, I am going back home. My family is worried. They are asking me to come back home for a couple of months. Many of my colleagues were planning to leave, but they haven't got their salaries so they couldn't come. In my case, my mother sent me some money for the travel," added Alamgir.
Several unrelated videos from different places, like Jodhpur, Hyderabad, Coimbatore, etc., have been attributed as videos of assault on Hindi-speaking migrant workers in Tamil Nadu.
I asked the migrant labourers if they had verified or had witnessed any such incident of harassment or assault. They told me they hadn't verified the videos themselves but were scared. They also admitted that they hadn't seen anything by themselves.
Dinesh, a worker at a tea stall in Chennai from Bihar's Sitamarhi district, says, "Regarding the current situation, I have spoken to a few people. They have sent a few videos. And after looking at the video, we are a bit scared because, in the video, it shows that someone is being assaulted and killed."
"We are working here but haven't seen anything wrong happening. I am a bus conductor. Many people, who had planned to return, aren't returning because of fear. Some of them cancelled their tickets. Workers over here say they want to go home, and I am trying to explain that there is nothing wrong here. I am going around places, and everything seems fine."Migrant Worker
Alamgir in his conversation with me reiterated the fact that migrants themselves haven't seen or faced any issue, "I have many Tamilian friends. We had a good time together. I have never faced any issues here."
The Tamil Nadu government has come all out against the spread of misinformation. Chief Minister MK Stalin, in a statement, said, "Tamil Nadu government and people will stand to protect our migrant brothers."
On Tuesday, 7 March, the CM also went out to speak to the migrant workers. We hope that this will ease up the fear and tensions from the minds of migrant workers.