The return journey
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As northeasterners return to Bangalore, efforts must be made to address their vulnerabilities
Nearly three weeks after a rumour campaign forced many northeasterners to go back to the region, the return journey has begun. The first batch of 350 youth who fled Karnataka in panic in mid-August, took the special train from Guwahati to Bangalore on Saturday; they will reach this evening, to pick up the threads of their life and work in the city. The second special train from Guwahati to Bangalore will run later this week. This is a moment of satisfaction — the campaign of fear has been dissipated and defeated. But it cannot be a moment of complacency. It calls for a renewed resolve — by government and civil society groups — to make sustained efforts to address the sense of vulnerability of citizens from the Northeast that was so starkly framed in the entire episode.
There have been attempts to reach out, since the crisis erupted. While initially the Karnataka government was slow to respond to the scare that had gripped so many citizens, subsequently it did make visible gestures to reassure those who were poised to flee. A senior minister talked to northeasterners huddled at the railway station over the public address system, and the chief minister met delegations of community leaders. Later, Karnataka's deputy chief minister R. Ashok visited Assam and announced that his government had directed all employers to ensure there were no pay cuts for the days workers from the Northeast were absent. Reports have spoken of individual efforts made by employers to calm apprehensions of workers about returning to the workplace.
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