KOZHIKODE: The City Police on Monday launched a detailed investigation into reports that large numbers of panic-struck migrant labourers were returning to their home states following a scare campaign that their lives are in danger in Kerala. The Kozhikode city unit of Kerala Hotel and Restuarant Association (KHRA) has lodged a complaint with the city police submitting that certain WhatsApp groups were circulating fake photos and voice messages to instill fear in the minds of the migrant workers.
As per the complaint, the voice messages say about the deaths of the migrants after they were tortured by a few Keralities. A few pictures showing the bodies of the labourers were also being circulated.
City Police Chief S Kaliraj Mahesh Kumar said the police were investigating the incident based on the complaint. “Initial probe reveals that a few have spread the panic message after migrant labourers started leaving for their home states to celebrate Diwali and Pooja holidays. Usually, migrants leave Kerala during this period of the year to celebrate the festivals. Rumour mongers are making use of the situtation to spread panic messages and give a new twist to it,” the Police Chief said adding that they would definitely probe the issue in detail.
KHRA Kozhikode secretary N Sugunan said the situation was alarming as the migrant labourers were leaving in large numbers from various hotels in the city, and as per the preliminary reports, nearly 300 of them had left so far. “We don’t think they have left to celebrate the festivals. If they are going on vacation, they used to take approval from us. A few hotels had to down their shutters as no labourers were available for the past two days,” he said.
Shihabuddin N, owner of Central Hotel in Ramanattukara, said he couldn’t open the restuarant for the past two days as 26 migrant labourers, who were staff at the hotel, returned to their home village in West Bengal after the scare campaign. “We tried our level best to convince them and ensure that they are safe here. But they didn’t listen and left enmasse. The migrants at my hotel were all from Solapur in West Bengal and they started receiving calls from their family members back home asking them to return immediately as Kerala was not a safe place for them. Some people with vested interests are behind the scare campaign and the police should find it,” he said.
Ernakulam Collector’s assurance
Kochi: Ernakulam District Collector K Mohammed Y Safirulla on Monday urged migrant labourers working in various sectors in the district not to panic, saying they were safe. Safirulla’s assurance follows reports of panic-stricken migrant labourers leaving the state following a fake social media campaign against migrant labourers in the state. In a meeting convened to discuss the issue, Safirulla also issued strict warning against those involved in the scare campaign.
“Migrant labourers working in the district are safe. There is no need to panic. Strict action will be taken against anyone found spreading such rumours,” he said. Police officers, besides representatives of the Labour and Revenue departments as well as various NGOs attended the meeting. “The Labour Department will conduct a field inspection after visiting migrant camps. A mass contact programme for migrant workers will be organised to figure out their issues,” he said.