Northeasterners living in other parts of India have flocked home en masse after alarming threats posted on Facebook and other websites.
With frightening rumours triggering mass panic across India, the government has stepped in to halt the spread of disinformation via social media and the internet. Bulk text messages have been banned for the next 15 days, and certain sites are now blocked.
"SMS and MMS will not be allowed to more than five receivers at one go and data of more than 20 KB being sent through mobile phones will be blocked," Home Secretary R.K. Singh told Khabar South Asia.
Thousands of northeasterners working throughout India fled homeward in recent days amid rumours warning they could be attacked in reprisal for ethnic violence in the state of Assam. More than 50,000 are believed to have boarded trains out of Pune, Bangalore and Hyderabad, with an unconfirmed number of others fleeing Tamil Nadu, Haryana and Delhi.
According to Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, authorities have been tracking what appears to be a hate campaign launched against people of the northeast.
"We began noticing the appearance of accounts on Facebook last week filled with disparaging references to northeasterners and calls for 'revenge' on them in other parts of India," he told Khabar. "We lost no time in putting them under observation."
Muslim leaders, meanwhile, have condemned the rumour-mongering and said their community is not behind it.
"We disown any Muslim found to be involved in this campaign. Islam does not support this," Badruddin Ajmal, leader of All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF), told Khabar. "India belongs to all of us."
Muslim organisations have swung into action as well. Imtiaz Khan, a student from Mysore Medical College, held up a banner outside Bangalore's railway station, saying, "We are sorry for the hate campaign. Please don't abandon Bangalore because it belongs to all of us."
According to Salim Rehman, a retail employee in Bangalore from Guwahati, a succession of messages flooding the south Indian campus scene stirred up alarm among settlers from the Silchar region of Assam. "Nobody is willing to take risks," he told Khabar.
The hate campaign does not appear to distinguish among different ethnic communities but rather targets the northeasterners as a whole, sources told Khabar.
"We are not recognised as different from the Assamese and Mizos. All that they are saying is 'northeast people go back'," C.N. Sing of Manipur, who said he was beaten up in Hyderabad, told Khabar. "I am now headed home, but will certainly return when normalcy is restored."
Social media monitoring is in place, Shinde told a press conference Sunday. He said more than 60 websites and blogs have been detected and put under surveillance because they found pictures from Burma and Afghanistan doctored to appear as if they were shot in the northeast.
Karnataka Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar told reporters: "The ban on SMS has led to the easing of tension. The culprits know now that they are under observation."