Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Monday assured migrant workers in the state that they were safe and those spreading rumours about danger to their lives would be brought to justice. The Kozhikode Police on Monday launched an investigation into the rumours, which have led hundreds of migrant workers to return to their home states in fear, The New Indian Express reported.

Nearly 400 migrant workers have fled the district after such messages said migrant workers from North and East India were facing death threats in Kerala, The News Minute reported.

A hotel association had lodged the complaint with the police that some WhatsApp groups had circulated fake photos and audio clips to create fear. Clips claimed that some migrants had been killed after being tortured by locals.

“[An] 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,” City Police Chief S Kaliraj Mahesh Kumar was quoted as saying. “Rumour mongers are making use of the situation to spread panic messages and give a new twist to it.”

An official of the Kerala Hotel and Restaurant Association said some hotels had to shut down as no labourers were available.

Meanwhile, Ernakulam District Collector K Mohammed Y Safirulla on Monday urged migrant labourers in the district not to panic, and said they were safe.