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Call with Bihar CM, Hindi statements — TN govt in damage control mode over ‘attacks on migrants’

Tamil Nadu Police book 3 including BJP UP spokesperson for spreading ‘fake news’ about migrant workers being attacked. Bihar sends team after Stalin's phone call with Nitish Kumar.

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Chennai: Amid claims of alleged attacks on migrants from Bihar in Tamil Nadu, Chief Minister M.K. Stalin who has been trying to project himself as a leader who can bring Opposition parties together for the 2024 Lok Sabha polls, went into damage control mode, calling Bihar CM Nitish Kumar to assuage concerns and having statements issued in Hindi. 

In a statement issued Saturday, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) chief condemned the “fake” videos of the alleged attacks, and said Tamil Nadu is a “vantarai vazha vaikkum bhoomi” — a land that ensures the livelihood of all people who come here. The statement added that Stalin spoke with his “brother” Nitish Kumar and assured him “that all workers are our workers and are helping development of our state and they will not be harmed”.

Over the last few days, videos have been circulating on social media with the claim that they show clashes between local Tamilians and workers who migrated from other parts of the country, especially from Bihar.

On Thursday, Bihar CM Nitish Kumar wrote on Twitter that he had directed the state’s chief secretary and director general of police (DGP) to “ensure the safety” of workers from Bihar living in Tamil Nadu.

Within hours, Tamil Nadu DGP C. Sylendra Babu issued a clarification, terming the viral videos “fake”. He also warned of stringent action against those circulating them. To that effect, the Tamil Nadu Police Saturday booked three persons for allegedly spreading false information about attacks on migrants in the state, including the “editor of Dainik Bhaskar” and Prashant Umrao, a spokesperson of the Uttar Pradesh Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

The Bihar government, meanwhile, sent a four-member team to Tamil Nadu to investigate.

Pointing the finger at the DMK, the BJP said triggering comments by leaders of the Dravidian party against migrants from northern India caused the alleged attacks. Stating that the people of Tamil Nadu are “acceptive and welcoming”, BJP state president K. Annamalai said neither the people, nor the government or the police “endorse the views of the DMK and their alliance partners”.

“DMK’s MPs’ vile comments on North Indians, DMK minister calling them panipuri wala, and their alliance partners demanding their exodus have triggered what we see today,” he said. 

Annamalai added that the “divide the DMK always stood for is coming back to bite them and it is now their responsibility to fix this situation and is an opportunity for them to put an end to their defunct propaganda”. 

Also Read: DMK vs RSS in Tamil Nadu: Denial of permission for march gives Sangh ‘huge mileage’, says Annamalai

‘Malicious news being spread’

Claims of attacks on migrants come on the heels of Stalin’s 70th birthday celebrations — seen as a show of strength by the opposition and an attempt by the DMK to showcase Stalin as a key interlocutor. Among those in attendance were Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge, Farooq Abdullah of the National Conference (JKNC), Bihar Deputy CM and Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Tejashwi Yadav, and Samajwadi Party’s Akhilesh Yadav.

With the rumours of attacks gaining traction, the Tamil Nadu government is leaving no stone unturned to quell tensions.

In a statement issued Friday, state labour minister C.V. Ganesan said “malicious news” is being spread that workers from northern India are being attacked in the state. “I would like to state that not only the workers of north India, but workers of all the states are working peacefully in the state,” he added. 

Moreover, in a departure from its usual practice of issuing statements in Tamil or English, the state government had the police issue a statement in Hindi to refute the claims made in the videos. Ganesan’s statement too was translated into Hindi and posted on social media.

The Tamil Nadu Police also issued helpline numbers for migrants to contact authorities if they face any issues. 

In addition to these statements, the Tamil Nadu government published a poster containing a quote credited to Sangam-age philosopher Kaniyan Poongundranar: “The world is my town and its people my kinsman”. The quote has been cited by many Tamil politicians in the past, including the late Karunanidhi and Stalin. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had also cited it while addressing the UN General Assembly (UNGA) in 2019.

‘Dainik Bhaskar editor’ booked by Tamil Nadu Police

On Saturday, Tamil Nadu Police booked three individuals for spreading false information about alleged attacks on migrants from northern India. Special teams have been formed to arrest all three.

Of the two cases filed by police in Tirupur, one was against the “editor of Dainik Bhaskar” under sections 153(A) and 505(1)(b) of the IPC. The second case, filed by the cybercrime unit under IPC sections 153B, 505(2) and a relevant section of the The Information Technology Act, names one Mohammed Tanveer, identified as the “owner of Tanveer Post”.

The third case has been filed by the Thoothukudi Police against Prashant Umrao — reportedly a spokesperson of the UP BJP — under sections 153, 153(A), 504, 505(1)(b), 505(1)(c) and 505(2) of the IPC.

Meanwhile, Tirupur Police Commissioner Praveen Kumar Abhinapu visited a garment factory in the city Saturday to allay fears of migrant workers. In a video accessed by ThePrint, he can be seen urging them to come forward to break the cycle of fake news. 

Speaking to reporters in Tirupur after the visit, he said, “An inspection was conducted in a garment factory where there are 300 people. False news is being spread on social media. On the ground, there is no issue. We will take stringent action against those spreading fake news and videos.” 

According to DGP Sylendra Babu, the two videos doing the rounds on social media are from an “earlier time”. The first shows a scuffle between two north Indian groups in Tirupur and the other shows a clash between local Tamil residents in Coimbatore, he said Thursday.

Both Tirupur and Coimbatore have significant migrant populations. According to the state revenue department, Tirupur is home to over 1.3 lakh migrants with a majority of them employed in the textile industry. Coimbatore, on the other hand, has 77,000 registered migrant workers of which 30,000 were active, according to a government portal.

Reacting to concerns, the Confederation of Indian Textile Industry (CITI) said in a statement that “fake news has created panic among families of migrant labourers in the north”. This kind of fake news will lead to misunderstandings and even labour shortages, affecting the “trade” and “growth” of the state, it said, urging the Tamil Nadu government and police to “give their support to stop this misleading content from creating chaos”.

(Edited by Amrtansh Arora)

Also Read: Governorships to NCW, Modi govt’s giving Tamil Nadu BJP leaders key posts. What it signals


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