Patna: Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has decided to send a four-member team of government officials to Tamil Nadu to investigate the alleged violence in the state against migrant labourers from Bihar, said a government note issued Friday.
ThePrint has a copy of the note. The CM’s decision came right after a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) delegation visited him over the issue, even as the Tamil Nadu police denied any attacks on migrants. Deputy CM Tejashwi Yadav Thursday had insisted in the assembly that there had been no violence against Biharis in Tamil Nadu and that the BJP was spreading rumours.
“We do not care what Tejashwi said on the issue. We made the appeal to the Chief Minister who is also the home minister of the state,” the leader of the BJP in the state council, Samrat Choudhary, said to ThePrint Saturday.
Like Tejashwi, another Mahagathbandhan ally, CPI(ML) Liberation’s Dipankar Bhattacharya also called reports of the alleged attacks “a conspiracy to trigger panic among migrant workers.” In his tweet, he called it an attempt to “derail the possibility of a pan-Indian unity of the non-BJP opposition.”
Incidentally, the BJP had ridiculed Tejashwi for taking a chartered plane to Chennai to celebrate Tamil Nadu CM M.K. Stalin’s birthday when Biharis were allegedly being beaten up in that state.
Reacting to the CM’s decision, former CM Rabri Devi said to ThePrint, “The BJP is trying to defame Tejashwi. There has been no violence in Tamil Nadu.”
The charges of violence against Bihar labourers emerged from two videos going viral on 2 March. The videos triggered a ruckus inside the Bihar assembly as BJP MLAs stormed the well of the House.
Bihar DGP R.S. Bhatti contacted his Tamil Nadu counterpart C. Sylendra Babu. According to a press note by the Bihar Police headquarters dated 2 March, “The Tamil Nadu police informed us that the two videos being circulated are of a clash between migrant labourers from Bihar and Jharkhand in Tirupur and a clash between locals in Coimbatore.”
It said that they were assured by the Tamil Nadu Police that all Hindi-speaking people were safe in the state. Meanwhile, the Tamil Nadu DGP’s official Twitter handle has shared the viral video, adding that the claims made in it were incorrect. It said, “in Tamilnadu, migrant workers from other States of India are Safe and Secure (sic).”
In this video, it has been incorrectly claimed that Hindi speaking people from Bihar are being assaulted by Tamil speaking people of Tamilnadu. In fact, in Tamilnadu, migrant workers from other States of India are Safe and Secure. (1/3) https://t.co/jGcVTSnWGN
— Tamil Nadu Police (@tnpoliceoffl) March 3, 2023
In another tweet, it has shared helpline numbers that migrants can call in case of need.
Also read: Tejashwi’s seal of approval, Lalu on virtual mode: Grand Alliance rally underlines importance of Nitish
Why Nitish acted fast
The CM probably did not want a repeat of the backlash he faced during the lockdown. During the Covid lockdown in 2020, Nitish faced resentment from the masses as he put restrictions on Bihari labourers wanting to return home. Images of labourers walking to their homes from Delhi, Mumbai and other parts of the country reached millions. Nitish’s efforts to offer Rs 1,000 to each Bihari labourer and getting them quarantined when they returned also did not find favour among the masses and Tejashwi was among his most bitter critics.
On the other hand, Nitish’s UP counterpart Yogi Adityanath won hearts by organising buses to drop migrant labourers right up to the state border. When labourers were allowed to return to Bihar, their numbers were over 23 lakh, and most of them belonged to Nitish’s traditional votebank, said a JD(U) MLA on condition of anonymity.
“This time, the CM was alert and directed his officials on 2 March itself to get in touch with their Tamil Nadu counterparts to assess the situation,” the legislator told ThePrint.
Tejashwi’s reaction quick
Tejashwi Yadav’s statement is being seen as one that’s come too soon. On 3 March, Rashtriya Janata Dal national vice-president Shivanand Tiwari expressed concern over the reported violence against Bihari migrant labourers in Tamil Nadu and warned that it could spread to other states. “The violence is not taking place because they are Biharis. It is happening because Bihari labourers are cheaper than local labourers,” he said.
JD(U) leaders feel Tejashwi spoke out of turn. “A statement on the issue should come from the Home department which is headed by the CM. It comes after checking facts,” the JD(U) MLA quoted above said.
(Edited by Smriti Sinha)
Also read: JD(U)-RJD govt on shaky ground? Allies now battle over ‘power transfer’ from Nitish to Tejashwi