Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar sent a four-member team to Tamil Nadu from state capital Patna on Saturday, after alleged attacks on Hindi-speaking migrant workers in the state triggered panic.
Rural development secretary Balamurugan D, inspector general of police P Kannan, special secretary (labour) Alok Kumar and another police officer are members of the team.
The opposition BJP raised an uproar in the assembly over the issue, while Tamil Nadu director general of police Sylendra Babu tweeted a video stating that strict action will be taken against those sharing fake videos.
“Two videos have been posted and both are false; these two incidents happened earlier in Tiruppur and Coimbatore. In both cases, the clash was not between Tamil Nadu people and migrant workers. One was a clash between two groups of Bihar migrant workers and another between two local residents of Coimbatore,” he said in the video.
The Bihar DGP has spoken to Babu while other senior police officials are also in touch with their counterparts in Tamil Nadu Police. Additional director general of police (HQs) Patna JS Gangwar said, “Videos of some old personal disputes were shot and it was published saying it is against residents of Bihar. They have said no such incident has taken place. Tamil Nadu Police are taking action and providing protection,” the officer said.
What migrants are saying
Uttam Kumar, a worker from Bhagalpur who returned from Tirupur in Tamil Nadu four days ago, said, “I was told by friends not to take a route as they were assaulted by some Tamils. They were asking for money and trying to snatch phones. They don’t want Hindi-speaking labourers. This has been happening for the past month.”
Another returned worker from Bhagalpur, Rajan Kumar said, “There are over 200 migrant workers from my village working on contract in Tirupur. The Bihar government should find out what is happening and ensure Biharis’ safety outside the state. Since the lockdown, there is a job crisis and local workers see it as a challenge as we work efficiently. They just want to come back because they want to get jobs in their state.”
Raju Pandey, who somehow managed to arrive at Danapur, said the state government’s inefficiency was causing workers to migrate to other states. “If they are beaten up, the Bihar government should be held accountable as every state has its own population and they want to get jobs in their own state. Tamils also want to get jobs in their state and, so, they want Hindi-speaking workers to go back,” he said.
It is not just Bihari migrant workers who are scared of being attacked down south. A video of workers hailing from Garhwa district in Jharkhand, who work in Tirupur, also sent a video message. In it, a person identifying as Sanjay Sharma, is heard saying, “Tamils are attacking us in buses, trains and other places. I appeal to the chief minister to bring us back to Jharkhand.”
Another person in the video said Hindi-speaking workers were being forced to flee. “We pray to our government back there to ensure our safety,” he is heard saying, while showing an injured person, “one was killed in a bus and one in the train, another is injured. You can see the injury. Even the hospital is not admitting. I appeal to the government to do something.”
After taking the video into cognizance, Jharkhand CM Hemant Soren has also sent a team to bring stranded workers back from Tamil Nadu. Soren gave instructions for the workers to be paid and their safe return. Workers from Palamu, Garhwa and other districts stranded in the southern state will also be brought back to Jharkhand.
Bihar leader of opposition Vijay Kumar Sinha gave a statement after staging a walkout from the House on Friday. “The Bihar government should bring back workers who are victims of vandalism in Tamil Nadu. Their dignity is being attacked; the state government should send a team and investigate into the matter, otherwise we will protest inside and outside the assembly,” he said.
The chief minister, while interacting with the media in Patna, said, “I came to know about the incident through the media. I have asked officers to get information immediately; our officials spoke to the Tamil Nadu administration. Yesterday, I told them to send a team, which will inquire about everything,”
On Friday, responding to BJP MLAs in the Vidhan Sabha, Kumar’s deputy Tejashwi Yadav read out a message from Tamil Nadu DGP Babu, which said no Bihar worker had been attacked.
“The BJP leaders are masters in creating hatred among states. On the one hand, they shout ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ and, on the other, they create hatred among states as if Tamil Nadu is not a part of India. If there will be any such incident, the state government will surely take action and our chief minister Nitish Kumar has already given instructions to the chief secretary and Bihar DGP to speak to Tamil Nadu officials. What’s the point creating a ruckus in the assembly then? Why is the leader of the opposition so impatient? If BJP leaders don’t trust us, they are welcome to ask the union home minister and minister of state,” he said.
Tamil Nadu labour welfare minister CV Ganesan, in a statement, accused miscreants of spreading rumours on social media with an “ulterior motive” and said workers were aware that there was no truth to such claims. Acknowledging that workers from north India were integral to the development of infrastructure in his state, he said people from all states were working “peacefully and efficiently without any threat whatsoever”.
“Appropriate action is being taken against those who are spreading rumours in Tamil Nadu, which is known for social and industrial peace,” he said.
The district administrations in Coimbatore and Tirupur, where a large number of migrant workers are employed, issued appeals in Hindi urging workers not to panic. Collectors and industrial associations also set up helplines for workers to reach out.
Former Bihar CM Rabri Devi accused the BJP of trying to defame Tejashwi and the state. She said migrant workers were not being beaten up in Tamil Nadu, and that they had fought among themselves over an issue and the government had no role in it. She further said by spreading such rumours, the BJP wanted to “burn” the country.
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