The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Laloo set to lead Assam goodwill mission

Nov. 23: Chanting an “Assamese-Bihari bhai, bhai” slogan, Laloo Prasad Yadav will lead a goodwill mission tomorrow to the northeastern state where the embers of the ethnic backlash continued to smoulder.

Laloo Prasad’s tour announcement came as the Centre took off the velvet gloves and found fault with the Assam government’s handling of the situation, saying the Tarun Gogoi-led administration failed to “anticipate” the flare-up.

Assam home secretary B.M. Mazumdar told The Telegraph tonight that Laloo Prasad would arrive in Guwahati with seven MPs and hold talks with a cross-section of the people over the clashes.

Sammujjal Bhattacharyya, advisor to the All Assam Students’ Union (Aasu) — which has been leading the campaign for 100 per cent reservation in group C and D jobs in the railways for locals — said the Rashtriya Janata Dal chief spoke to him on the phone and confirmed the visit. “He expressed his desire to hold talks with an Aasu delegation,” Bhattacharyya said.

Laloo Prasad is also expected to hold a press conference to make an appeal to the people to maintain brotherhood.

Seeking to strike a sympathetic chord among the people of the Northeast and Assam, Laloo Prasad is expected to portray both Assam and Bihar as victims of the Centre’s apathy. “His appeal will be ‘we are all brothers. The Northeast and Bihar should fight together’ against the Centre,” an RJD leader said in Delhi.

The former Bihar chief minister, who arrived in Delhi tonight from Patna, said besides him, the team will include Swaraj Kaushal (of the Haryana Vikas Party), the Congress’ Rajeev Shukla and the RJD’s Prem Gupta, Ramendra Kumar Ravi, Ramdeo Bhandary, Kum Kum Rai and Saroj Dubey.

Laloo Prasad accused the Centre of “callousness”, saying despite Assam’s demand for paramilitary forces, Delhi was reluctant to make them available.

But C.P. Thakur, Union minister for development of the northeastern region, told reporters in Dibrugarh — a violence-hit district — this afternoon: “The state government should have anticipated such a situation and taken preventive measures. But it is now taking steps to restore normality.”

Thakur, Union minister of state for home Swami Chinmayanand and Union minister of state for water resources Bijoya Chakravarty made a day-long tour of the affected areas.

The death toll in the unrest went up to 50 today with three more Biharis killed by miscreants in two separate incidents in Tinsukia district late last night.

While two Biharis were burnt to death in Rupai, one was killed in Talap in Tinsukia.

Thakur’s harsh words on the state government were in sharp contrast to his views in Guwahati yesterday when he termed the violence a gameplan by the Ulfa. Thakur said he has asked Gogoi to visit the affected areas immediately. “Otherwise, the situation will go out of hand ,” he added.

Chakravarty castigated Gogoi for not visiting the worst-affected district so far while Chinmayanand warned that “a third force” was trying to destabilise the region.

Gogoi, however, denied any lapse on the part of the government in tackling the situation. “We have intelligence reports on the possibility of attacks by militants and we are taking security steps accordingly to prevent them,” Gogoi said in Guwahati.

MP mob

The echo of the ethnic backlash rang out in Delhi’s diplomatic enclave today as a mob led by Bihar MP Pappu Yadav targeted Assam Bhavan in retaliation to attacks on Biharis in Assam.

A 200-strong crowd pelted stones and tried to enter the building at Chanakyapuri but intervention of Delhi police prevented the situation from spinning out of control.

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