| People peep through the shutter of a shop during the curfew in Tinsukia on Thursday. (PTI)
New Delhi, Nov. 20: Atal Bihari Vajpayee today spoke to Assam’s Tarun Gogoi and Bihar’s Rabri Devi and Laloo Prasad Yadav as hundreds of terrified Biharis fled their homes across the northeastern state, raising fears of a fresh backlash in the heartland.
Sources said the Prime Minister, worried by the attacks and counter-attacks following the row over railway recruitment tests, wants Gogoi and Rabri — the chief ministers of Assam and Bihar — and Laloo Prasad, the man who calls the shots in Bihar, to pull up their administrations.
He also asked railway minister Nitish Kumar to return to the capital for consultations and directed C.P. Thakur, the minister in charge of the Northeast’s development, to go to Assam. Thakur has been issuing statements from Patna.
Making certain that Congress-ruled Assam does not get a chance to blame the Centre, the home ministry sent six companies of the Border Security Force for deployment in the towns of Tinsukia and Dibrugarh where the violence against Biharis has been the worst. Tinsukia has a large population of Biharis.
Congress leader Manmohan Singh spoke to deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani last evening and asked him to consider Gogoi’s request for additional forces. The party is said to be disappointed with the state government’s lacklustre performance.
Worried about the effect of Gogoi’s handling of the anti-Bihari agitation, a fallout of the mob raids on trains passing through Bihar, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi had asked Singh to be in touch with Gogoi. The chief minister has reportedly been told to pull up his socks. Delhi has a substantial Bihari population and the violence in Assam might ruin the party’s chances in the December 1 Assembly polls. At least 20 people have been killed in the last one week.
On their part, Assam BJP leaders have complained to the Centre about both Thakur and Kumar. They say the railway minister should have taken action against those who attacked the trains and that Thakur has taken a one-sided view of the matter.
Union home secretary . Gopalaswami said with elections in Mizoram over today, the Centre will be in a position to provide additional forces in the next few days. “There has been no major incident throughout the day. The situation, we hope, is on the mend, but we have to watch what happens tonight,” Gopalaswami said.
In a statement released by the home ministry this afternoon, the Centre clearly hinted that both the Assam and Bihar administrations had been slack. “The home ministry said that right from the beginning when tension built up on November 9, the Centre had advised the governments of Assam and Bihar to take preventive measures so that the situation does not flare up,” the statement said.