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Pressure mounts on UPA over attacks on north Indians

October 29, 2008 20:20 IST

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Pressure mounted on the United Progressive Alliance government over attacks on north Indians in Maharashtra, with allies putting forth various demands including dismissal of the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party government, resignation of Bihar ministers from the Union Cabinet and a veiled threat of cancellation of trains to Maharashtra.

As reports of a migrant worker from Uttar Pradesh [Images] being allegedly killed in a local train on Tuesday in Mumbai came in, the allies including those outside the government, sought effective intervention in the state for curbing violence against migrant workers from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.

They also demanded stringent action against Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray [Images] who has been carrying out a campaign against north Indians.

With demands flowing thick and fast, Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil [Images] spoke to Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh and later expressed the hope that the state government would act to check the violence.

The core group of the Congress met at Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's [Images] residence and discussed the issue. Congress president Sonia Gandhi [Images] was also present.

Firing the first salvo, Lok Janshakti Party chief and Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan said he would demand at Thursday's Cabinet meeting the dismissal of the Congress-NCP government and imposition of President's rule.

He attacked Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister R R Patil for his "bullet-for-bullet" remarks justifying the killing of a Bihari youth in a Mumbai bus on Monday.

Railway Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav [Images], who spoke to the prime minister and Sonia, issued a veiled threat of suspension of train services to Maharashtra.

In an apparent hint to Maharashtra, Lalu Prasad said his ministry would have to consider the suspension of train services in states where railway passengers and property are targeted.

"I have told the prime minister to take stringent action against those behind the incident. I also spoke to Deshmukh for action against the culprits," he said.

Paswan demanded the dismissal of the Congress-NCP government and trial of MNS leader Raj Thackeray for "sedition".

It was also the turn of Samajwadi Party leader Amar Singh [Images] to vent his party's ire on the Maharashtra government and Raj.

He agreed with a questioner that Maharashtra has turned into a "banana republic" as he attacked Raj Thackeray, calling him a "criminal" whose "gang" was sought to be "legitimised" by the Vilasrao Deshmukh government.

He said Lalu Prasad and Paswan should quit the Union Cabinet as a protest against the attacks on north Indians.

Lalu Prasad, however, rejected the demand saying it was not a solution.

The SP leader also asked the Congress to "wake up" and check such incidents, to which the party, which leads the alliance with NCP in the state, said there would be "zero tolerance" against any regional chauvinism.

"We will not remain a silent spectator to regional chauvinism, which affects the unity of the country and the fundamental right of the people to reside and work in any part of the country," party spokesperson Jayanthi Natarajan said.

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati [Images], from whose state the lynched youth hailed, said the Centre and the state government should initiate immediate measures to prevent attacks on north Indians.

Mayawati, who shot off a letter to the Union government and Deshmukh, demanded immediate action to stop attacks on north Indians, saying they have "failed" to prevent such incidents.

The Bharatiya Janata Party, on the other hand, asked the Centre to issue a directive to the Maharashtra government under Article 355 for "failing" to protect the rights of individuals in the state.

Party spokesperson Ravishanker Prasad accused the Congress-NCP coalition in the state of "overtly or covertly" encouraging attacks against north Indians.

Minister of State for Home Shakil Ahmed told PTI that since these are very sensitive times, Maharashtra should be extra careful.

He said the Maharashtra government has informed the Centre that the death of the Uttar Pradesh migrant was due to a clash between two groups of youngsters on seating arrangements in a local train.

A home ministry spokesman said details have been sought from the state government about the incident, which came close on the heels of the death of Rahul Raj, a youth from Patna, who was shot dead by the police in a Mumbai bus on Monday.

Rahul had held a bus load of passengers hostage in Mumbai with a country-made revolver.

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