Editor's Note: The rape of a 14-month-old girl by a migrant labourer from Bihar in Idar town of Sabarkantha district on 28 September gave way to the persecution of migrant labourers in seven of the 33 districts of Gujarat. This incident ignited anger against migrant workers whom the locals believe are the real reason for unemployment in the state. This multi-part series will examine issues concerning migrant workers and the animosity they face from locals.
Ahmedabad: In the last 22 years that the Sharma family lived in Ahmedabad, they had never realised how far they had settled from their native in Agra, Uttar Pradesh, but an attack on the head of the family has left them in a state of fear and insecurity in Gujarat.
Vijay Sharma, 36, lives in Narol with his wife, their child and his brother. While Sharma works as a small-scale labour contractor, his wife and brother are among the thousands of outsourced workers who stitch and cut fabric for some of Ahmedabad’s smaller textile manufacturers, contributing to the state domestic product in a micro but significant way. After having spent over two decades in Ahmedabad peacefully, their only plea to the state government today is to provide them with security, so that they can continue contributing to Gujarat’s growth.
The call to throw migrants out of Gujarat in the aftermath of rape of a 14-month-old girl by a Bihari migrant in Sabarkantha district reached Sharma’s house on Monday, after repeated threats they received over the weekend, as alleged by the family. His wife and brother managed to flee when about half a dozen people tried to barge into their house threatening them to pack up and leave, Sharma alleges. On Monday evening, when Sharma went to the Narol police station to submit an application alleging that Gujarati residents in his neighbourhood were threatening them to leave the state, he was attacked by a mob of 50 to 100 people, only a kilometre from his residence.
Sharma’s decision to go to the police seems to have aggravated the locals further who attacked him right after coming out of the police station. A PCR van on routine patrolling rushed him to the Municipal Corporation-run L G Hospital, says Sharma. His brother, Manojkumar, alleges that the members of the mob were from the nearby Pandit Dindayalnagar residential colony. He adds, “Since Sunday, they had started threatening us and were asking us to leave to our native state. In this connection, I had submitted an application with the Narol police station, but no action was taken.” It was only after his brother was brutally beaten that the police registered a complaint against hooligans, Manojkumar says.
He says he knows the accused by face and had named them in the application submitted to the police after the attack. The police registered a case only after Vijay Sharma was hospitalised and Uttar Bharatiya Vikas Parishad, a national welfare organisation for north Indians, intervened, says Manojkumar.
Sharma says his family is in shock at the sudden turn of events in the state where they have been peacefully living for the last 22 years. They were never treated as outsiders in Ahmedabad, even after moving to their present house in Radheshyamnagar a year and a half ago.
“My wife and children are so frightened that they are not ready to live in our house post this assault. One male member has to stay back to protect the family from the hostile neighbourhood,” he says.
The Sharmas, who have their livelihoods established in Ahmedabad, wish to stay back, provided the state government assures their safety and that of their non-Gujarati neighbours, who are all living in fear since the incident took place.
Ramesh Charan, the de facto leader of the Pandit Dindayalnagar colony, which is just adjacent to where Sharma lives, vehemently dismisses the allegations that members of his colony attacked Sharma because he is from Uttar Pradesh. Charan, a local grocer, says, “I can confidently say this because there are migrant families in our colony living in harmony with the locals. There is no question of any influence of the recently charged atmosphere in the state against migrant labourers.”
Charan’s claim is confirmed by Ramprasad Kahar, a native of Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh who lives with his family in Dindayalnagar as a beneficiary under government rehabilitation scheme. “There are at least 37 other families in this scheme whose native state is Uttar Pradesh and two families are from Bihar. None of us was threatened over the last few days nor did any local resident argue with us over being non-Gujarati,” Kahar says.
He adds that Sharma may have been assaulted over personal enmity which may not have any connection with the recent developments in other parts of the city and the state. It is possible that the victim family may be unnecessarily connecting the incident with recent developments to seek attention, Kahar alleges.
Narol sub-inspector JB Rathod refused to comment or share any information on the investigation in the complaint lodged by the victim.
Updated Date: Oct 12, 2018 17:22 PM