For over a week, tension has been high across Gujarat after the arrest of a Bihar native for allegedly raping of a 14-month-old girl in Sabarkantha district. Following the assault of a number of non-Gujaratis in the state over the rape of the toddler, several migrant workers from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh have been fleeing Gujarat and heading home, resulting in a exodus-like situation.
Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar spoke to his Gujarat counterpart Vijay Rupani on Monday after reports of violence against migrants from Bihar emerged. "For a crime of one person, others should not be attacked. The culprit should be punished, not everyone," Nitish Kumar told reporters in Patna.
Rupani, too, assured migrant workers of safety and promised action against those behind targeted attacks.
Gujarat CM Shri @vijayrupanibjp assures safety of migrant workers and promises appropriate action against those involved in attacks. CM also appeals for the unity which is the culture and identity of Gujarat. pic.twitter.com/LZJqc8RVaq
— CMO Gujarat (@CMOGuj) October 8, 2018
Toddler's rape triggered exodus
On 28 September, a 14-month-old girl was raped in a village near Himmatnagar town of Sabarkantha district in Gujarat, around 100 kilometres from Ahmedabad. The survivor belongs to the Thakor community. One Ravindra Sahu, a labourer from Bihar working at a local ceramic factory, was arrested the same day for the toddler's rape.
Violence against migrants from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh was reported after the incident came to light. On Friday, Director General of Police (DGP) Shivanand Jha said that in the last one week, such attacks had been carried out in Mehsana, Gandhinagar, Sabarkantha, Patan and Ahmedabad districts, and 170 people have been arrested so far. The police said that the attacks were perpetrated after hate messages against non-Gujaratis were circulated on social media.
According to reports, hundreds of frightened migrant workers have returned to Bihar in the past few days. On Thursday night, non-Gujaratis were reportedly targeted in the villages of Indrad, Borisana and Dhamasan in Mehsana district.
Current state of Gujarat
On Monday, Rupani claimed that no untoward incident had taken place in the last 48 hours, even as Gujarat home minister Pradeepsinh Jadeja said additional forces have been deployed in industrial areas to ensure the security of migrants. However, Uttar Bharatiya Vikas Parishad president Maheshsingh Kushwah claimed that over 20,000 people belonging to Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar had already fled Gujarat due to the prevailing situation.
By Sunday evening, the police had arrested 342 people from various parts of Gujarat for allegedly attacking non-Gujaratis. "Six districts have mainly been affected (by the violence), with Mehsana and Sabarkantha being the worst hit. In these districts, 42 cases have been lodged, and so far, we have arrested 342 accused. More arrests will be made as names of the accused come up during investigation," the DGP was quoted as saying by PTI.
Responding to a question about the exodus of non-Gujaratis following the attacks, Jha also speculated that they may be leaving for their native states in view of the upcoming festive season. He said 17 companies of the State Reserve Police Force have been deployed in the affected areas.
"Security of areas inhabited by non-Gujaratis and at the factories where they work has been increased. The police have also increased patrolling in these areas," he added.
Two cases have been lodged for spreading rumours on social media that led to the violence. Police officials in Gandhinagar have been directed to organise camps and communicate with local leaders to convince the people to stay.
Last week, Congress MLA Alpesh Thakor had raked up the issue of non-Gujaratis living in the state, while demanding justice for the rape survivor. The police had arrested several members of the Thakor community on charges of rioting over the issue. Some members of the Thakor Sena had demanded that workers from other states not be given jobs in Gujarat.
Alpesh Thakor, a prominent OBC leader who heads the Thakor Sena, condemned the attacks, but also demanded that the government make it mandatory for migrant workers to get a no-objection certificate from the police. "I do not endorse what happened in Vadnagar. Non-Gujaratis are also Indians. I only demand that locals be given more jobs as per the state government's 80 percent norm," the Congress MLA had said last week.
On Sunday, Thakor had announced that he will go on a "sadbhavna" (goodwill) fast from 11 October if the government does not withdraw "false cases" registered against his supporters in the wake of the attacks. However, he dismissed allegations of fanning violence against migrants from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
Mumbai Congress chief Sanjay Nirupam accused the Bharatiya Janata Party of defaming Alpesh Thakor, allegeding that the saffron party is "forcing" migrant workers to flee Gujarat.
DGP Gujrat saying that North Indians are going for festivals to their home town and not being forced to leave.Its big lie.Diwali & Chhath holidays will start after one month.Not now.#BJP is forcing them to flee and defaming Congress MLA. Modiji,stop this parochial politics. — Sanjay Nirupam (@sanjaynirupam) October 8, 2018
Nirupam also hit out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the situation in Gujarat. "If people from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and Madhya Pradesh are going to be harassed in the prime minister's home state, he has to remember that one day, the prime minister will also be going to Varanasi. The people of Varanasi had hugged Modi and made him the prime minister," Nirupam said at a rally in Nagpur.
Moreover, condemning the violence against North Indians in Gujarat, Patidar leader Hardik Patel said that people from a region cannot be targeted for the crime committed by just one person. "Today, in Gujarat, 48 IAS and 32 IPS officers are from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. We are all one," Patel said on Twitter.
गुजरात में उत्तर भारतीयों पर हो रहे हमले की में निंदा करता हूँ।अपराधी को कठोर सजा मिले,इसके लिए पूरा देश उस पीड़ित परिवार के साथ खड़ा हैं।लेकिन एक अपराधी के कारण हम पूरे प्रदेश को ग़लत नहीं ठहरा सकते,आज गुजरात में 48 IAS एवं 32 IPS उ॰प्र और बिहार से हैं।हम सब एक हैं।जय हिंद
— Hardik Patel (@HardikPatel_) October 8, 2018
According to Census 2011, 2.69 crore people of the 6.03 crore people in Gujarat were migrants by residence, The Times of India reported. The report also claimed that Gujarat came fifth in the country when it came to migrating for employment.
With inputs from agencies
Updated Date: Oct 08, 2018 18:15:14 IST