Migrant Workers’ Exodus From Gujarat Turns Into Political Brawl
The exodus of Hindi-speaking migrants from Gujarat after attacks on them in several parts of the state showed no signs of abating. The issue has snowballed into a political slugfest involving the BJP, the Congress and the Trinamool Congress.
Police, meanwhile, intensified patrolling in areas near industrial estates and places where migrant workers stay in a bid to instill confidence among the people.
In Vadodara, hundreds of police personnel carried out a flag march in industrial areas which are home to several big and small factories where more than 25,000 migrants worked, police said.
The Minister of State for Home Pradeepsinh Jadeja said a total of 533 people were arrested and 61 cases registered so far. Separately, 7 cases were filed under the Information Technology Act and 20 people arrested for spreading hate messages on social media, he said.
Hindi-speaking factory workers continued to flee the state by taking trains and buses, which were running jam-packed, according to available accounts. There were also reports of bus fares being raised in view of the increased demand coming in from some places.
"Some people came to our area last night and asked me to leave the place immediately and go back to my home state or they will thrash me," a migrant worker, who did not want to be identified, told reporters at the Ahmedabad railway station.
Shyam Singh Thakur, president of the Uttar Bhartiya Vikas Parishad, an outfit of north Indians in Gujarat, said more than 60,000 Hindi-speaking migrant labourers have fled the state so far. He claimed that people who had decided earlier to leave the state continue to board buses and trains.
The rape of a 14-month-old girl in Sabarkantha district on Sept. 28 and the arrest of a labourer hailing from Bihar for the crime have led to sporadic incidents of violence against Hindi-speaking people in six districts in Gujarat.
In a series of tweets, Chief Minister Vijay Rupani asked whether Indian National Congress chief Rahul Gandhi would take action against his party’s member.
The BJP has been blaming Congress MLA Alpesh Thakor and his outfit Gujarat Kshatriya-Thakor Sena for the outbreak of violence.
Rupani said his government is "working hard to ensure trust and confidence among all citizens that they are safe and secure in Gujarat”.
Rahul Gandhi brought up the exodus of the Hindi-speaking migrants at his rally in poll-bound Rajasthan, saying youths from Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh are being attacked and forced to leave.
"Youth trusted Modi but Modi betrayed their trust,” he said, targeting Prime Minister Narendera Modi.
In a Facebook post earlier today, Gandhi said that the attacks on the migrant workforce in Gujarat were not good for business and the economy and that the government must act decisively to restore peace and ensure safety of every Indian.
He said there is growing frustration and anger with the government's "inability" to create jobs.
BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra accused the Congress of instigating violence against the migrants and demanded that Rahul Gandhi expel Alpesh Thakor for his alleged "venomous" speeches to incite locals in attacking outsiders.
Alpesh Thakor on his part said targeting of migrants is wrong and he is "totally against it", refuting the BJP's allegations against his outfit.
"Most of the attackers are from Thakor community. But the allegation that his outfit was responsible for the attacks is an effort to suppress the popularity that I have gained with my outfit in 16 states. I am being defamed. Not a single case has been filed against either me or my people. Our truth will win," he told reporters.
After the rape of the 14-month-old girl, who belonged to his community, Thakor had blamed in public a "non-Gujarati" for the crime.
A video in which Thakor is purportedly seen making a speech against migrant workers has gone viral and allegedly led to the violence against the Hindi-speaking population.
"Additional police force has been deployed in industrial areas for the security of Hindi-speaking migrants. No untoward incident has been reported in these areas," Vadodara Police Commissioner Anupam Singh Gehlot said.
West Bengal Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee described the attacks as a "very dangerous trend" and accused the BJP government in Gujarat of failing to control it.
"This (the attacks) is a very dangerous trend. A disastrous situation. The problem is very serious ... I do not understand why the BJP (government in Gujarat) is not controlling it," she told reporters in Kolkata. "All the people are scared. I am also scared,” she added.
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said top officials from the state were in constant touch with their counterparts in Gujarat and appealed to people from the state living there to stay firmly where they were.