Gujarat government has beefed up security in areas inhabited by non-Gujaratis after a mass exodus of migrant workers.
The migrant workers fled fearing retaliatory violence after a man from Bihar was accused of raping a toddler.The police has also taken hundreds of people into custody and has slapped several cases against them.
On September 28, a 14-month-old girl was allegedly raped by a migrant worker in Sabarkantha district. The accused Ravindra Sahu, who hails from Bihar was later arrested for the crime.
Six districts, most of them in northern Gujarat, witnessed sporadic incidents of violence against Hindi-speaking people. Mehsana and Sabarkantha were the worst-hit districts.
Fearing retaliatory violence, there was a mass exodus of migrants from Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.
Uttar Bharatiya Vikas Parishad President Maheshsingh Kushwah claimed that over 20,000 people belonging to Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh had fled the state due to the prevailing uncertainty.
“Over 20,000 migrants from these states have fled due to fear as Hindi-speaking people are being attacked in different parts of the state. All non-Gujaratis should not be seen as culprits for the misdeeds of one person,” he said.
Reports, however, suggest that the number of migrants fleeing the state could be as high as 50,000.
On October 8, the police said that it had arrested 431 people in connection with 56 cases registered in the issue.
The police department also directed officials to organise camps and communicate with local leaders.
Claiming that no untoward incident had taken place during the last 48 hours, Chief Minister Vijay Rupani said the situation has been brought under control. Rupani assured security to the migrants and appealed people not to engage in violence.
“We are committed to maintaining law and order, and people can call police in case of trouble. We will provide them security.” he told reporters in Rajkot.
As a result of thousands of migrant labourers fleeing Gujarat, infrastructure and construction companies in the state could face manpower shortage in the short-term.
Human resource officials also told Moneycontrol that the companies are currently engaging with the state government and police forces to ensure safety of the workers at their factories and manufacturing facilities. Also, measures are being taken to contact those who have left for their native places and convince them to come back.
The exodus may also create problems for the pharmaceuticals industry.
Gujarat is the manufacturing hub for pharmaceuticals, housing over 3,300 manufacturing units, including some of the large drug makers such as Sun Pharma, Torrent Pharmaceuticals, Cadila Healthcare and Intas, contributing around 28 percent of India’s pharmaceutical exports.
Earlier on October 8, UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ally and union minister Ram Vilas Paswan spoke to Rupani and voiced their concerns.
Gujarat Home Minister Pradeepsinh Jadeja said that efforts were on to find out whether the attacks were a “conspiracy by those who are out of power in Gujarat since the last 22 years”, hinting at Congress.
Neeraj Kumar, Janata Dal (United) Member of Legislative Council (MLC) sent a two-page open letter to Congress President Rahul Gandhi, blaming his party for the violence against Biharis.
“You appointed your Gujarat MLA Alpesh Thakor as one of the national secretaries in-charge of Bihar and his outfit Gujarat Kshatriya Thakor Sena is driving out migrant Biharis,” Kumar alleged in the letter.
Congress, however, on October 8 blamed Prime Minister Narendra Modi and CM Rupani for the attacks and violence in Gujarat and said they should quit if they are unable to carry out their responsibilities.
The Rahul Gandhi-led party also trained its guns on PM Modi, saying how he would go to Varanasi and face the people of the state who made him the prime minister, after attacks on migrant labour from UP in Gujarat, a state of which he was the chief minister for long.
Gandhi said targeting of migrant workers was “completely wrong” and that he was totally against it.
Taking to Twitter, Gandhi said the root cause of violence in Gujarat was closure of factories and unemployment there due to which both the system and the economy are reeling.
“There is nothing more frightening than poverty. The root cause of the violence in Gujarat is the closed down factories and unemployment there. Both the system and that economy are reeling.
“Making migrant labour their target is completely wrong. I stand totally against it,” he said in Hindi on Twitter.