After Minor's Rape, 342 Arrested as Migrants Flee Violent Backlash in Gujarat

Gujarat has been on edge for the last few days with locals turning on migrants from UP, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh after the rape of a minor. But according to the police, the people fleeing are simply "leaving for home for a festival".

New Delhi: The police have so far arrested 342 people from various parts of Gujarat for allegedly attacking non-Gujaratis, especially those hailing from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh, following the rape of a 14-month-old girl in Sabarkantha district on September 28.

Migrants are being targeted and beaten with sticks and stone, and hate messages are being circulated on social media after a migrant from Bihar was arrested for allegedly raping the minor. The child who was raped was discharged from hospital in Ahmedabad on Saturday. Her condition is stable and she is out of danger, a senior official of the hospital said.

“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,” Director General of Police Shivanand Jha told reporters.

“Security of areas inhabited by non-Gujaratis and the factories where they work has been increased. Police have also increased patrolling in these areas,” he said.

When the media asked him about why so many people are flocking to railway and bus stations to get out days before they would be due to head home for the festival season, Jha said, “If people are leaving for home for a festival, it should not be seen otherwise. I have told my officers to visit residential areas, and if required, visit bus stands and railway stations and if people are found leaving due to fear, (then to) persuade them to come back.”

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“I’ve lived here for so many years and never faced any problems. After the minor girl was raped in Sabarkantha, threats were issued to us migrant labourers across the state. No one came and threatened me, but when I saw my friends and neighbours fleeing in droves, so I too decided to leave. Yes, my Diwali bonus and salary will get cut, but what can one do. I will return as soon as things cool down,” Mohamad Shakeel, who works in the Ford Factory at Sanand near Ahmedabad, told The Quint.

According to the report by the Quint, Satendra Singh, who is a resident of Bihar, said, “They gave us our salary and asked us to leave. We were threatened by the mob as well. I have only lived in Gujarat for a year but now I will not return.”

“A provocative message had been doing rounds on a social media messaging app to instigate the mob against migrant workers. These messages were based on the recent rape case in Sabarkantha and exploited the sentiment that workers from outside were taking away job opportunities,” said H.D. Mewada, the deputy superintendent in Waghodia district, where 17 persons attacked several migrants with sticks and stones on Sunday.

Chief minister Vijay Rupani has written to the Gujarat high court chief justice to set up fast track courts for rape cases of minors. Rupani has specifically mentioned Himmatnagar and two other cases from Surat, where two five-year-old girls were raped.

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Congress MLA Alpesh Thakor announced that he will go on a ‘sadbhavna‘ (goodwill) fast from October 11 if the government does not withdraw “false cases” registered against his supporters in the wake of the attacks. Last week, Thakor had raked up the issue of non-Gujaratis while demanding “justice” for the rape survivor. He had also demanded that local people be given preference in jobs in industries in Gujarat.

Opposition parties have criticised the Gujarat state government for allowing the attacks on the migrant workers to take place.

Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar Monday spoke to his Gujarat counterpart Vijay Rupani expressing concern on the violence against non-Gujaratis, including those from Bihar.

“Our government is aware and alert. I spoke to the Gujarat chief minister Sunday. Our chief secretary and director general of police are also in touch with their counterparts in Gujarat,” Nitish was quoted as saying by PTI. “If somebody has committed a crime, he must be punished severely. But on account of one incident, people should not generalise and hold a grouse against an entire state,” he said.

Former UP chief minister Akhilesh Yadav and former Bihar deputy chief minister Tejashwi Yadav came down heavily upon the BJP at the Centre and the state government.

JD(U) leader Neeraj Kumar, in a two-page open letter to Congress president Rahul Gandhi, blamed Gujarat MLAs recent speeches for the violence. “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,” the JD(U) MLC and spokesman alleged.

(With inputs from PTI)

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