Additional forces were deployed in Gujarat’s industrial areas for the security of Hindi-speaking migrants after attacks on them sparked an exodus that prompted the state government to appeal to them on Monday to return.
Assuring security to the migrants, the Gujarat government said 431 people had been arrested and 56 FIRs registered in connection with the attacks. Chief minister Vijay Rupani appealed to people not to engage in violence.
Claiming that no untoward incident had taken place in the last 48 hours, Rupani said the situation had been brought under control by police.
“We are committed to maintaining law and order, and people can call the police in case of trouble. We will provide them security,” he told reporters in Rajkot.
The chief ministers of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar — Yogi Adityanath and Nitish Kumar — and Union minister and BJP ally Ram Vilas Paswan, who hails from Bihar, have spoken to Rupani to voice their concern.
Since the alleged rape of a 14-month-old girl in Sabarkantha district on September 28, six districts, most of them in north Gujarat, have witnessed sporadic incidents of violence against Hindi-speaking people, the police said.
The police have arrested Ravindra Sahu, a labourer hailing from Bihar and working in a ceramic factory in Sabarkantha, for the crime.
Uttar Bharatiya Vikas Parishad president Maheshsingh Kushwah claimed that over 20,000 people from Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar had fled Gujarat because of the attacks.
A political dimension was injected into the controversy with a leader of BJP ally JDU, the party headed by Nitish, writing an 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,” Neeraj Kumar, the JDU MLC, alleged.
Gujarat home minister Pradeepsinh Jadeja said efforts were underway to find out whether “it (the attacks) is a conspiracy by those who are out of power in Gujarat for the last 22 years”.
Rahul said targeting of migrant workers in Gujarat was “completely wrong”.
“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 tweeted.
Nitish said the person guilty of rape must be punished but an entire community must not be tarred with the same brush.
“Our government is aware and alert. I spoke to the Gujarat chief minister yesterday. Our chief secretary and DGP are also in touch with their counterparts in Gujarat,” Nitish told reporters in Patna.
Adityanath of the BJP said the Gujarat chief minister had told him that his government had ensured the safety of all and that all were welcome to the western state.