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Why north Indians are fleeing Gujarat

Last updated on: October 09, 2018 11:56 IST

'Mobs are entering north Indian homes and threatening families to leave Gujarat or face consequences.'

IMAGE: Migrant workers prepare to board the Sabarmati Express in view of protests which broke out over an alleged rape of a 14-month-old girl, in Ahmedabad. Photograph: PTI Photo

The rape of a 14-month-old girl on September 28, 2018, allegedly by a north Indian migrant in Gujarat's Sabarkantha district, has sparked incidents of violence against north Indians, which in turn has led to an exodus of 'migrant' labourers from the state.

Many workers belonging to northern Indian states, especially from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, have been boarding home-bound trains after some of them were targeted for the increase in violence and rapes in the state.

Chanting 'Bhaiyya Bhagao, Gujarat Bachao (Evict north Indians, Save Gujarat),' local mobs have been threatening migrants to leave the state. Even businesses that hire non-Gujaratis have not been spared.

Shyamsinh Thakur, president, Uttar Bharatiya Vikas Parishad, an umbrella body of migrant workers, blames Congress MLA Alpesh Thakore for the violence and alleges that he instigated locals to protest against the migrants.

Thakore has denied the allegations.

"Railway stations in Gujarat are packed with north Indian migrants and everyone wants to flee Gujarat as they fear for their lives," Shyamsinh Thakur tells Rediff.com's Syed Firdaus Ashraf.

 

Why are north Indians fleeing Gujarat?

North Indians are fleeing Gujarat because they fear for their lives.

There is an organisation in Gujarat called the Thakore Sena led by Congress MLA Alpesh Thakore.

The Thakore Sena is attacking Hindi-speaking people and telling them to leave Gujarat.

Today the situation is so bad that a mob of 30 people assemble, enter Hindi-speaking residential areas to beat the people up.

They threaten them continuously.

People are fleeing Gujarat and running away to their home states.

Gujarat Director General of Police Shivanand Jha claims that north Indians are going to their native places for Diwali and not out of any fear.

That is not true.

They are leaving Gujarat out of fear.

We are trying to stop this exodus.

Even the factory association is stating that if these workers leave, then who will work during Diwali?

What will happen to the economy?

How did the exodus begin?

This happened soon after September 24, when a 14-month-old girl was raped by a north Indian man.

After the incident, Alpesh Thakore called for a meeting of the Thakore Sena and they made this an issue.

They created trouble.

Alpesh Thakore has refuted this.

The man who raped the 14-month-old girl was from Bihar and he (Congress MLA Alpesh Thakore) instigated the mob.

Today he is saying he did not do so.

There are videos circulating on social media where mobs are chanting slogans 'Bhaiyya Bhagao, Gujarat Bachao.'

If Alpesh Thakore is denying his role, then why did he not come forward and say that the Thakore Sena is not responsible for the violence?

The Congress too did not intervene and spread brotherhood.

In the history of Gujarat such a thing never happened.

In Mumbai anti-North Indian sentiments were spread by the Shiv Sena in its early days. Then Raj Thackeray's MNS (Maharashtra Navnirman Sena) too did the same.

But these things never happened to us in Gujarat.

Do you think a political game is being played over the issue?

There are two ways to look at this issue now.

The BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) is thinking that since a Congress MLA is involved, they should not take any action against him as the Congress will be defamed more.

On the other hand, the Congress feels that if these Hindi-speaking people are driven out of Gujarat, then people will stop supporting the ruling BJP as it can't protect them.

How many attacks have taken place against North Indians?

There are 42 registered cases of attacks in the last 10 days against north Indians in Gujarat.

There are many more. But they haven't been reported as the police is refusing to register cases.

Mobs are entering north Indian homes and threatening families to leave Gujarat or face consequences.

Till now, 342 people have been arrested for attacking north Indians.

Has the situation changed after the arrests?

Thousands of north Indians are still leaving Gujarat.

They have taken their children out of schools and colleges too.

There is only one concern among them -- that they have to save their own lives.

When the mobs are coming out openly and threatening them to leave Gujarat, who will take the risk to stay?

In cities there is security. But in places like Sabarkantha, Himmatnagar, Mehsana and many other places, the attacks are more serious in nature.

How did one incident spark such violence against north Indians?

That little child is not only a Gujarati girl, she is our girl too.

She is the country's daughter.

How can they say she is from the Thakore community?

A criminal is a criminal.

You cannot associate him with any religion or caste.

The Thakore community, though, is saying that since there are no jobs for them in Gujarat, they are resorting to violence.

But this is not true.

You can check the 80:20 ratio and find out the truth. (Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani recently announced that a new law would be enacted to make sure that industrial units give 80 per cent of jobs to persons who are domiciled in the state.)

If that is not implemented, they can go to court, but why attack poor people?

What is the police doing?

For the last three days the police is doing a good job.

In last three days they have booked 13 people under the NSA (National Security Act).

However, in spite of police action, attacks took place last night (Sunday night) in Vadodra and Halol against north Indians.

The rumours refuse to die down about violence against north Indians in Gujarat.

What is the population of north Indians in Gujarat?

According to state Home Minister Pradipsinh Jadeja, there are around one crore (10 million) north Indians in Gujarat.

We thought there were 65 lakh (6.5 million) north Indians. Even we were shocked to know about this huge population of north Indians in Gujarat.

Do the Gujaratis fear that north Indians will snatch their jobs?

No, that is not true.

We north Indians mostly do labourer kind of jobs which the locals don't do.

The people of Gujarat are very peace-loving.

It is only now that they are being instigated by politicians and resorting to violence.

Our people work for more than 20 hours.

Locals don't work for more than eight hours and expect Sunday to be a holiday which we don't believe in as we have come here only for work.

If you see all the chemical plants of Gujarat, you will find hardly 10 per cent Gujaratis working in them as it is not easy to work in those plants.

It is a difficult task.

Only people from eastern Uttar Pradesh or Bihar can work in those plants.

So this entire argument of us snatching the jobs of local Gujaratis falls flat.

Do the locals fear that North Indians are changing the demography of Gujarat?

That is not true as you can see that the presence of north Indians in Gujarat politics is very rare.

In Gujarat there are 182 MLAs. Out of that only three MLAs are from north India.

Syed Firdaus Ashraf / Rediff.com in Mumbai