More than a thousand migrant workers, mostly from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, have fled Gujarat over the past couple of days amid several attacks on migrant workers and industrial units.
The backlash against migrants in Gujarat was triggered by the alleged involvement of a Bihari migrant in the rape of a 14-month-old girl in Sabarkantha district last week.
"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.
The victim belongs to the Thakor community and over the past four-five days, there have been violent attacks on migrant labourers and factories by members of the Thakor community in Ahmedabad, Mehsana, Gandhinagar, Patan, Sabarkantha, Banaskantha and Aravali districts.
Meanwhile, about 100 industrial units in Sabarkantha, Aravali and Mehsana in north Gujarat have been provided with additional security by the state government. State Reserve Police patrolling has also been intensified after a series of violent attacks over the past one week.
The action came after a delegation of the Sabarkantha District Ceramic Industries Association met CM Vijay Rupani and Deputy CM Nitin Patel and requested additional security as a sizeable number of their staff comprises migrant labourers.
Driven by fear, hundreds of migrants were seen boarding buses along with their families to move out of the state as some said masked men barged into their houses at night asking them to leave the very next morning.
RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav targeted PM Modi over the attacks and wrote on Twitter, "Dear @narendramodi Ji, Is it ur so called 'Wonder world of Gujrat' you had sold to Nation in 2014? People from UP, Bihar,MP being mobbed in Gujarat. BJP/RSS has turned Gujrat into a nursery of hatred & violence against poor, dalits & minorities. Shameful!"
The attacks took place after hate messages against non-Gujaratis were circulated on social media, police said.
On September 28, a 14-month-old girl was allegedly raped in a village near Himmatnagar town of Sabarkantha district, around 100 km from Ahmedabad, the police had said. The victim belongs to the Thakor community.
One Ravindra Sahu, a labourer hailing from Bihar and working in a local ceramic factory, was arrested the same day for the toddler's rape.
A day after Sahu’s arrest, protests broke out at several parts of the state.
According to a PTI report, on October 3, a mob allegedly comprising Thakor community members engaged in vandalism in Chandlodia area of Ahmedabad, demanding people from North India leave the city, said the police.
However, Congress leader Alpesh Thakor later clarified that they never provoked any hatred. He said, “This is unfortunate, we have never advocated violence and only talked peace. All Indians are safe in Gujarat.”