Superintendent of Rajkot rural police, Balram Meena, a journalist and three policemen were injured after a group of migrant workers turned violent in Shapar-Veraval on the outskirts of Rajkot city after Shramik Special trains were rescheduled on Sunday. Police said that 29 people were arrested in connection with the violence even as Indian Railways denied any train scheduled to depart from Rajkot was rescheduled.
Sandeep Singh, deputy inspector general of police of Rajkot range, said three trains were to leave Rajkot to ferry migrant workers of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh to their native places on Sunday. These trains were scheduled to depart at 6 am, 9 am and 12 pm. While two trains were to leave for Bihar, one was to go to UP and approximately 4,800 migrant workers were to leave for their native states. The DIG said that around 1,000 workers assembled on the ground of Fieldmarshal School, a pickup point in Shapar-Veraval, a cluster of MSMEs on the outskirts of Rajkot city on Sunday morning, Police said that rescheduling of train was conveyed to workers but a few had already reached the pickup point. A few workers who were not registered to depart on Sunday also gathered at the place.
“While some understood that the trains were rescheduled but others misunderstood that it had been cancelled. A few workers who had not registered for boarding trains on Sunday also gathered at the place and engaged in violence. They tried to block the National Highway (27) and also pelted stones at police. A journalist who was covering the incident was also attacked by the mob. SP of Rajkot Rural was also hit by stones while three other policemen sustained serious injuries,” Singh said while addressing a press conference.
In the videos which have gone viral, TV journalist Hardik Joshi is seen being beaten by the mob with sticks. The journalist was also allegedly robbed of his camera while a few private vehicles were also vandalised. “Majority of the workers who had assembled were calm and only a few indulged in violence. Therefore, police used reasonable amount of force and the mob was dispersed in 15 to 20 minutes,” Singh further said.
The DIG said that 25 people and a mob of 150 to 200 people were booked for attempt to murder, assaulting police, robbery, rioting and for damaging public property. “We have arrested 29 people in connection with the violence. A few of them were picked up from train ferrying migrant workers,” said Singh.
Around 40,000 migrant workers work in MSMEs in Shapar-Veraval and the police officer said that the train to UP finally departed at 5 pm.
Director-General of Police of Gujarat, Shivanand Jha also claimed that violence followed the cancellation of a train and appealed migrant workers to have patience: “The state government has made arrangements to help migrants reach their homes safely through special trains. The workers shouldn’t panic and must cooperate with the authorities. Along with special trains, buses are also running to ensure their safe travel back home. Since approvals from other states take time, it is important that migrants remain patient. If they tamper with law, they will face strict actions. A case has been registered against few migrant workers in Rajkot who attacked police and media personnel upon cancellation of the train which was supposed to take them to their native place,” an official release quoted the DGP as saying.
The DIG said a dozen special trains had already been operated to ferry migrants. “As many as 12 trains for migrant workers working in Rajkot rural jurisdiction have already been run and around 4,800 more workers were to leave on board three trains on Sunday,” Singh added.
The Rajkot Division of Western Railway denied the claim that Shramik Special trains which were to depart from Rajkot on Sunday were rescheduled. “There was no train which has been rescheduled. We have run all the scheduled trains… From Rajkot, one train departed for Balangir (in Odisha) at 2 pm, and one train departed at 5 pm for Ghazipur (in Uttar Pradesh). From Jamnagar, one train departed for Bareily (in Uttar Pradesh). These three trains departed from Rajkot division on Sunday. There was no rescheduling,” Parmeshwar Funkwal, divisional railway manager of Rajkot told The Indian Express.