Playing down reports of a mass exodus of non-Gujaratis from the state in the wake of anti-migrant protests that erupted after a 14-month-old was raped allegedly by a migrant labourer from Bihar in Sabarkantha district, Director General of Police (DGP) Shivanand Jha on Sunday said that those leaving Gujarat due to the onset of festival season should not be construed as fleeing.
“…it is a season of festivals of Navratri, Diwali and Chhath, and therefore those going away should not be construed as fleeing. It is a request,” Jha told mediapersons in Gandhinagar as he briefed them about the police action against such protests.
He said that till date, 42 cases have been lodged and 342 people have been arrested in six districts in connection with anti-migrant protests. The worst-affected district continues to be Mehsana where 15 cases have been registered and 89 people have been arrested. In Sabarkantha, police have registered 11 cases and arrested 95 people. The other affected districts are Ahmedabad City and Rural, Gandhinagar, Aravalli and Surendranagar, said the DGP.
In a majority of the offences, the protesters have targeted factory workers. The latest incident of violence came from Idar taluka in Sabarkantha district, where on Saturday night, a mob attacked workers of a cotton factory near Nurpura village during the change of shift. Police said that forces have been deployed outside the factory.
Meanwhile, police held meetings with labour contractors and factory owners in several districts, including Sabarkantha, and sought their details. Police also gave them contact numbers of police control room and local police station to contact them during emergency. “Over 300 labour contractors and factory owners attended the meeting. We have assured them complete safety. We did this as part of preventive measures taken by us,” Superintendent of Police of Sabarkantha, Chaitanya Mandalik, told The Indian Express.
The DGP said that major industrial areas and places where non-Gujaratis are living have also been provided security and local police have also been instructed accordingly. “Similarly, Local Intelligence Bureau (LIB) and state Intelligence Bureau officials have been asked to gather all information about those who are instigating people based on technical and human intelligence,” he said.
On asked if there was a political angle behind the attacks on migrants, Jha said: “I can’t say anything right now as those arrested are being interrogated. I can say only once we get evidence. We are trying to find out if they were associated with anyone.”