Haresh Jhala | Oct 15, 2018 | 4 min read
After fear of a mob drove half of them away, Vadodara residents want police post outside colony
Phase of purge over, but fear of retaliation keeping migrants petrified
Vadodara: The atmosphere in affected districts of Gujarat seems to have returned to normal after two stressful weeks during which north Indian migrant population in these areas was subjected to harassment, threats and violence, in the aftermath of the rape of a 14-month-old girl by a Bihari labourer in Sabarkantha district on 28 September. In Vadodara, there have been no reports of violence against north Indians in last few days, no police complaints, migration rate has come down. But, those who were chased by stone pelting mobs, and survived, are living in constant anticipation of danger.
A few days after incidents of violence against north Indian migrant workers by Gujarati locals agitating over lack of preference to them for jobs subsided, the Ahmedabad helpline of Uttar Bharatiya Vikas Parishad (UBVP) received a call from Vadodara on Friday, 12 October. The caller identified himself as Mahendrasinh Rathod.
While speaking to the UBVP’s national president Shyam Singh Thakur, Rathod requested help to ensure that Vadodara city police put up a permanent check post at Brahmanagar, behind the Harni airport area in the city. Rathod was concerned about the safety of about 100 migrant families from north and central states residing in the area, who were attacked on the Tuesday of October 9, by a stone-pelting mob, which they allege had emerged from the neighbouring residential colony developed by Vodadara Urban Development Authority.
The UBVP chief assured Rathod that he will speak to the DCP of the area or even the city police commissioner if needed, to provide police protection to families.
This was not an isolated phone call to the UBVP helpline, which continues to receive at least 20 to 50 calls a day from migrant workers and their families seeking help or informing about their ordeal at the hands of locals, says Virendrasingh Rajput, the Ahmedabad secretary, UBVP, who handles the helpline.
Saying that calls seeking help have reduced by mid-October, Rajput compares the volume with last weekend (6 to 8 October), when they were attending 750 to 800 calls a day from various parts of North and Central Gujarat.
“That number has surely come down. No case of violence against north Indians has been reported, but harmony among the locals and north Indians is missing and people are feeling insecure,” he says.
UBVP chief Thakur says the Parishad assisted thousands of migrant labourers by arranging shelter and other needs over the last two weeks. A group of around 30 labourers, including women, who approached the UBVP from Jankh Industrial area on 7 October, were given shelter at UBVP office bearer Mahendra Gupta’s residence on the first night. They were shifted to a temporary camp in Vastral the next day. As the situation turned normal and industrial unit took responsibility for their safety, they returned to Jankh on Thursday, Thakur says.
He says that in its effort to keep the migrant labourers’ confidence in the state intact, the UBVP is organising trust building meetings along with the city police. One such gathering of hundreds of people held on Wednesday, 10 October, at Vatva industrial area was addressed by Joint Police Commissioner (sector-1) Ashok Kumar.
Brahmanagar’s Rathod says around 200 families from north and central India are living in his neighbourhood, which is adjacent to the VUDA residential colony, where those under the low-income group have been allotted flats. “On Tuesday evening, without any provocation from our side, a 200-strong mob came out of the VUDA colony and started pelting stones on our residences. I suffered an injury on the head. Police did act on time and dispersed the mob, but also arrested more migrant labourers than those from the mob,” he says.
Rathod says 13 of the migrant labourers were arrested, while the six locals arrested for instigating violence have been released on bail, and he fears that they will be targeted in the absence of any police protection.
“Since the incident, some 100 families have migrated, and only 100 other are left. A permanent police post is must to ensure their safety,” says Rathod.
[The author is an Ahmedabad-basee freelance writer and a member of 101Reporters.com, a pan-India network of grassroots reporters]
Photos arranged by Haresh Jhala
1) Police officer Ashok Kumar addressing migrant labourers in Vatva area on Wednesday evening
2)UBVP- Uttar Bhartiya Vikas Parishad President Shyamsinh Thakur sharing dais with the police officer
3) UBVP- migrant labourers attended the meeting organised by the UBVP and Ahmedabad city police
4) Mahendra Singh Rathod was injured by the local mob on Tuesday evening in Vadodara
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