The exodus of Hindi-speaking labourers from Gujarat is symptomatic of the social perils of identity politics
SB Easwaran | October 16, 2018 | Delhi
For the past fortnight, Gujarat has witnessed an exodus of migrants from Hindi-speaking states like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. The migrants, mostly of the labouring classes, have been attacked by locals after a 14-month old girl was raped, allegedly by a Bihari whom the police have arrested. The rape survivor is from the Thakor community, an OBC group which has in recent decades gained a great deal of influence. Those boarding trains and buses to flee say the violence against them is from the Kshatriya Thakor Sena, of which the chief is Alpesh Thakor, the Congress MLA from Radhanpur. Thakor has also made an inflammatory speech indirectly urging his community to clear the state of migrants, though he now says he wants to promote peace and would even go to Bihar to reassure migrant workers that they could return without fear.
Across the world, these aren’t good times for migrants. But Gujarat has been a safe haven, where generations of south Indians, Maharashtrians, Sindhis, and Hindi-speakers have all lived, worked, and prospered. It was always so. The legend is that Sultan Ahmed Shah I, who founded Ahmedabad in 1411, led a frugal and pious life and so the city was blessed: anyone who came here seeking a livelihood would not return in vain. Indeed, many migrants have settled down in Ahmedabad and the rest of Gujarat, adapting local customs and learning to speak and read Gujarati. The state’s mercantile traditions, its centuries old seafaring connections with Persia, Arabia and Africa, the travels abroad of its own people have contributed to this openness.
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