Members of the migrant community, especially those hailing from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, were targeted in several parts of the state following the arrest of a Bihar native for allegedly raping a 14-month-old girl in Sabarkantha district last week, the police said Friday.
Director General of Police Shivanand Jha said such attacks have taken place in Gandhinagar, Mehsana, Sabarkantha, Patan and Ahmedabad districts in the last one week and 150 people have been arrested in connection with the incidents.
The attacks took place after hate messages against migrants, particularly those from Bihar and UP, were circulated on social media, he 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.
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, the police had said.
Congress MLA Alpesh Thakor, who heads the Kshatriya Thakor Sena, Friday appealed to his community and members of his outfit, who were allegedly involved in the attacks, to maintain peace, saying migrants are also our "brothers".
Addressing mediapersons, Mr Jha said around 18 FIRs were lodged in different districts of Gujarat so far following the attacks on non-Gujaratis.
"We have also arrested 150 persons. We will not allow such activities at any cost. We have instructed local police to increase vigil at factories and (housing) societies having a good number of non-Gujaratis. We are also keeping a watch on social media messages," said Mr Jha.
After it came to light that the rape accused hailed from Bihar, the Kshatriya Thakor Sena said migrant workers from other states should not be given jobs in Gujarat.
A 200-strong mob, allegedly led by Thakor Sena members, stormed a factory near Vadnagar town of Mehsana district on October 2 and thrashed two employees. Following the incident, 20 people were arrested on charges of rioting, an official of the Mehsana Police had said.
There were also reports of several 'panipuri' vendors being threatened allegedly by Thakor Sena members in Mehsana and other parts of North Gujarat. Protests and slogan-shouting against non-Gujaratis were reported from various other towns and villages of North Gujarat.
"Since the accused is from Bihar and the victim belongs to the Thakor community, some elements are spreading misleading messages on social media," said Inspector General (Gandhinagar Range) Mayanksinh Chavda.
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.
"Some Thakor youths damaged vehicles and handcarts of North Indians living in that area. These accused were not officially attached with the Thakor Sena, but they are from that community. We have arrested 10 of them," said Police Inspector of Sola (Ahmedabad district) D G Gadhvi.
Meanwhile, Alpesh Thakor claimed he never asked the Kshatriya Thakor Sena to engage in violence or attack non- Gujaratis.
However, Alpesh Thakor had first raked up the issue of non-Gujaratis while demanding "justice" for the rape survivor a week back. He had then said locals should be given preference in jobs in industries in Gujarat.
"Non-Gujaratis are not on our target. I have called a meeting of all the office-bearers of the Thakor Sena to discuss this issue.
"Non-Gujaratis are our brothers and protecting them is also our responsibility. I will ask the Thakor Sena to stop such attacks," Mr Thakor told reporters.