The attack on migrant workers in Gujarat following the rape of an infant has rapidly acquired political overtones with Congress leader Alpesh Thakor being accused of inciting the locals against the migrants. The Congress has held the state government responsible for the attacks that took place over five districts, pushing hundreds of migrant workers to move out of the state.
Without naming the Congress, Gujarat home minister Pradeepsinh Jadeja has said efforts are on to find out whether "it is a conspiracy by those who are out of power in Gujarat since the last 22 years".
A video has surfaced in which the 42-year-old Mr Thakor, who won his maiden election last year, is seen talking of "revenge" - shutting factories and declaring what he called "halla bol". His group - the Kshatriya Thakore Sena -- has been accused of leading the attacks.
"A 14-month-old has been raped by an outsider. This crime cannot be tolerated... We have demanded hand over the accused to us and we will punish him," Mr Thakor is heard saying in the video, shot in Ahmedabad the day he visited the hospital where the child is recuperating.
"If the police don't take action, we will take revenge. We will decide on whether to let outsiders stay here or not. We will stop the factories where these people work. We told their owners but so far there has been no action. We have declared halla bol and we will shut the factory," said Alpesh Thakor.
The child was raped in Sabarkantha district on September 28, after which the man accused was arrested. Over the last few days, however, violence broke out in six districts -- Gandhinagar, Ahmedabad, Patan, Sabarkantha and Mehsana -- in which many migrant labourers were targetted, the police said. A part of Ahmedabad city was also affected.
Senior Congress leader from the state, Ahmed Patel, defended Mr Thakore and said the BJP was trying to politicize the issue.
"I think he (the state home minister) was trying to politicise the issue. The way he was saying it, I wonder if there was a conspiracy behind what is happening" Mr Patel, a Rajya Sabha member from the state, was quoted as saying by news agency Press Trust of India. Alpesh Thakor, he said, has clearly denied his role in these attacks on migrant workers.
On Sunday, Alpesh Thakor denied allegations of culpability, saying, "This is unfortunate. We have never advocated violence and only talked peace. All Indians are safe in Gujarat".
Chief Minister Vijay Rupani has appealed to the migrants to return, assuring them that there is adequate security and no untoward incident has taken place in the last 48 hours. "We are committed to maintaining law and order, and people can call police in case of trouble. We will provide them security." he told reporters in Rajkot.
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