Local groups in Gujarat have been protesting against migrant workers in the state with claims of ‘sons-of-soil’ theory owing to the acute unemployment crisis in the state.
With this Gujarat has been witnessing a mass exodus of migrant workers. Thousands of people who migrated to Gujarat from the states of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar in search of better lives have fled the state in the past one week. The assurance of the police that they would take stringent action against the violence targeting migrant workers has influenced neither the attackers nor those who have been leaving the state.
The rape of a 14-month old girl on September 28, Friday in Himatnagar, Sabarkantha district allegedly by a 20-year old man, a ceramic factory employee who hails from Bihar is the incident that has unleashed the violence against non-Gujaratis. Anti-migration clashes erupted in Thakor-majority areas in north Gujarat such as Ahmedabad, Himatnagar and Modasa as a retaliation for the attack against the child who belongs to the Thakor community. Twenty companies of armed police had to be deployed to contain the violence. The ruling BJP alleges that it was Congress legislator Alpesh Thakor head of the Kshatriya Thakor Sena group in the state, who incited the people against the north Indians with the slogan ‘Gujarat for Gujaratis’. Alpesh has denied the allegations. However, he had backed the demand to provide employment opportunities in the state to the localsas much as possible.
Priority is given to the migrants over the Gujaratis as they work more time for less pay. Factory owners are of the view that it is better to appoint migrant workers than locals in order to avoid unnecessary claims, job disputes and strikes and also to ensure the unobstructed continuity of work force. Also, it is the migrant workers available at a lesser pay who are generally given priority in the employment sector in the state. With this, the complaint that even the skilled youth in the state have reached a state of not getting a job, is rampant. Following this, several protests took place after which Thakor Sena says that an agreement has been reached with the businessmen that 80 per cent of the jobs in factories should be reserved for the locals. They have decided to continue the protest until this right has been recognized.
They claim that their protest is not against the migrant workers but against the factory owners who do not provide the Gujaratis with jobs. However, the Thakors had been engaging in violence scheming to drive away those working in the factories and street businesses. The BJP has so far not made their stance clear. Congress is also maintaining a silence. Nobody seems to be willing to irk the Thakors, who constitute up to 27 per cent of the state’s population. As per estimates, half a lakh people have fled following the threats to return to their native state before October 8. With the exodus of the migrants gaining strength, the ruling and opposition parties in Uttat Pradesh and Bihar have turned against Gujarat. Congress leader Sanjay Nirupam remarked that "north Indians are being targeted in prime minister’s Gujarat. But he must remember that one day he too will have to go to Varanasi to seek votes’.
Bihar chief minister and leader of BJP’s ally Janata Dal-U, Nitish Kumar has asked Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani that he should punish the criminal, but should stop committing atrocities and excesses against outsiders. Bihar's RJD leader Thejashwi Yadav blamed that we can hear only shameful stories from 'Narendra Modi's Wonderland'. With all this, the dispute looks like taking on dimensions that hurt inter-state relations.
States of Gujarat that raise regional chauvinism and hunts people from other states, and their victims UP, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh are all states ruled by BJP. The root cause of the current problems is severe unemployment. Job-seekers in tens of thousands flock to Gujarat – the state touted by BJP as the paradise of development to states that claim to be places with the milk and honey of development. And as for the wonderland of Modi, conditions are such that even natives do not have enough jobs for themselves. On the whole, the sons of soil theory proves that beyond the rhetoric of development, the slogan has not got anywhere. Further, injecting hatred and revenge in a people will get out of hand to any limit, as proven by the conflicts and migration that could not be prevented by the arrests by police or flag march. The latest series of events in Gujarat is a direct manifestation and warning that the word and deed of Sangh parivar will equally be a setback for themselves.