India arrests at least 421 for attacks on migrants after rape

A girl and her mother attend a protest against rape cases in Surat, Gujarat, on April 18, 2018. PHOTO: REUTERS

AHMEDABAD, INDIA (AFP) - Indian police said Monday (Oct 8) at least 421 people had been arrested in the western state of Gujarat for attacks on migrant workers following the rape of a one-year-old girl.

Local officials say hundreds of labourers, mostly from northern Uttar Pradesh and eastern Bihar states, have left the affluent coastal state after several days of violence.

The Gujarat government said additional security forces had been deployed, especially to industrial hubs in the north, where many migrant workers live.

"The government strictly condemns the incidents of violence on migrant workers," J.N Singh, the state's chief secretary told journalists in the regional capital Gandhinagar.

"We have taken strict action against the perpetrators. Till Monday, we have registered 54 cases in eight districts of Gujarat and arrested 421 persons," Singh added.

Local reports say that a migrant labourer working in a local ceramics factory was arrested for rape on September 28.

The arrest sparked angry public rallies which later turned violent in parts of six northern districts.

An Indian activist protests over the rape of a child near Jammu and a rape case in Uttar Pradesh state, in Ahmedabad, on April 13, 2018. PHOTO: AFP

The victim was discharged from hospital at the weekend.

The state's chief minister Vijay Rupani said that violence had been curbed in the last 48 hours and promised strict action against those involved in attacks on migrant workers.

"I appeal to the people of Gujarat to maintain atmosphere of peace and harmony," he added.

Shyam Singh Thakur, the president of the state's migrant workers' body, refuted Rupani's claims that violence had been curtailed and said the body was receiving hundreds of calls to its hotline every day.

"Our estimates say around 50,000 workers have returned (home) since the violence," Thakur told a local news channel.

The unrest in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's home state before key regional elections in five states this November has also triggered political mudslinging.

The regional party that rules in the state of Bihar - ansd which is an important ally of Modi - blamed Alpesh Thakor, a controversial leader from the main opposition Congress party in Gujarat, for the attacks.

Thakor has denied his involvement and the Congress blamed Modi's nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party for failing to maintain law and order.

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