Special Correspondent

5,000 north Indians may have left the town over the past few days following attacks and tension, says trade union leader

MUMBAI: Tension and a charged atmosphere in the wake of the anticipated arrest of Raj Thackeray for his anti-north Indian stand hit Nashik town more than other places in Maharashtra; ironically a Maharashtrian, an employee of the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, got killed on Wednesday after being hit by a stone.

Chief of the Nashik unit of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena Nitin Bhosale and five other activists were arrested after violent incidents. The MNS counts Nashik as one of its strongholds.

Up to 5,000 north Indians might have left Nashik over the past few days following attacks and tension over the possible arrest of MNS leader Raj Thackeray, trade union leader D.L. Karad told The Hindu on Wednesday. “This happened more from tension and fear rather than actual violence. Initially, there were a few attacks by MNS activists but now the city is calm,” said Dr. Karad who expects the workers to start returning within a fortnight. The doctor runs a nursing home in Nashik.

“Most of those who have left are people who do not have their own residences in Nashik,” said Dr. Karad, who is the State secretary of the CITU. Many are contract labourers from Uttar Pradesh or Bihar working in industries in and around Nashik. Also, construction workers stay at their worksites and are thus more exposed to possible attacks. “The actual violence has been much less than it is made out to be,” said the doctor.

Reassurance

He and other trade union activists, all of them Marathi, have held meetings in several colonies to maintain peace and reassure the frightened labourers.

“We have instructed CITU activists to protect the non-Marathi labourers and this too is happening … most of the workers will return when they feel safer. Here, neighbours have not turned against neighbours. What we have had are small bands of youths entering a place and pelting stones at cars or shops. In some cases, just petty goondas indulging in extortion.”

Many industrial units, trade union activists said, were sanctioned when they promised preference to local labour in the recruitment.

However, “they immediately violated this as migrant labour was easier to control, less unionised and worked for longer hours and less pay.” They also violated the laws meant to protect inter-State migrant labour, said Dr. Karad.

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