Ahmedabad: Gujarat police have arrested 180 people in connection with the attacks on migrants from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar in the state.

They were targeted in several parts of Gujarat following the arrest of a Bihar native for allegedly raping a 14-month-old girl in Sabarkantha district last week, the police said.

Director general of police Shivanand Jha said the attacks had taken place in Gandhinagar, Mehsana, Sabarkantha, Patan and Ahmedabad districts in the past one week.

The attacks took place after hate messages against non-Gujaratis, 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 said.

The victim belongs to the Thakor community.

A labourer named Ravindra Sahu, hailing from Bihar and working in a local ceramic factory, was arrested the same day for the toddler’s rape, the police said.

Jha told the media that around 18 FIRs were lodged in different districts of the state so far following the attacks on non-Gujaratis.

“We have also arrested 150 people. 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,” Jha said on Friday. However, there were more arrests made and the number has gone up to 180.

This is not the first instance that people from Bihar and UP have been attacked. In Maharashtra, they were beaten up last year, allegedly by Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) workers. There were similar incidents inthe state in 2008.

Also, in July, a man from Bihar was thrashed in Tiruvallur district of Tamil Nadu after he was mistaken to be a kidnapper.

Congress MLA Alpesh Thakor, who heads the Kshatriya Thakor Sena, on Friday appealed to his community and members of his outfit, who were allegedly involved in the attacks, to maintain peace, saying non-Gujaratis are also our “brothers”.

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 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.

Meanwhile, Alpesh Thakor claimed he never asked the Kshatriya Thakor Sena to engage in violence or attack non-Gujaratis.

(With inputs from agencies)