2008 Attacks On Uttar Pradeshi and Bihari Migrants in Maharashtra

The 2008 attacks on Uttar Pradeshi and Bihari migrants in Maharashtra began on 3 February 2008 after violent clashes between workers of two political parties—Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) and Samajwadi Party (SP)—at Dadar in Mumbai, capital of the Indian state of Maharashtra. The clashes took place when workers of MNS, a splinter faction formed out of the Shiv Sena (a major political party of Maharashtra), tried to attack workers of SP, the regional party based in Uttar Pradesh, who were proceeding to attend a rally organised by the United National Progressive Alliance (UNPA). Defending his party’s stand, MNS chief Raj Thackeray explained that the attack was a reaction to the "provocative and unnecessary show of strength" and "uncontrolled political and cultural dadagiri (bullying) of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar migrants and their leaders".

In the events leading to these clashes, Raj Thackeray made critical remarks, themed around language politics and regionalism, about migrants from the North Indian states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, accusing them of spoiling Maharashtrian culture and not mingling with them. At political rallies held across the state, he questioned the loyalty of Bollywood actor Amitabh Bachchan towards Maharashtra, where he attained "fame and popularity", accusing him of showing "more interest" in his native Uttar Pradesh. He called the celebration of Chhath Puja by North Indian migrants a "drama" and a "show of arrogance".

On 13 February 2008, the state government, which was accused of reluctance to take immediate action, ultimately arrested Raj Thackeray and Abu Asim Azmi (a local SP leader) on charges of instigation of violence and causing communal disturbance. Although released that same day, a gag order was imposed on both leaders to prevent them from making further inflammatory remarks. Meanwhile, tensions in Maharashtra rose as the news of Raj's possible arrest, and his subsequent actual arrest, angered his supporters. Incidences of violence against North Indians and their property by MNS workers were reported in Mumbai, Pune, Aurangabad, Beed, Nashik, Amravati, Jalna, and Latur. Nearly 25,000 North Indian workers fled Pune, and another 15,000 fled Nashik in the wake of the attacks. The exodus of workers caused an acute labour shortage, affecting local industries. Analysts estimated financial losses of 500 crore (US$92 million)– 700 crore (US$129 million). Although the violence receded after the arrests of the two leaders, sporadic attacks were reported until May 2008. After months of lull, on 19 October 2008, MNS activists beat up North Indian candidates appearing for the all-India Railway Recruitment Board entrance exam in Mumbai. The incident led to Raj's arrest and fresh violence. Later on 28 October 2008 a labourer from Uttar Pradesh was lynched in a Mumbai commuter train.

The attacks evoked critical reactions from various parts of the country, particularly the Uttar Pradesh and Bihar political leadership. Even Bal Thackeray, Raj's estranged uncle and chief of the Shiv Sena, who formed his party in 1966 to raise the voice of Marathi manoos (Marathi people), discounted his nephew's criticism of Bachchan as "stupidity". In an editorial a month later in Saamna, the Shiv Sena's political mouthpiece, however, Bal Thackeray wrote that Biharis antagonised local populations wherever they went and were an "unwelcome lot" throughout the country. The media slated Bal's remarks as an attempt to recapture his party's sons-of-soil plank, being hijacked by Raj.

Read more about 2008 Attacks On Uttar Pradeshi And Bihari Migrants In Maharashtra:  Arrests of Raj Thackeray and Abu Asim Azmi, Political Reactions, Media Coverage and Response, Political Analysis

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