Dharamdev Rai, a 28-year-old from Uttar Pradesh who worked at a factory near Mumbai, was beaten to death by a group of people on a train on Tuesday.
Friends accompanying him, who were also beaten, said the attackers had specifically asked them if they were from outside the state. They added that Rai was on his way home to a village near Gorakhpur for Chhat Puja, a big religious festival in Bihar and bordering areas of Uttar Pradesh.
Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister RR Patil refused to confirm that it was a hate crime but police were investigating the involvement of Raj Thackeray’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS). Ten MNS workers had been detained, police said.
The MNS, which has been targeting migrant workers, claims north Indians were taking away jobs from people from the state.
Rai, a labourer in a factory at Khopoli, 89 km from Mumbai, accompanied by three friends boarded the Mumbai-bound train at 1.57 pm. He was scheduled to board the Kushinagar Express from Lokmanya Tilak Terminus at Kurla.
In the train, the four had an argument with a group of people, who wanted them to vacate the window seat. “Seven to eight Marathi-speaking people asked us if we were Bhaiyyas (a slang used for people from UP). When we said yes, they started abusing and beating us,” said Virendra Kumar Rai, one of the four.
The victim was kicked in the stomach after which he fell unconscious. The attackers got off at the Karjat station, after which police were alerted.
“The post mortem reveals that he died due to a punctured liver,” Commissioner of Police (Railways) A.K. Sharma said. He said the 10 MNS activists detained were from Khopoli. There had been issues between migrants and locals in Khopoli after a steel plant there started recruiting north Indians.
Patil said a probe has been ordered even as the Centre asked the state for a report on the murder.