Sunita Sharma (40) sifts through the remains of her burned-down house in Indira Nagar, trying to salvage the belongings she can.
“They would all gather at my house to share a cup of tea. I didn’t know these would be the same people who would threaten us and burn down our house,” says Sharma.
Her husband and two sons, all carpenters, are planning to return to their native Buxar in Bihar after three north Indian houses were burned down by a mob on Thursday. Sharma, who was born in the state, is perplexed by the rioting that resulted in two deaths. “We have lived here for 40 years. We feel like aliens in our own country,” says Sharma.
On Saturday, a migrant security guard employed in a distillery, thinking he was being targeted by Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) activists, fired upon a villager at Kadva Mhalungi near Dindori in the district, the police said. Yogesh Shinde, the villager, was injured and admitted to Nashik civil hospital. The guard has been arrested. The incident sparked tension in the area with villagers blocking a road.
One explanation for the violent reaction in the city to political developments in 180-km-away Mumbai is the support Raj Thackeray enjoys among workers of the Shiv Sena, his former party. Some of them stepped out on the streets with MNS workers, in spite of the fact that it was Thackeray’s criticism of the Sena for its new-found love of north Indians that kicked off the climate of tension.
Thackeray spent a considerable part of his early political life in Nashik and is known to share a good rapport with most of the Shiv Sena leaders in the city. “A lot of Shiv Sainiks were tacitly supporting the agitation,” says a Shiv Sena leader.
Nashik also flared because the MNS has a relatively strong presence. The Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party controls the Nashik Municipal Corporation, where the MNS has 12 seats, its best electoral performance anywhere.
A growing influx of north Indian migrants ready to work at lower salaries in the industries has also rubbed the locals the wrong way. Nearly 2,000 small- and medium-scale enterprises along with the big industries employ 60,000 people — 40 per cent of whom are migrant labourers.
“Once a north Indian comes in, he brings along 10 others. We have given our lands for setting up these factories and we don’t get jobs,” says Santosh Shelke, a youth from Mankhamb, where a Bihari migrant was killed.