Workers from Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh have been exiting Gujarat in panic after a series of riotous mob attacks on Hindi-speaking migrants. The violence began after a Bihari man was accused of having allegedly raped a 14-month-old girl in Sabarkantha district on September 28. Since then, tens of thousands of Hindi-speakers have fled Gujarat fearing for their safety. The disorder has been widespread with the districts of Gandhinagar, Ahmedabad, Patan, Sabarkantha and Mehsana affected and hundreds of people arrested for violence.

Like in other recent cases of public disorder, social media has played a key role with news reports indicating that videos targeting people from UP and Bihar are being circulated.

Even as the scale of the violence is shocking, the disorder has led to a political blame game. The Bharatiya Janata Party and the Janata Dal (United) have blamed a Congress leader, Alpesh Thakor for the attacks. Thakor, who also happens to be overseeing the Bihar Congress, has been warned of “grave consequences” by Bihar BJP leader Samrat Chaudhary if he were to enter Bihar.

Even as this descends into a political blame game, the gravity of such large-scale violence on people from another state is being forgotten. The diversity of the Indian Union is frequently held up as a source of pride – but the complexities it poses should not be glossed over. With one-sixth of the globe’s population, India is a multi-ethnic union with speakers of many languages and members of numerous religions.

Pieces of this mosaic become visible as Indians travel across the country looking for employment. Migrants are vital to keeping large cities such as Delhi or Bengaluru operational and allow the relatively industrialised states of Gujarat or Tamil Nadu to sustain their prosperity. This movement of people has received a shot in the arm as the country has grown economically. Compared to the 1991-2001 period, the 2001-2011 decade saw inter-state migration nearly doubling. Much of this migration originated in North India with the outflux of migrants from Uttar Pradesh going up two times and of Bihar by 2.3 times in the same period.

Globally, there is no parallel to the scale of this migration, especially given it takes place across states that are so culturally diverse. As a result, like Gujarat now, politicians in other states such as Maharashtra and Karnataka have also spoken out against migrants. In such a scenario, every state government in the country needs to be careful that the right to work across India is protected as sacred not only in the law but on the ground. Anything else would a grave blow to the idea of India as imagined by its founding fathers.