Congress legislator Alpesh Thakor on Tuesday condemned the violence against migrant workers in Gujarat but claimed they were leaving the state because of the upcoming Chhath festival.

Thakor and his outfit have been accused for the recent violence against Hindi-speaking people in Gujarat, which has led to an exodus. Trains and buses remained jam-packed on Tuesday as migrant workers continued to flee the state, PTI reported.

The Bharatiya Janata Party on Tuesday demanded Thakor’s arrest.

“All this is being done to defame Gujarat,” Thakor told CNN-News18. “People are leaving for Chhath festival. I appeal to them to return to the state.” During Chhath festival, which is primarily celebrated in Bihar a week after Diwali, devotees worship the sun. The festival is still more than a month away.

“Only one incident happened somewhere in Gujarat and I condemn it,” Thakor told ANI. “If I have threatened anyone, I will go to jail myself.”

He said the allegations against him and his outfit were an effort to “suppress the popularity that I have gained with my outfit in 16 states”, PTI reported. “Not a single case has been filed against either me or my people,” he added.

Later in the day, ANI reported that Rahul Parmar, the media convenor of Thakor Sena, had been arrested by the cyber crime police from Patan.

‘More than 60,000 people have fled’

Violence against Hindi-speaking workers from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh has been reported from six districts in the northern part of the state after a native of Bihar was arrested for allegedly raping a 14-month-old girl from the Thakor community in Sabarkantha district on September 28. After the incident, a video showed Alpesh Thakor purportedly making a speech against migrant workers.

On Monday, Chief Minister Vijay Rupani asked Congress President Rahul Gandhi if he would take action against his party’s “own members who incited violence”. Rupani said his government was “working hard to ensure trust and confidence among all citizens that they are safe and secure in Gujarat”. He had earlier urged people not to engage in violence.

At least 450 people have been arrested and 56 First Information reports have been filed so far. The police have intensified patrolling in localities populated by migrant workers.

In Vadodara, hundreds of police personnel carried out a flag march in industrial areas, PTI reported. “Additional police force has been deployed in industrial areas for the security of Hindi-speaking migrants,” city police commissioner Anupam Singh Gehlot said. “No untoward incident has been reported in these areas.”

Shyam Singh Thakur of the Uttar Bharatiya Vikas Parishad, an outfit of north Indians in Gujarat, told PTI the situation has become normal but people are still leaving the state. More than 60,000 Hindi-speaking migrant labourers have fled the state so far, he claimed.

“The environment of threat and fear has ended and peace has returned,” he said. “People are no longer being threatened and they are resuming work in factories. Those who are leaving now are only those who had decided earlier to go back home. There is no more compulsion and threat to them to leave the state.”