A team of Janhastakshep toured areas of Palwal, Sohna and Gurugram, as also spoke with other people from Nuh district on 3rd August 2023 to do a fact finding regarding the incidents of communal violence that hit Nuh town and subsequently areas of adjoining Palwal and Gurugram districts. The impact of this violence however was not limited to just these three districts. Tension and alarm pervaded many more districts of Haryana as also districts of adjoining states of Rajasthan (Alwar and Bharatpur) and Mathura in Uttar Pradesh which have pockets of Muslim Meo population.
By the time of our visit many details of the incidents along with evidence by way of eyewitness accounts, photographs and videos was available on various media platforms and the same has been used to guide our fact finding effort. Janhastakshep team set three fold objectives for our visit:
- To confirm the facts on the ground in order to fill in the gaps in information in available narratives of the events.
- Based on these facts and conversations with the people in the area, gain deeper understanding as to the specific motivations of the powers that be that were instrumental in staging these events.
- To make an assessment of the extent to which the RSS Hindutva Brigade has succeeded in deepening religious polarization among people in the area towards fulfillment of its political interests.
The team comprised of the following members:
- Noted journalist Sh. Saeed Naqvi
- Senior journalist and co-convener, Janhastakshep, Sh. Anil Dubey
- Independent IT professional Sh Satish, member Janhastakshep.
- Journalist Astha Savyasachi
- Freelance Photo journalist Sh Pradeep, and
- Convener Janhastakshep, Dr Vikas Bajpai
The team collectively and individually interacted with different persons from the area to get information and their perspectives. Unfortunately, the team could not meet / contact anyone from the administration. Nevertheless, important documentary evidence was collected which throws enough light on the administration’s stance in the whole case. We are deliberately not giving the names of individuals we talked to as in the dystopian times we live in it is not possible for Janhastakshep to ensure their safety were they to be targeted by anyone.
Before proceeding any further, we would like to express our deep sorrow over the death of 6 people in the violence at Nuh including the two home guards Neeraj Khan and Gursevak. Apart from that we extend our sympathies to the common people who were caught in and injured during the violence.
The Context to Present Clashes in Nuh
The present developments in Nuh are very much rooted in the concerted efforts being made by the Hindutva forces to upend every shred, every tradition, every economic link of mutual dependence that have bonded together people following different religions and embodying enormous diversity of India. The more is the syncretism of the people that bridges their diversity, the greater have been the exertions of Sangh brigands to render them asunder. Meo Muslims of Mewat region covering districts of Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, despite their conversion to Islam around 12th to 13th century have been proud of their Hindu ancestry and continued to follow many traditions, religious and social practices common to Hindus. This has invited the attention of both the Hindu and Muslim fundamentalist elements. However, the Meo’s have become increasing target of the rightwing Hindu fundamentalist forces, especially during the reign of the RSS-BJP government both at Centre and in the State of Haryana.
The more recent phase of attacks on the Meo Muslims can be traced back to the 2017 wherein Pehlu Khan, an aged dairy farmer from Nuh district was lynched by cow vigilantes on 1st April in Behror of the neighboring Alwar district of Rajasthan. The video of the incident was well propagated by the perpetrators. On 16 February 2023, two Muslim men – Junaid and Nasir, both residents of Ghatmeeka village in Rajasthan’s Bharatpur district were abducted by cow vigilantes of Bajrang Dal led by Monu Manesar, were beaten up and burnt alive. The policemen at the Firozpur Jhirka police station in Nuh district refused to intervene in the case when Junaid and Nasir were taken to them in half dead state. Prior to this another Muslim man Waris had been lynched likewise by Bajrang Dal goons led by Monu Manesar (The Wire, 2023 a). In May 2021, a gym trainer Asif Khan Mewati was killed likewise followed by holding of several anti-Muslim panchayats in the area to demand the release of the arrested culprits (The Wire, 2023 b)
This apart, in Gurugram, the district neighboring Nuh, repeated hue and cry has been raised to obstruct Muslims from offering Friday Namaz even in places that had been agreed to by the administration (The Wire, 2021). Little doubt then that the communal cauldron was kept on the boil on a continuing basis, rendering the situation ripe for bigger adventures.
It is to be noted that two persons – Monu Manesar and Bittu Bajrangi, allegedly with full patronage of the state machinery and Hindutva forces have earned a reputation for targeting and killing members of the minority community in the garb of cow vigilantes. As such there is considerable resentment against them among Meos, especially the Muslim youth of the area, which became an important factor during the recent disturbances.
Acts of violence that have occurred in Nuh and adjoining areas
Major violence that shook Nuh and adjoining areas of larger Mewat happened on the 31 of July, 2023. This was followed by several other incidents that took place in district Palwal on the 1st and 2nd of August, as also in Sohna town of district Gurugram and the Gurugram city where the Imam of a Mosque in sector 57 was done to death. In Nuh per se there were three major clashes that took place on the 31st of July. These were:
- The clash between the Muslim youth and those participating in the ‘Jalabhishek Yatra’ called by VHP and the Bajrang Dal.
- The attack that took place on the Cyber Crime Police Station, Nuh near Anaj Mandi, Nuh.
- The incident in which the ACJM (Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate) of Nuh, Ms Anjali Jain and her 3 year old daughter Arnika were caught in the midst of violence leading to burning down of their car.
Of these three incidents, we could only gather substantive information on the first instance of violence which was at the center of the entire sequence of events. Major part of the report concerns this particular incident. As to the other two incidents we shall present facts only to the extent we could appraise ourselves of.
We wish to emphatically state here that our team’s perspective is not to justify / condone violence perpetrated from any side in the conflict, but only to evaluate the circumstances that led to eruption of this reprehensible violence which has admittedly not been witnessed in the Muslim majority Mewat region in last 75 years since independence. The sole purpose of our investigation is to expose the nefarious designs of the forces that be who might have vested interest in perpetrating such violent acts in the days to come as well.
An account of the violence that occurred during the staging of the Nuh ‘Shobha Yatra’
- A call had been given by the Bajrang Dal and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad for the ‘Brijmandal Jalabhishek Yatra’ to be taken out in Mewat on the 31st of July 2023. The yatra starts from the Nalhar Shiv Mandir, located a little distance outside the town of Nuh surrounded by Aravali foothills, passes through the Nuh town and much of the district up to Punhana (within Nuh district) covering a distance of about 40 km. The practice of taking out this yatra started only since 2021 and had led to communal tension in 2022 when the Mazar of a Muslim peer situated near to Nalhar temple had been damaged during the yatra.
- Alongside the call for the yatra a concerted effort was made to raise the communal temperature and provoke the local Muslims through social media posts. While challenging Muslims to stop him if they can, Monu Manesar, accused of murdering two Muslim men in April 2023, boasted that he shall be joining the yatra in person. Likewise, another cow vigilante, Bittu Bajrangi, who originally hails from Bihar but presently lives in Pali village of Faridabad district, in a provocative viral video inciting Muslims before the yatra made oblique misogynist remarks for the Muslim women saying that he shall be visiting his sasural (in-laws’ home) referring to Mewat, even as his supporters shouted in the background – “jijaji aa rahe hain” (‘brother-in-law is coming’). The Union Minister of State (without portfolio) in the cabinet of Prime Minister Modi, Rao Inderjit Singh, questioning Bajrangi’s video asked:
Someone said there were videos saying, ‘We are coming for this religious function, your daamad (son-in-law) is coming. If you can stop, stop it’. If such irresponsible videos are uploaded, it causes a negative impact (Siwach, 2023).
In another viral video that is said to have been made during the riots, one Dinesh Bharti of the Bharat Mata Vahini was seen waving a machete to incite people. Bharat Mata Vahini is the organization that had also led the anti-namaz protests in Gurugram. On the day of the yatra, before the yatra began, Surendra Kumar Jain who claims to be the international Joint General Secretary of Vishwa Hindu Parishad, delivered an inflammatory speech to the people gathered at Nalhar temple.
- All omens were pointing to a big communal conflagration in the making. On 1 August, 2023 district Nuh’s intelligence chief was shown on India Today television channel as claiming that he had forewarned of trouble were the yatra participants to walk through the Muslim areas of Nuh, wielding arms and shouting slogans (Hindustan Times, 2023). The same was reiterated in the Hindi daily Amar Ujala, Palwal edition, of 3rd Cautionary notes were sounded by the civil society as well. ‘Mewat Vikas Sabha’, a civil society organization of the area said that the yatra proposed by the Hindutva organizations was nothing but a “calculated” move to stir communal violence in Muslim majority Nuh. Reportedly, the organization alleged that – “……… the administration allowed the Yatra to enter Mewat, and when the violence began, the administration simply collapsed, and the police disappeared” (Savyasachi and Tarushi, 2023).
- Unfortunately, the bait was bitten by some Muslim youth, with the possibly of some anti-social elements joining in. Some retaliatory videos were uploaded by Muslim youth as well in response to the provocation. As was put by Mahender Singh Chaudhary of AIKS, Palwal – ‘Shuru to yeh Facebookiyon ki ladai ke roop mein hui thi. Aam Hindu ya Musalman ka isse koi lena-dena nahin tha’ (All of this started as a duel between the wayward youth on the Facebook. Common Hindus or Muslims had nothing to do with this).
On 31 July, 2023 the worst fears came true. As per the local people present in Nuh on that day and other informed persons, the number of participants in the ‘shobha yatra’ is estimated to be anywhere between 1500 to 3000. As per the information provided by the same people, as also the videos of the yatra that have been in circulation, most participants were young men. Advocate Sher Mohammad asserted that majority of the yatries were between late teens to mid-twenties.
The yatra was anything but a peaceful religious affair. Many of the videos of the yatra that are now floating in the social media show the yatries to be well armed with swords, lathis and even fire arms. The above quoted report by Siwach published in the Indian Express quotes the same union minister thus (Siwach, 2023):
Kisne hathiyar diye unko iss procession mein le jaane ke liye? Koi talwar leke jata hai procession mein? Lathi-dande leke jata hai (Who gave weapons to them for the procession? Who goes to a procession carrying swords, or sticks)? This is wrong. A provocation took place from this side too. I am not saying there was no provocation from the other side.
Even Bittu Bajrangi, who made it to the yatra said that (Livemint, 2023):
…….A few people carried weapons. But they were all licensed. The swords we carried at the yatra, are used for puja and rituals, not for murders.
- From the foregoing account, from various media reports and videos available online and even by admission of the ministers of the ruling party itself, not only was the violence witnessed during the Nuh ‘sobha yatra’ a clash between the participants in the yatra on one side and the local Muslim youth on the other side, but that both sides had prepared themselves for the showdown. Nonetheless, the BJP government in Haryana is post-haste seeking to put the entire blame of the violence on Muslims. The Chief Minister, Manohar Lal Khattar and the Home Minister of the state Anil Vij have both claimed that the Nuh violence was a pre-planned conspiracy. Addressing media persons Khattar said (Hindustan Times, 2023):
It was a pre-planned attack that points towards a larger conspiracy as the procession, which was attacked, has been taking place annually for the past several years (emphasis ours) ……
Haryana home minister Anil Vij as well asserted likewise while addressing the media on 2 August, 2023 (Hindustan Times, 2023). Not only this, Vij even went to the extent of rumor mongering by alleging that about 3000 to 4000 devotees had been kept captive by the Muslim rioters in the Nalhar temple (Oneindia News, 2023), a claim that was roundly rubbished by the temple priest Deepak Sharma who told ‘The Wire’ that:
How is it possible to keep these people hostage? They were in the shelter of the almighty. But suddenly they got to know that the situation outside is not good. Since the situation outside became bad, people got trapped inside (the temple), …..
Nonetheless, what is more dangerous is that the government has already set in motion the process for one-sided persecution of the Muslims, at least as is reflected from the F.I.R.s (First Information Reports) that have been filed by the police in the specific case of rioting in the yatra. Though these F.I.R.s were not yet available in the public realm, Janhastakshep could access primary F.I.R.s regarding the violence in Nuh on 31st July through the advocates in Nuh. The description of events in the F.I.R.s is noteworthy indeed.
What do the F.I.R.s lodged with regard to different incidents tell?
As told to media by Haryana’s home minister, Anil Vij, 102 FIRs have been lodged and 200 people have been arrested by the Haryana police in connection with incidents related to communal disturbance in Nuh and adjoining areas (PTI, 2023). As on 3rd August Janhastakshep managed access to copies of 14 FIRs – 7 each registered in Nuh City and Palwal City police stations. All the FIRs registered in Nuh City police station were concerning incidents that took place on 31st of July, 2023 and were registered on the 1st of August, 2023.
These FIRs are – FIR No. 0252, FIR No. 0253, FIR No. 0254, FIR No. 0255, FIR No. 0256, FIR No. 0257 and FIR No. 0258 (Annexures 1 to 7). Of these, FIR Nos. 0252, 0254, 0255 and 0256 are concerning the clash between Muslim protesters and those taking part in the ‘Jalabhishek Sobha Yatra.’ FIR No 0253 and FIR No 0257 concern the attack on policemen at Cyber Thana, Nuh which give the sites of incidents in the respective FIRs as ‘Cyber Thana, Nuh’ and ‘near Anaj Mandi, Nuh’. FIR No. 0258 concerns the incident involving the ACJM Anjali Jain and her 3 year old daughter Arnika. The table below gives certain salient features of these FIRs for us to surmise from:
Table: Details of the FIRs regarding violence in Nuh on 31st July, 2023 available with Janhastakshep.
|FIR No.||Under sections||Place of incident||Timing of incident||Investigating officer||Names of policemen (of diff. ranks) mentioned in the FIR.|
|148, 149, 332, 353, 186, 307, 295-A of IPC 1860 & 25 of Arms Act 1959.
|Nuh Adbar Chowk||From 2 pm to 3 pm||Ajay Kumar||Pankaj Kumar, Poker Ram, Sandip, Sanjay, Vikram, Gaurishankar,|
|148, 149, 332, 353, 186, 307, 435 of IPC & 25 of Arms Act.
|Jhanda Park, Nuh city||From 1.30 to 3 pm||Surjeet Singh||Ravindra Kumar, Ombir Singh|
|148, 149, 435, 295-A, 307 of IPC & 25 of Arms Act.
|Near Jhanda Chowk, Nuh||From 2 pm to 3 pm||Surjeet Singh||Anil Kumar, Dinesh Yadav, Babulal|
|148, 149, 435, 295-A, 307 of IPC & 25 of Arms Act.
|Delhi-Alwar road, Nuh||2 pm to 3 pm||Bharat Singh||Brijendra Kumar, Vishwajit|
|148, 149, 186, 332, 353, 427, 435, 436, 395, 397 of IPC and 25 of Arms Act.
|Cyber Thana, Nuh||At 3.30 pm||Sanjeet||Suraj, Sudhir, Dharmendra, Suresh, Surendra, Gulshan, Raghubir Singh, Ravikant, Shubham, Pradeep Kumar, Bhajanlal.|
|147, 148, 149, 186, 302, 307, 332, 342, 353, 379 B, 120 B, 427 of IPC & 25 of Arms Act.||Near Anaj Mandi, Nuh||2 pm to 4 pm||Surjeet Singh||Ajay Kumar, Devendra, Arun, Shera, Pawan Kumar, Neeraj*, Gursevak*, Manvir Singh, Devendra, Rahul Dev, personnel of the QRT (Quick Response Team) Dist. Manesar and Subhan Khan**|
|148, 149, 435, 307 of IPC & 25, 54, 59 of Arms Act.
|Near Old Bus Station, Nuh||1 pm to 3 pm||Bharat Singh||Siyaram, Subhan Khan, Harvinder, Bharat Singh|
*Both Neeraj and Gursevak were employed as home guards in district Gurugram and were among the first two casualties of this violence. **Subhan Khan is the lone Muslim police personal mentioned in all the FIRs quoted here. For details of the incidents described in the FIRs please refer to the relevant annexures. + These are the FIRs concerning the violence that took place in the yatra. ++ The FIRs are related to the attack on Cyber Thana, Nuh. +++ This FIR pertains to the incident in which the car of ACJM was burned.
Salient points of these FIRs
With the caveat that Janhastakshep did not have access to all the FIRs related to various incidents of violence in Nuh and adjoining areas, we would still stress that the FIRs mentioned above do provide us information about the most important incidents which enable the following observations.
- All the seven FIRs registered at Nuh city police station make reference only to Muslim community in different ways. For example it is said – “A crowd of 600 / 700 infuriated antisocial elements were shouting slogans of ‘Allah hu Akbar’ (FIR No. 0252); or “Just as Mewat Dharmik Jalabhishek Yatra reached near Jhanda Park, all of a sudden around 600 / 700 persons belonging to one community ……” (FIR No. 0254); or “…… At that time an aggressive crowd of 500 / 600 belonging to Meo Muslim Community carrying sticks, rods, stones and illegal arms …..” (FIR No. 0255).
The reference to the other side is only as participants in the ‘Dharmik Yatra’ (Religious procession).
- There is no mention whatsoever in the FIRs of violence, including use of firearms, unleashed from the side of those taking out so called ‘Dharmik Yatra.’ The portends of this are clear, that in the FIRs only one side is the culprit while the side represented by Bajrang Dal and VHP rabble rousers are the victims, all the videos showing the violence indulged in by the Hindutva goons notwithstanding. Such a framing of the events in the FIRs also means that there shall be arrests only of the Muslim youth, as has already started happening.
- Except for the FIR No. 0253 (regarding incident at Cyber Thana, Nuh) which states that – “……. during the Mewat Dharmik Jalabhishek Yatra the infuriated attacking crowd of thousands, in concurrence, suddenly surrounded police station Cyber Crime, Nuh from all sides …….”, all the other FIRs estimate the size of Muslim crowd to be between 500 to 700. In the incident involving ACJM the crowd strength is stated to be only 100 to 150.
In comparison, as per the information we collected from local sources and as per the claims of the Bajrang Dal and VHP itself, even the maximum strength of the Muslim crowd at 700 was less than half of the estimated strength of 1500 to 2000 that took part in the yatra.
This singular fact shows that the common Muslims of Nuh by and large succeeded in not getting provoked by the vitriolic build up to the yatra by the Hindutva brigands. On the other hand most of the mobilization of the yatris had been done from other districts of Haryana.
- It is acknowledged even by the Haryana government ministers and other ruling party politicians that the police arrangements were woefully short of the requirement. However, in the table above what is interesting to note is that in Nuh where more than 80 percent population is Muslim, there seems to be near absence of Muslim police personnel among those manning the arrangements for the Yatra. In all the FIRs taken together, there appears the name of just one Muslim constable Subhan Khan, who also, as it appears from the FIRs, was not actually deployed for maintenance of law and order duty on the fateful day.
Likewise, there is not even one Muslim among the investigating officers in any of the FIRs. It is well acknowledged that the proportion of Muslims in government services at large and the forces in particular is grossly short of their proportion in the population; however, in Nuh this paradox seems to have been enhanced to the ultimate extent.
We do not know whether to call it an irony or a tragedy. Apart from constable Subhan Khan, the other Muslim police personnel, albeit of a marginal hierarchy (a homeguard), was Neeraj Khan, who is named only as Neeraj in FIR No. 0257. Neeraj like, others who died or were injured, or suffered loss of livelihood and property in the violence was a victim of the games that ruling classes play.
Without casting aspersions on individual policemen and officers even in the least, it need be said that this situation cannot but bode ill for any expectation of justice being done in the incidents that happened in Nuh. There are umpteen precedents to suggest so; the massacres of Muslim men at Maliana and Hashimpura of Uttar Pradesh in 1987 are just two cases in the point.
Incidents of violence in the adjoining areas
After the violence in Nuh on 31st July there was a spillover of tension and violence to adjoining districts. Janhastakshep team had a chance to visit Palwal district and Sohna town of district Gurugram as part of this inquiry since incidents continued to be reported from there. Like in Nuh, in Palwal as well there seemed little support among comm0n Hindus or Muslims for the violence sought to be orchestrated. On the day of our visit a few dozens or so members of Bajrang Dal and VHP had sought to block traffic on the Delhi – Agra highway in response to the nationwide call by VHP, but the attempt was a damp squib with a face saving show of blockade being arranged with police help.
It was told by the activists and district leaders of the All India Kisan Sabha that RSS had been active in their area for past few years. They have been guiding a group of lumpen youth in the town that was mainly responsible for communal nonsense. One Munish Bhardwaj, who claims to be the leader of Bajrang Dal in Palwal, runs a group of some 100 to 150 youth, most of whom are unemployed, belonging largely to the upper caste Thakurs and Brahmins. They have also been trying to align some Gujjar boys with them.
It was reported that this group led by Munish Bhardwaj was responsible for the attacks on some mosques (Kali masjid, Peerwali Masjid, Aheria wali masjid and the Idgah) in the town and beating up the maulavis and worshipers. They also burnt some shops of Muslim kabadis (knacker shops) and the shantis of Rohingia refugees in Parashuram colony at Mandkola road. Even though there wasn’t any large scale violence in Palwal but it is only the Muslim business establishments and places of worship that bore the brunt of communal violence.
On 1st August the police did round up some 15 to 20 Bajrang Dal members and filed cases against them, but these men were subsequently released under the pressure brought on by the Hindutva groups. At least until 4th August Janhastakshep could access seven FIRs which been registered regarding these various incidents.
A mob of around 200 men attacked the Shahi Jama Masjid in Sohna at 2 pm on the 1st of August. The caretakers of the Mosque and around 50 children who study at the madarsa located in the mosque could save their lives by hiding in the inner rooms of the mosque. The Janhastakshep team also saw many shops and some vehicles burnt down in the main market at Ambedkar Chowk in Sohna.
In all, the violence has so far left 6 persons dead and more than 50 injured. The dead include two home guards – Neeraj Khan and Gursevak, 34 year old Shakti Saini, a confectioner in Nuh, 29 year old Md. Hafiz Saad – the Naib Imam of Anjuman Jama Masjid, Sector 57, Gurugram, Abhishek of Panipat who had come for the yatra and Pradeep Sharma, a 32 year old Bajrang Dal worker.
Gurugram, Haryana, India – 2023/08/03: General view of vandalized and burnt street shops along the streets of Ambedkar chowk in Sohna after the communal violence.
A man looks at his burned motorcycle at Ambedkar chowk in Sohna after the communal violence. The violence that erupted in the Nuh district of Haryana on 31 July 2023, steadily spread in Sohna Chowk, where several shops and hand cart were burnt into ashes by the mob, Sohna, Gurugram, Haryana, India.
A Haryana police personnel walking in front of burned shops at Ambedkar chowk in Sohna after the communal violence.
Rapid Action Force (RAF) personnel at Ambedkar chowk in Sohna after the communal violence.
A man looks at his burnt food shop at Ambedkar chowk, Sohna, Gurugram, Haryana, India.
The questions that beget an answer
The foregone description leaves us with two important questions that need be answered here:
- What exactly was the game plan of the Hindutva forces behind engineering this violence?
- What has been the fate of the game plan and for what reasons?
In a commentary – ‘The Nuh Straws in the Wind’, published in ‘The Tribune’ Rajesh Ramachandran writes:
The unfortunate communal riots in Nuh have thrown up a clutch of straws in the wind. An electorally weak situation often necessitates communal polarisation for certain incumbents. Haryana’s state of affairs does not afford any comfort for the BJP, which may find its nine-year-old double-engine anti-incumbency debilitating, to say the least. The Vishva Hindu Parishad-Bajrang Dal shobha yatra should be seen and understood in this context.
The RSS led brigade has a flourish of multi-forked frontal organizations whose storm troopers have been deployed to act as a force multiplier towards fulfillment of political expedience. The aggressive ingress by the Hindutva communal hordes into the only Muslim dominated district in Haryana and the National Capital Region was nothing but a calculated game plan to suite BJP’s prospects in the electoral duels in the run-up to and further in the 2024 general elections.
Deciphering this is hardly a work of genius. It is simple common sense, especially as precipitating communal polarisation is something that constitutes a matter of principle for the Hindutva forces.
Given the political situation as it obtains on date in the country, the exertions of VHP – Bajrang Dal combine in Nuh – Mewat betray signs of ominus apprehensions on part of the Hindutva forces. In a small living room of a local Jat leader of AIKS, both Hindu and Muslim lawyers, social activists, panchayat leaders spoke in and out of turn, each being the other’s proxy. Their unambiguous message was:
Jats took no part in the yatra which was armed with swords and rods. The Bajrang Dal plan was to have at least a hundred martyrs, their bodies to be paraded throughout the Hindi belt – Godhra on a larger scale. The participants in the ‘Jalabhishek Yatra’ were brought from various districts of Haryana as the proverbial ‘sacrificial lambs’ imbued with ignorance about their possible fate.
Credence is lent to this view of creating ‘Godhra on a larger scale’ by the series of deliberate missteps by the state government in the build up to the situation seen on 31st July in Nuh. The intelligence reports of impending conflagration were the yatra to be allowed in to Muslim areas with people wielding arms was not heeded to. No measures were taken to stop the vitriolic and highly provocative videos from being widely circulated on the social media in the build up to the yatra.
The SP (Superintendent of Police) of Nuh, Varun Singla proceeded on leave just on the anvil of the yatra. It was reported by the gentlemen sitting in the Jat leader’s living room that two possible reasons for Singla being allowed to proceed on leave were being floated. First version was that the SP had foreseen the consequences of the developments taking place, and when the government did not pay heed to his advice he proceeded on leave. As per the second version, the government itself sent him on leave in order to facilitate the Bajrang Dal – VHP game plan, and gave additional charge of Nuh to the Palwal SP Lokender Singh to hamstring effective police arrangements for preventing communal clash. It is rather strange that these acts of omission and commission failed to draw the attention of the Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar and the state home minister Anil Vij, especially as both asserted subsequently that whatever happened was the result of a well-planned conspiracy, or is it that they have discovered one post factum?
The prior intelligence reports of possible disturbance notwithstanding, muddle-headedness of the government is also reflected in the fact that different ministers of the government are speaking in different voices. As against the belated conspiracy theory of the Chief Minister and the Home minister, the Deputy Chief Minister of Haryana Government, Dushyant Chautala, who belongs to the coalition partner ‘Jannayak Janta Party’ that represents the Jat interests in the main, told the Indian Express in an interview that (Express News Service, 2023):
There was an incident yesterday and I feel that the management was not at its best. The SP (Superintendent of Police, Nuh) was on leave due to a family situation and the charge was given to the SP of a neighbouring district who could not assess the situation in a better manner. …… No one expected or saw the whole scenario to be like this, where suddenly people collected to start the Shobha Yatra and then mobs from various directions walked in.
It is not just a classic case of left hand not knowing what the right one is doing, but that of the index finger no knowing what the ring finger is doing. While the Haryana Chief Minister asserted that there are no cases registered against Monu Manesar in Haryana, his Home Minister said that there are cases registered against him in both Rajasthan and Haryana. Queerly enough the state CID is not under the home minister, which charge has been usurped by the Chief Minister, leaving Anil Vij clueless about vital information (Nagpal, 2023). Nonetheless, both the Chief Minister and his Home Minister gave a clean chit to Monu Manesar in the instant case.
The gentlemen involved in the discussion concurred that:
Given the demographic geography of the area, had the Muslim youth, also armed, wanted to take out their grudge on the participants in the yatra as such, then they were in a position to surround and kill the yatris indiscriminately, but they showed restraint even though Muslim shops and houses were gutted. Their rage was specifically directed against Monu Manesar and Bittu Bajrangi. When they could not locate the duo among the yatris, the Muslim crowd set the vehicles accompanying the yatra on fire considering the possibility that the wanted culprits could be hiding in them.
It bears mention here that in an interview given on 2nd August, 2023 by Dheeraj Gaba of the ‘Rashtriya Mazdoor Kisan Manch’ to a Haryana based media outlet ‘Vishwaprem Samachar Patra’ it was told that barely 15 days before the ‘Brijmandal Jalabhishek Yatra’ another ‘Kanwar Yatra’ had been taken out through Nuh. Not even one pebble was tossed or a slogan raised against that yatra (Vishwaprem Samachar Patra, 2023). This much should suffice to understand the possible game plan of the Hindutva communal forces in instigating this communal conflagration.
The question remains – did the game plan succeed? In light of the findings and the discussion foregone, we feel obliged to state that if the purpose of the communal flare up in several districts of Haryana was to condition the electoral trend in Rajasthan, create the “suitable” mood for the 2024 general elections, boost chances of Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar’s third term and spread some tension in the National Capital Region, we are afraid the BJP will have to do better.
This gambit of the rightwing Hindu communal forces did not quite succeed and we hope that the people shall persevere to fail such nefarious designs in future as well. Janhastakshep team found some very encouraging signs of this in the area.
Much to BJP’s chagrin, an obstacle in their path is the evolving Jat-Muslim social cohesion. To to make way for politics of polarization this almost organic Jat-Muslim evolution has to be disrupted.
On 31st July some Muslim laborers from another village in Palwal district were beaten up near Mandkola village, which lies on the border of Palwal and Nuh districts, by the Pandit and Thakur youth associated with Bajrang Dal. Even as the laborers hid themselves in the bushes along the Gurgaon canal that passes along the Mandkola village, the local Jats came out to save the laborers and gave a thrashing to the upper caste lumpen youth of the Bajrang Dal.
A local adage in the region of Mewat goes thus – ‘Meo kahe ka Musalman, aur Jat kahe ka Hindu’ (A Meo Muslim is hardly a Muslim, just as a Jat Hindu is hardly a Hindu). Mahendra Singh Chauhan, the district secretary of AIKS put it strait when he stated that:
Jats are aware that all of this has been staged by the BJP for their political objectives. They also nurse a grouse against the BJP for its attitude towards Jat agitation demanding reservations in jobs, for calling Jats as anti-national during the farmers’ movement when the BJP gave the slogan ‘35 biradari ek taraf, aur Jat ek taraf’ (of all the 36 segments among the Hindus, the rest 35 should isolate the Jats). The treatment met out by the Central government to the women wrestlers (all Jat) in their agitation against sexual harassment by the BJP MP and the then President of the WFI (Wrestling Federation of India), Brij Bhushan Singh was almost the last nail in the coffin of Jats’ affection for the ruling party.
BJP too is aware of this sentiment among the Jats, and so they are making an all-out effort to project it as an issue above the interest of the party. They are seeking to project it as a fight to safeguard the interest of all Hindus vis-a-vis the Muslims. An attempt was made by the local Hindutva leaders to organize a panchayat at Jat dominated Mandkola village which failed to elicit any enthusiasm among the Jats.
However, a solidarity built on shared animosity for a common adversary is hardly the stuff that can be relied upon to build a credible resistance to divisive agendas devised to undermine entire society and the country as such. The emerging solidarity between the Jats and the Meos appeared to be more organically grown.
On 3rd August, 2023 a panchayat was held in the Meo majority village Kot Gaon, situated close to Mandkola village, where in leaders of both the Hindu and Muslims Pals (socially the equivalent of the Jat Khaps) got together. Among the Meos leaders of Chiraklot Pal, Demroth Pal and Mangariya Pal were present, while on the side of the Hindus Rawat Pal, Sanrot Pal and Sehrawat Pal were represented. The prominent individuals who attended were:
- Chaudhary Manoj Rawat, Chairman Zila Parishad, Palwal
- Gopal Sarpanch, Village Nangal Tabaab
- Vijay Sarpanch, Village Pahadi
- Mohit, Ex-sarpanch, Village Aharwan
- Zakir Hussain, Chairman Block Samiti, Hatin
- Chaudhary Tayyib Hussain, Village Bheemsika
- Bilal Ahmad, Sarpanch, Kot Gaon
- Chaudhary Zafar, Ex-sarpanch, Kot Gaon
- Chaudhary Ahmat Kot
- Yakub, Sarpanch, Village Anaula
The panchayat resolved to maintain formidable unity among Hindus and Muslims against the attempts being made to drive the deep communal wedge.
The Meos of village Ghagot were assured by the Jats of Alawalpur village that anyone eying to harm the Muslims shall first have to contend with them. One only hopes that this is just the beginning.
The progressive Meo farmer leader who helped greatly in our investigation has retained his name which clearly reveals his ancestry – Zafar Mewati Yaduvanshi. It is a tragedy that in our caste-religion ridden system, the integrated aspects of Meo culture have not found multitudes of admirers. Most people are simply unaware of the role of the Mewatis / Meo Muslims in the 1857 war of independence when Meos in their thousands faced death, torture, confiscation of property and humiliation for actively taking part on the side of the rebels (Aijaz Ahmad, 1994). Sitting in his house in Sohna, Zafar Yaduvanshi informed us of the Roopraka village of the Palwal block of Palwal district that had lent more than 400 martyrs in the first war of independence. But of course such stories do not suite the Hindutva narrative of Nationalism for it would threaten to unravel the entire Hindutva project. The simple demand of the residents of Roopraka village that a chapter be included in the history books about the sacrifices entailed by their ancestors towards the National cause cannot but be treated as another blasphemy by the RSS-BJP Zealots for which the Meos ought to be taught a lesson.
Homeguard Neeraj Khan’s family is one of the bearers of such integrated culture. His cousin’s name is Sukhdev, while wife is called Vakeela and brother in law Salim (Raj and Sur, 2023). It is a reflection on our society that we come to know the salience of these names through a communal riot, even as many more Neeraj Khans and Muslim Sukhdevs wait to be discovered. We just hope that the work of this most eminent treasure hunting shall not be left to riots yet to be staged.
To our great delight we discovered that there remains enormous possibility of cultivating admirers for all that is syncretic, progressive, and rejuvenating in the cultures of varying people who constitute this enormous mass of humanity called India. Such a possibility at least in the context of Mewat was enlivened by the historic 2020-21 Farmers’ Movement.
As per Zafar Yaduvanshi’s submission, as also that of the members of AIKS, the Farmers’ movement played an important role in welding the Jat-Muslim unity in the region, wherein the Meos stood shoulder to shoulder with the Jats.
The Jats of Palwal, Sohna, Gurugram sentimentally remember “our Sikh brothers”. The generosity with which they opened “langars” or feeding centres is the stuff of legends in the Jat belt. To run these large feeding Centers over months, the Sikh organization occasionally needed help from Jats. In one instance the Centers needed hundreds of liters of milk.
Jats, who once kept cows and buffalos have, in many instances moved on to other means of livelihood. It is the Gujjars who now keep dairy animals, but being traditionally opposed to Jats they refused to help in this instance. The shortfall in milk was made up by Meo Muslim dairy farmers, a fact that the Jats will never forget.
As informed by Zafar, the Jats had boycotted the Meos after the Tablighi Jamat controversy during the covid pandemic. One such village that faced such boycott was Marokhda. The bridging of distances during the Farmers’ movement made the Jats realize their mistake for which they tendered an unconditional apology to the Meos. Even in the recent agitation by women wrestlers, who happen to be Jats, the community again had total support from Muslims in the area.
Whether and how will this unity be forged in future will depend upon what is done to bring people cutting across differences of caste, religion or creed together in struggles to forge a new society.
It is on the basis of this reality that Mahender Chauhan asserted that:
The Jats are not going to go with the BJP, and without the Jats the BJP’s design is not going to go anywhere.
Lest it be missed, it need be mentioned that when the vandals attacked the Shahi Masjid in Sohna on the 1st of August, it were the local Sikhs who conducted a rescue operation amid the clashes and saved the mosque’s Imam, his family and a group of 10-12 children studying at the madrasa.
India is indeed passing through difficult times under the Fascist rule of the RSS-BJP government at the Centre as indeed in some of the bigger and populous states of the country. The people are in the throes of a deep crisis socially, economically and politically. One can hardly under-estimate the crisis when new trouble spots are being made to erupt even as the earlier ones continue to smoulder. Even as Manipur continues to burn and witness mayhem, Mewat has been set ablaze by the Hindutva hordes. When the rulers have no solution to peoples’ problems keeping them mired in one crisis after another, each possibly bigger than the earlier one, is perhaps the only solution our rulers can think of, and this precisely is what the RSS-BJP attempted to do in Nuh-Mewat through their frontal organizations. One can only expect their desperation to acquire more grotesque forms. However, what our report reveals is that the shenanigans of the Sangh brigade can be defeated by the people.
The RSS-BJP and their cohorts are what they are, but here we feel the need to call out the cagy attitude of the opposition ruling class parties when it comes to dealing squarely with the Hindu majoritarian forces. Tall leaders of the opposition have visited Manipur, as they should have, but Mewat is just next door and yet none among them have had time beyond giving statements in the media to try and assuage the people on ground. Such live concern for the peoples’ misery could well help give a fillip to the larger people driven peace processes locally.
An important conclusion of our report is that the unity of Jats and Meos has emerged as a bulwark against the communal designs of the Hindutva hordes. Most importantly, this unity was forged through the glorious struggle the farmers fought over the livelihood issues common to both the Hindu and Muslim farmers of the region. The lesson to be drawn is that peoples’ unity against the divisive designs of the ruling classes can only be built by waging united struggles towards securing their lives, livelihoods and a shared vision of their collective future.
The shenanigans to divide and break the people by the forces of the right wing Hindu communal forces may perhaps intensify further with their growing trepidation. It will take the entire society, especially the oppressed to stage a fight back. Offering a mere lament at the state of affairs only implies surrender before the status quo.
- There should be free and fair independent inquiry by a sitting judge of the ‘Punjab and Haryana High Court’ or the ‘Supreme Court’ into the violence that unfolded in Nuh and the adjoining areas in order to reveal the entire conspiracy behind the violence and to fix the accountability of all responsible – from the topmost political echelons in Haryana to the local level administration and the organizations responsible for orchestrating the violence.
- Those responsible for unleashing violence from either side should be clearly identified and action be taken against them in accordance with the provisions of law. The chief protagonists of this violence Bittu Bajrangi and Monu Manesar be arrested immediately and booked under sections of IPC befitting of the grievousness of their criminal actions.
- The obvious bias in the F.I.R s which holds only the Muslim community to be responsible for the violence witness in Nuh should be remedied immediately.
- The one sided criminal action that has been initiated against the Muslims in Nuh by way of demolition of their homes should stop forthwith and the due legal process be followed in every case.
- Steps should be initiated to ensure that the composition of the local police force and civil administration reflects the demographic composition of the area to correct the reigning bias against Muslims as regards their representation in the local administration.
- Astha Savyasachi and Tarushi Ashwani (2023): ‘Inter-religious clashes displace Muslims in north India’, TRT World, 2 August. Available from https://www.trtworld.com/asia/inter-religious-clashes-displace-muslims-in-north-india-14304561 on 5 August, 2023.
- Aijaz Ahmad (1994): ‘Chaudhary Mohammad Yasin Khan – Social Reformer of the Mewatis’, Proceedings of the Indian History Congress, Vol. 55: 622-629.
- Express News Service (2023): ‘Nuh violence: Yatra management not at its best, strict action will be taken against accused, says Haryana Deputy CM’, 2nd Available from https://indianexpress.com/article/india/haryana-dy-cm-dushyant-chautala-nuh-communal-flare-up-8871079/ on 7th August, 2023.
- Hindustan Times (2023): ‘Attack on yatra ‘pre-planned’, ‘conspiracy’: Khattar,’ 2 August. Available from https://www.hindustantimes.com/cities/gurugram-news/haryana-cm-nuh-violence-points-to-bigger-conspiracy-probe-ordered-101690914787434.html on 5 August, 2023.
- Livemint (2023): ‘Haryana Nuh violence: ‘Yatris carried swords for worship’, says Cow Vigilante Bittu Bajrangi.’ Livemint, 2 August, 2023. Available from https://www.livemint.com/news/india/haryana-nuh-violence-yatris-carried-swords-for-worship-says-cow-vigilante-bittu-bajrangi-11691046649001.html on 5 August, 2023.
- Nagpal Bhavey (2023): ‘Khattar, Vij making contradictory statements on Monu Manesar, says Hooda’, Hindustan Times, 4th Available from https://www.hindustantimes.com/cities/chandigarh-news/khattar-vij-making-contradictory-statements-on-monu-manesar-says-hooda-101691089597703.html on 6 August, 2023.
- Oneindia News (2023): ‘Haryana Nuh violence : Anil Vij claims that people were held hostage in temple are refuted by priest’, 2 August. Available from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j_7nVpXEpBE on 5 August, 2023.
- PTI (2023): ‘Over 200 arrested, 102 FIRs lodged in Nuh violence: Haryana minister Vij’, The Economic Times, 5 August. Available from https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/over-200-arrested-102-firs-lodged-in-nuh-violence-haryana-minister-vij/articleshow/102434182.cms?from=mdr&planGroup=ETPNoTrial&utm_source=Admitad&utm_medium=Affliate&src=Admitadtest&utm_campaign=881071_AdgBTOgh-xoeXHi2d-1icv0bu&tagtag_uid=d8bd2daa0c4b52d43b60db087a4625f3 on 6 August, 2023.
- Raj Aishwarya and Arnabjit Sur (2023): ‘Didn’t know situation was this serious: Kin of home guards killed in Nuh clash’, The Indian Express, 2nd Available from https://indianexpress.com/article/cities/delhi/haryana-communal-clashes-home-guards-family-killed-neeraj-nuh-communal-violence-8872134/ on 7th August, 2023.
- Siwach S (2023): ‘‘Who gave weapons to the religious yatris at Nuh?’ asks Union MoS Rao Inderjit Singh.’ Indian Express, 2 August. Available from https://indianexpress.com/article/political-pulse/rao-inderjit-singh-kanwar-yatras-nuh-violence-religious-yatris-at-nuh-8872070/ on 5 August, 2023.
- The Wire (2023 a): ‘Haryana: Two Muslim Men Found Charred to Death in Alleged Case of Cow Vigilantism.’ Available from https://thewire.in/communalism/haryana-two-muslim-men-found-charred-to-death-in-alleged-case-of-cow-vigilantism on 4 August 2023.) In May 2021, a gym trainer Asif Khan Mewati was killed likewise followed by holding of several anti-Muslim panchayats in the area to demand the release of the arrested culprits (The Wire, 2023 b) (The Wire (2023 b): ‘Haryana Violence: How Provocative Videos and a Background of Hate Preceded the Nuh Riots’, 31 July. Available from https://thewire.in/communalism/haryana-violence-mewat-hate-and-provocative-videos on 4 August 2023.
- The Wire (2021): ‘Muslims Should Not Offer Friday Prayers in Gurugram’s Open Spaces: Haryana CM Khattar,’ 11 December. Available from https://thewire.in/communalism/muslims-should-not-offer-friday-prayers-in-gurugrams-open-spaces-haryana-cm-khattar on 5 August, 2023.
- Vishwaprem Samachar Patra (2023): ‘नूंह का वो सच जो आपने नही देखा वो सच बता रहा है यह बंदा सच जानना है तो देखो यह इंटरव्यू’ (The truth of Nuh which you have not seen is being told by this man. If you wish to know this truth, then watch this interview), 2nd Available from नूंह का वो सच जो आपने नही देखा वो सच बता रहा है यह बंदा सच जानना है तो देखो यह इंटरव्यू #nuh #nuhnews | By Vishwaprem Newspaper- विश्वप्रेम समाचार पत्र | Facebook on 7th August, 2023.
Janhastakshep: a campaign against fascist designs