August 13, 2023
Mewat Violence: Foil the Venomous Game plan

Inderjit Singh

THE violence in Nuh district, Haryana, on July 31st was not a random incident or a result of law enforcement oversight, as some perceive. It was a premeditated conspiracy, forming part of the BJP's larger communal strategy that has been unfolding systematically. A team, including Inderjit Singh, former Central Committee member of CPI(M) and AIKS vice president, CITU state general secretary Jai Bhagwan, along with Vinod and Akhtar Husain, visited Nuh and neighbouring villages on August 5. They held discussions with local MLA Aftab Ahmad, bar association members, media representatives, affected individuals, and others. This day coincided with a forceful demolition drive, where bulldozers, police, and officials were actively involved. Shop owners presented possession documents, which the duty magistrate dismissed, resulting in owners being detained and mistreated in a police bus until after around 40 shops were demolished near Nalhar medical college.

The team submitted a memorandum to the deputy commissioner of Nuh, urging an immediate halt to the widespread demolitions and one-sided arrests of youth. The memorandum stressed holding the culprits accountable without bias towards any community while safeguarding innocent individuals. The team investigated the events leading to the violence through limited sources available during the curfew. They also examined aspects associated with a purported religious yatra held on July 31.

On this occasion, it was masked as the Jal Abhisek Yatra, which saw an aggressive gathering from Haryana and neighboring states, effectively taking over Nuh town on July 31st. A heavily armed convoy of vehicles, displaying swords and guns, encountered opposition, resulting in a wake of fatalities and property devastation. Among the casualties were six individuals, including two home guard personnel and an Imam from a mosque situated in Gurugram.

Following this, a one-sided crackdown unfolded, targeting the local Meo Muslims through the imposition of curfews, widespread arrests of youth, and the use of bulldozers to demolish shops and residences. Official records acknowledge the demolition of 753 establishments, including shops, homes, showrooms, hotels, and makeshift dwellings. The situation escalated until the Punjab and Haryana High Court intervened, taking suo moto cognizance and promptly halting the ongoing demolitions.

Familiar with the Mewat region, those observing recent communal tensions find themselves both stunned and dismayed. This Muslim-majority area spanning Haryana, Rajasthan, and a small portion of Uttar Pradesh has historically been devoid of communal conflicts. Instead, it stands as a symbol of harmonious coexistence and diverse identity. The Muslims of Mewat proudly identify as Meo Muslims, a distinction reflecting their strong legacy of unyielding resistance against oppression during both the Mughal era and the British colonial period. Unfortunately, the entire region continues to suffer from severe underdevelopment, encompassing agriculture, industry, employment, education, and healthcare. These essential elements of progress remain elusive even to this day.

What truly unsettles the Hindutva factions is the strong unity between both communities in this region. Meo Muslims possess distinctive cultural traditions and values that often mirror those of their Hindu counterparts. It is this very resemblance that the BJP finds most uncomfortable, as it obstructs their attempts to create division along communal lines. In pursuit of this nefarious goal, among other tactics, they have exploited the sacred cow as an enduring tool for divisiveness.

The enactment of the Cow Protection and Conservation Act by the BJP state government led to the integration of self-proclaimed "Gaurakshaks" into the controversial Cow Protection Force. This move facilitated the establishment of a network of hardcore armed gangs in the vicinity of the Mewat region. These gangs freely engage in the harassment and even lynching of Meo cattle farmers, often resorting to extortion from cattle traders. Among them, Monu Manesar stands out as a prominent gang leader responsible for orchestrating a series of lynchings in the recent past, with none held accountable. However, the most heinous crime remains the kidnapping and immolation of two Rajasthan youths, Junaid and Nasir, near Loharu in Haryana in February. Monu Manesar is the primary suspect in this gruesome act, yet the Haryana police has obstructed his arrest by their counterparts in Rajasthan.

Videos featuring Monu and Bittu Bajrangi played a pivotal role, laden with threats and deeply offensive language aimed at the Mewat community. Monu issued a call for all Hindus to participate in the Yatra, announcing his own presence in Mewat. These videos, along with counter-videos from the opposing side, spread virally for a span of two to three days prior to the yatra, contributing to a palpable sense of tension. Against the backdrop of the brutal murders of Junaid and Nasir, these highly inflammatory videos served as a catalyst, precisely in line with their intended purpose.

The concerns raised by Nuh MLA Aftab Ahmad and other notable community members, regarding a potential threat to peace, were unfortunately disregarded by the authorities. Surprisingly, permission for the yatra was still granted, and on the same day, the Superintendent of Police was allowed to take leave.

False narratives are being propagated, suggesting that the recent violent incidents were triggered by Muslims pelting stones at a religious yatra. This portrayal is entirely untrue. It's crucial to clarify that the Brij Chaurasi Prikarma, an annual traditional yatra, is currently ongoing throughout the entire Brij region during the month of Savan. This yatra has been taking place for over a hundred years and passes through certain Mewat villages. During this yatra, Hindu devotees are hospitably received by Muslims in their homes and mosques. Similarly, Kanwad-carrying individuals also traverse Mewat and are provided with all necessary amenities. Had there been any religious intolerance among Muslims and Hindus here, there would have been trouble during these events.

Hence, it becomes evident that this violence was meticulously orchestrated with a clear political motive, aiming to exploit it for communal polarization across the Hindi-speaking states. The intention was to garner electoral gains in the upcoming 2024 Lok Sabha elections and the year-end assembly elections in neighboring Rajasthan. This scheme did not yield the desired results. Even in Haryana, it was only a small group of VHP and Bajrang Dal supporters who took to the streets, raising incendiary slogans that threatened the Muslim minority to leave the country. Incidents of mosques being targeted by miscreants, resulting in heightened fear among Muslims, were reported in some areas. Surprisingly, despite the widespread circulation of offensive videos, no legal actions were taken.

On a contrasting note, farmer organisations, mass entities, and numerous platforms organised marches promoting communal harmony throughout Haryana, with notably larger participation. Yet, it remains imperative not to underestimate the potential for further disturbances. Noteworthy is the fact that elected gram panchayats have been coerced into passing resolutions, unfairly branding Muslims as terrorists and advocating their exclusion-a worrying trend that seems to be tacitly endorsed by the BJP government.

It is crucial to highlight a profoundly encouraging aspect – one that demands particular attention. The unity forged amongst farming communities during the 13-month-long historic kisan andolan along the national capital's borders is now vividly demonstrated by both the farmers and their supporters. Notably, the farmers from Mewat played an active role in the Shahjahanpur protest site, as well as in another substantial and enduring sit-in at Sunehra village, located at the crossroads of Rajasthan and Haryana. Members of the farming community and the general public alike are openly expressing their belief that the violence in Mewat was strategically orchestrated to reap electoral advantages.

Furthermore, the BJP has become increasingly desperate in response to its growing isolation and the deepening discontent among the people due to unprecedented unemployment, rising prices, and other consequences resulting from the blatant plundering of national assets by Modi's government in favor of corporate associates. Despite employing authoritarian and fascistic tactics, the party has failed to quell the anger felt by various sections of the population who are struggling to sustain their daily lives.

In the meantime, police repression persists amid curfew and internet suspension, with limited justification considering that these disturbances were caused by external actors rather than local communal clashes. Local Muslims have maintained a continuous vigil at temples, reciprocated by a similar watchfulness from the other side, aiming to prevent any mischief. In reality, the imposition of curfew seems to function as a guise for sustaining the repression and inhibiting any form of protest against it.

Delegations from political parties, including MPs and senior leaders such as Udey Bhan, Haryana Congress President, along with several MLAs and Deepender Hooda MP, have been prevented from entering the Nuh district. It holds significance that the Punjab and Haryana High Court while ordering a halt to demolitions, raised concerns whether the state's actions, conducted under the pretext of maintaining law and order, amounted to an ethnic cleansing endeavor.

Amidst this context, the Haryana state committee of CPI(M) has released an open letter to the chief minister, urging him to initiate a judicial inquiry under the oversight of the High Court so as to thoroughly investigate the CM's conspiracy allegations, particularly in light of the conflicting public statements made by the CM, home minister, local BJP MP, union minister, and senior bureaucrats regarding the events leading up to the violence on July 31st, as well as the aftermath.