Author : Saiful Islam

(Bulldozers entering to demolish the alleged accused of violence)

Saif Ul Islam is a Delhi-based practising advocate, associated with APCR, the Association for the Protection of Civil Rights.

On July 31, Communal violence gripped Nuh, the sole predominantly Muslim district in the northern Indian state of Haryana. Although there are different accounts regarding the immediate cause of the violence, there is a consensus on a critical factor: the provocative atmosphere and prevalence of online hate in Mewat in the period leading up to the outbreak of violence.

Following the Nuh clashes, several instances of anti-Muslim violence were documented in various parts of Haryana including Sohna, Gurugram, and Faridabad. The violence led to the deaths of six individuals including two policemen. An angry mob stabbed a young Muslim cleric to death and torched a Mosque in Gurugram, home to numerous MNCs (Multinational Companies). Reports of hateful assemblies, boycott calls, and attacks against Muslims emerged from different (Multinational Companies). Reports ofhatefulassemblies, boycott calls, andattacks against Muslims emerged from different cities.

(Saif Ul Islam with Choudhary Safhat)

Worst-hit Meoli Village

Locals question the police actions in Meoli, as per them the Bajrang Dal-Vishwa Hindu Parishad procession on July 31 did not pass through the village, and there were no reports of violence.

As of 5 August, the situation remained highly tense and volatile with minimal civilian movement observed on the streets of Nuh villages such as Meoli, which is reportedly one of the worst affected areas in the chain of arrests that follows since the violence of 31 July. Local activists have claimed that they repeatedly reached out to the authorities, alerting them about the simmering communal tensions in Nuh leading to clashes.
Shahrukh, 27, a resident of Meoli was allegedly taken from his home at 9 am on August 1. His father, Jaan Mohammad, insists on his son’s innocence, stating that Shahrukh was working as a security guard at the Shaheed Hasan Khan Mewati Government Medical College in Nalhar during the communal clashes in Nuh. Describing it as an unjust situation, 76-year-old village chief Chaudhary Safhat said that local Gohana police arrested nine men from his family.

Similar detentions and arrests have occurred in neighbouring villages like Khedi and Murad Bas, which share a similar situation of being largely peaceful.

At least 156 individuals, mainly Muslims have been arrested in the aftermath of violence in Nuh. Advocate Tahir Husain accused the administration of a one-sided crackdown by randomly arresting Muslim youth. “A total of 113 men including minors have been arrested in Nuh district, with the majority being Muslims. Nobody is willing to file a complaint because of fear of detention and arrest,” said Hussain.

Local Muslims have also complained about the demolition of Muslim homes and businesses without adherence to due process. As of August 7th, a judicial order from the Haryana and Punjab High Court has halted the demolition drive. However, the order came when hundreds of homes, shops, and Muslim settlements were already razed to the ground.

“The issue also arises whether the buildings belonging to a particular community are being brought down under the guise of law and order problem and an exercise of ethnic cleansing is being conducted by the State,” the High Court order reads.

Provocative videos; the biggest violence catalyst

Hindu nationalists led by Vishwa Hindu Parishad accused the Meo Muslims of launching a violent ambush during the Braj Mandal Jalabhishek Yatra. Contrarily, the Meo-Muslim community places blame on Hindu nationalists led by the Bajrang Dal, asserting that they instigated violence. According to the Muslims, the catalyst for the riots was a video circulated by the runaway cow vigilante leader, Mohit Yadav aka Monu Manesar– who was reportedly involved in the murder of two individuals from the same region.

Monu Manesar’s history has been involved in several horrifying cases of anti-Muslim violence, often documented in videos shared on social media by him and his associates.

The families of Nasir and Junaid, the duo charred to death by cow vigilantes on 15 February 2023, continue to stage protests, demanding the arrest of Manesar, the alleged perpetrator. Weeks before the duo’s death, Manesar was accused of murdering a mechanic named Waris. A video depicting a visibly injured Waris circulated online mere hours before he was reported to have died in what was described as an “accident.” Despite facing a murder warrant, Manesar appears to roam freely, sparking allegations from many locals that the police are handling him with excessive leniency. In the absence of police action, he has become a symbol of cow vigilantism in Haryana.

However, in Mewat, discontentment towards Manesar and the impunity he enjoys has surged significantly over the past few months. Choudhary Aftab, the Congress MLA from Nuh said that rumours of Manesar’s presence at the rally were a key factor behind the outbreak of violence. He further asserted that he had alerted local police about these developments.

Videos of other Hindutva figures such as Bittu Bajrangi and Dinesh Bharti inciting hostility against Muslims have surfaced online. These individuals have a history of involvement in anti-Muslim hate speech. Furthermore, a video of VHP (Vishwa Hindu Parishad) Secretary Surendra Jain allegedly recorded before the outbreak of violence became viral on social media. In the video, Jain describes Mewat as the land of Lord Krishna saying, “We need to change Mewat’s character. It is not the land of cow killers, Hindu murders, ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence) agents, Rohingya, and Bangladeshi infiltrators, or those involved in conversions.”

Meanwhile, the police have turned their attention to videos produced by Mewati Muslim YouTubers, which are now under scrutiny. Notably, one of the most widely circulated provocative videos claimed to be a Muslim from Haryana was created by Pakistani YouTuber Ahsan Mewati. Ahsan is encouraging violence against the rally in the video.

Struggles, torment, and sufferings of women

(Muslim women gave testament. Their men are arrested by police in the aftermath of violence. Pic Credit: Saif Ul Islam)

People we spoke to in the Nagina region said that police barged into Muslim houses to arrest the individuals and beat the Muslim women. The police mistreated women in the Nalhar region as well. Lawyers in the Nalhar alleged that Bajrang Dal members circled Muslim homes engaging in provocative behaviour such as chanting slogans outside and demanding that women exit their residences. Lawyer Ramzan Choudhary clarified that while there were attempts to incite tension, no reported actions were taken by these vigilantes against women.

From August 1st onwards, and up until the time of our visit, a total of at least 50 FIRs (First Information Reports) have been filed, resulting in the predominant arrest of 113 Muslim individuals, with the count still rising.

The climate of fear in Nuh has discouraged women from pursuing legal action making it challenging to independently verify these claims. Additionally, social media has been abuzz with rumours that Hindu women who sought shelter in Nalhar’s Shiv temple were subjected to sexual assault by “rioters”. However, ADGP South Mamta Singh has publicly refuted these claims.

Women in Meoli worry as the breadwinners of their families are imprisoned leaving them helpless behind. They are even scared to approach the police for information about their arrested kin or to take any legal actions to secure their release. Families alleged that 12 youths including a 15-year-old minor were arrested. Sohrab, a youth arrested was later released after being identified as disabled.

Farida’s husband Azad was a milk supplier who was the sole breadwinner of the family. Azad and his brother were arrested by the police while on their way to take milk to the dairy. Farida now struggles to meet ends meet. “Who will provide food and support our children’s education?” asked Farida. Numerous women seek the answer to the same question as Farida.

Shabnam’s husband Anish was taken into police custody. She alleged that the police pushed her aside during her husband’s arrest using derogatory language, saying, “hatt behen ki l…” (The offensive language used during the incident is reported as stated by Shabnam for the sake of accuracy). She maintained that Anish had been at home throughout the day of the violence.
The arbitrary and unlawful demolition campaign, executed by both municipal authorities and the Haryana state’s forest department, has had severe repercussions on women and children in the affected areas.

Among those affected is Ashmina, a 53-year-old widow who, along with her 17-year-old son, operated a pathology lab close to the Shaheed Hasan Khan Mewati Government Medical College in Nalhar. As a mother of four sons, Ashmina had borrowed a substantial loan of Rs 10 lakhs to sustain their pathology lab, which was demolished by authorities. Ashmina informed that the lab was their only source of income and the loan is yet to be paid.

Ashmina did not receive any prior notice regarding the bulldozer action.

45-year-old Rabia resided in Nalhar with her five children. Her husband works as a truck driver in Tamil Nadu. Rabia now battles to support herself and her family as their home was razed without proper notice. She and her children run pillar to post to find a place to live. “How am I going to care for my children? We’ve had to relocate to a relative’s home, but it’s challenging to sustain with five children,” said Rabia.

(Muslim settlements after bulldozer action. Pic Credit: Saif Ul Islam)

Trail of vandalism and rioting in Gurugram

Following the violence in Nuh, a targeted attack unfolded at the Anjuman Jama Masjid in Gurugram’s Sector 57. A mob consisting of 90-100 individuals besieged the mosque at 12:15 am, armed with lathis, sticks, and various weapons. The masked attackers chanted “Jai Shree Ram (Glory be to Lord Ram)” as they encircled the mosque. During the attack, Maulana Saad, the chief imam, suffered a brutal assault. He was stabbed 13 times with swords, and his throat was slit, ultimately leading to his demise. The mosque’s caretaker, Khurshid Alam, was also severely beaten and shot in the knee. Alam is currently receiving medical treatment in a private hospital in Gurugram.

The Anjuman Jama Masjid in Gurugram Sector 57 holds a significant place of worship, situated on government-allotted land within the planned urban development area. It’s a unique mosque, serving a substantial portion of the city’s deluxe area. Despite assertions of a lack of Muslim population in the region, this mosque remains a vital place of worship for many, including migrant labourers from Tigra village.

The legal dispute surrounding the mosque’s construction, spanning nearly two decades from 2004 to 2023, reached its culmination with a Supreme Court ruling favouring the masjid committee, firmly solidifying its status. The journey through the legal system was marked by numerous hurdles, including a 12-year status-quo order imposed by the Supreme Court that temporarily halted its progress. Nevertheless, amidst these challenges, the mosque continued to host prayers, catering to a diverse community.

(Front gate of Anjuman Masjid that was torched by a violent mob. Police allowed no entry. Pic Credit: Saif Ul Islam)

During the fervent protests against Namaz: (prayer) organized by right-wing groups in different parts of Gurugram in 2021, the Anjuman Jama Masjid remained a relatively peaceful site for prayers due to its settled legal position. However, opposition from Hindutva groups persisted, and the outbreak of violence in Gurugram was an extension of clashes originating from the neighbouring Nuh district in Haryana.

On the same day, another mob intentionally set fires, engulfing multiple shops and shanties, with clear targets being properties owned by the Muslim community across various parts of Gurugram. Locals claimed that mosques were also vandalized in Sheikhpura and Hodal.

Our fact-finding team engaged in a conversation with Gurugram’s Commissioner of Police on 2 August 2023. The Commissioner informed that 55 individuals have been apprehended in connection with an incident of violence. She emphasized that appropriate actions will be taken against those employing social media to incite violence. “We did not anticipate the situation escalating from Nuh to Gurugram. Events unfolded spontaneously and approximately 60% of the police force was deployed in Nuh, which hindered our ability to foresee and prevent the situation from escalating,” the Commissioner stated.

Notably, the Commissioner’s claims contradict the information of the fact-finding team. The Gurugram police arrived in Nuh only around 6 pm.

Other affected regions

The violence also unfolded in the main market of Badshahpur, where a mob of roughly 200 individuals arrived on motorcycles and SUVs, targeting the area, specifically Muslim-owned businesses. The aftermath of the rampage left a total of 14 shops severely damaged, highlighting the extent of the destruction. A mob created chaos by setting fire to seven stores in Gurugram’s Sector 66.

The violence also reached Sohna. Shamim Ahmed, the caretaker of Shahi Jama Masjid, recounted a terrifying experience as a mob of roughly 200 masked individuals stormed the premises during the afternoon. To escape the mob, Ahmed and 50 others sought refuge in the mosque’s inner rooms. He expressed the gravity of the situation, stressing, “Today, we could have lost our lives” had the assailants discovered their presence.


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