ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846
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Violence in Mewat-Tauru

A Report from the Ground

D R Chaudhry (chaudhrydr1@gmail.com) is the general secretary of the Haryana Insaaf Society. 

Communal elements have managed to polarise the Meos and the Hindus over a road accident, leading to yet another riot-like situation. This divisive politics needs to be nipped in the bud as political parties will milk this to their electoral benefit just like the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots in Uttar Pradesh. 

A road accident in Tauru town of Mewat district on 8 June, 2014, so common all over India, leading to one casualty, triggered communal violence - disturbing the communal harmony Mewat is known for. Even during the Partition and also during the demolition of the Babri Masjid, Mewat remained an island of harmony. To understand this paradox a team from Haryana Insaaf Society comprising D R Chaudhry, S P Singh, Mukesh Yadav and Nisha visited Tauru, met a cross section of people from both the communities, Meos as well as Hindus, visited the spots affected by violence and prepared a report.

The report has three parts. The first part deals with the background of the Meo community, its social ethos, its role in history and its predicament in the present situation. The second part deals with the actual incident and its ramifications. The last part deals with the long term implications of the episode and means to defuse the situation.

Meos – History as a community

Meos are a Muslim community with its distinct traits radically different from other community groups. They are found in and around Mewat that includes Mewat district of Haryana and parts of adjoining Alwar and Bharatpur districts of Rajasthan. They are scattered in small numbers in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh also. Largely converts from Rajput Hindus to Islam, the religion they profess is a blend of Islam and Hinduism. Meos subscribe to Islam but their caste structure is deeply influenced by their Hindu background. They share many gotras (sub caste) with Hindus. According to Col Toad, Meos share 300 gotras with the Rajputs and 25 gotras with the  Jats. Meos follow the system of gotra in matrimonial alliances like Hindus. The Jats have the institution of khap panchayat while Meos have a similar organisation called pal. Till some time ago Meos used to celebrate Hindu festivals like Dussehra, Diwali and Holi. Some in the older generation still sing songs associated with Hindu festivals. There is no sight of burqa clad Meo women in Mewat.

Meos have a liberal ethos on account of their typical background. They are easy going and are a freedom loving community. History provides enough evidence for this. Babur tried his level best to detach Hassan Khan Mewati from Rana Sanga but failed. Babur became the ruler of India after defeating Abraham Lodi in the Second Battle of Panipat but he found his victory incomplete without vanquishing Rana Sanga. Hassan Khan Mewati, the commander of Rana Sanga, laid down his life while fighting against Babur.

In the 1857 revolt against the British rule Meos played a glorious role. Raisina, a village in Mewat was the centre of rebels. Many Meos here laid down their lives fighting against the British. Land of Meos in Raisina and adjoining villages was confiscated. Several villages in Mewat were set on fire. 52 Meo chaudhris (headmen) were hanged from a tree in Nuh. Villages in Pinguwa were blasted with cannon balls. Many more such instances can be given to establish the patriotic credentials of Meos.

Religion and the Meos

Intrusion of petrodollars from some Muslim countries, specially Saudi Arabia, in Mewat led to a string of mosques and madrasas. However, Wahabbi brand of Islam, highly conservative and fundamentalist, has failed to make a significant dent in this liberal ethos.  

It is Tabliq Jamat, an Islamic religious movement based on the teachings of Prophet Muhammad, which has a significant effect on Meos. This movement is aimed at spiritual reformation in response to decay in the value system of society. This Jamat has millions of followers all over the world. It expects Muslims to have faith in Allah and observe Namaz five times a day and follow a virtuous path. It expects women to observe complete hijab and does not attach requisite importance to women’s education.

According to Shabnam Hashmi, a well known social activist, there is no place for female education in the kind of Islam being preached in Mewat. It tends to keep its followers aloof from the latest trends in politics and society. Thus critics find it orthodox, retrogressive and criticise it for keeping women subservient. This movement seems to have made some dent in the liberal ethos of Meos.

The present model of development has spawned lumpen and criminal elements, especially around Delhi, in almost every community like Jats, Gujjars etc. Meos are not free from this malaise. There is a section of criminal elements in this community also who commit all kinds of crime and some of them are equipped with illegal firearms. Lack of proper development in Mewat too contributes to this phenomenon.

Hindu community too has been largely free from communal and fundamentalist forces. However, during the last few years Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and its affiliates have made significant inroads in Mewat and they played a highly provocative role in injecting anti-Muslim virus in the body of Mewat. They have been emphasising the role of Meos in spreading the concept of love-jihad (young Muslim boys allegedly luring Hindu girls and marrying them). Our team found no evidence of this. When we posed the question of love-jihad to several responsible Meos, they drew a blank face and expressed total ignorance of this. There is not a single instance of a Muslim boy marrying a Hindu girl in Mewat.

Incident  Triggering Violence

On 8 June, 2014 at about seven in the morning a young man named Danvir, while riding a motor cycle, was mowed down by a dumper near Pataudi-Mohammadpur road junction in Tauru, a small town in Mewat district of Haryana. He died on the spot. The driver ran away and two cleaners of the dumper - Raes and Mubarak, both Meos, were caught by the mob on the spot. In such a situation the accused are usually beaten up and then handed over to the police for further action. Here the situation took an explosive turn. Since the deceased and the alleged culprits were of different religions, Hindu communal elements in the mob imparted a communal colour to the incident. Had all the persons involved in the accident including the victim belonged to the same religion, the situation would not have gone out of control. Both the cleaners were thrashed by the mob with a sizeable presence of a Hindu mob, so ruthlessly, that they lost consciousness. Sawai Singh Sehrawat, living in close neighbourhood, tried to hide the injured in his house but the mob dragged them outside and continued beating them. The policemen tried to save them but the mob snatched them from police and beating continued. They died as a result of this assault.

Some elements in the mob started manhandling and beating any Meo they spotted in the town. Ismael Meo got serious injuries. Three motor cycles of Meos were set ablaze.

Rumour mill started operating over time. A rumour was spread that two Meo cleaners were killed and their dead bodies were not allowed to be lifted. Tauru is largely populated by Hindus. The news spread in the Meo villages around Tauru infuriated Meos. A large number of them reached the spot in different vehicles. There were some antisocial and fundamentalist elements among them. Some were also equipped with illegal firearms. They started firing in the air and two men were injured by pellets. They started pelting stones. Hindus present on the spot retaliated by throwing stones. It became a full scale communal fight. The Meo mob looted some Hindu shops around. Meanwhile Shahida Khan, an ex-member of the legislative assembly (MLA) reached the spot and tried to pacify the irate Meo mob.

The elements owing allegiance to RSS and its affiliates started spreading a rumour that Radhswami Satsang Bhawan and and Pagha temple were razed to the ground. It was found by the team that the Radhaswami building was intact and there was incident of stone pelting near Pagha temple  and in the locality around by about three dozen Meos who came from a nearby village.

The Hindu communal elements, especially belonging to RSS and Shiv Sena, gathered a mob and attacked the Jumma Masjid and Kasai Masjid and caused extensive damage to them. Religious texts, carpets and furniture were set ablaze. The Maulavi of Kasai Masjid ran a tailoring shop in a room adjoining the masjid. His tailoring machines and almirah containing his cash box were set ablaze. These elements organised a meeting in Aggarwal dharamsala. There were three major Meo establishments in the town - Sai Collection, a showroom of clothes, a three-storied Mohammud Cloth House and a Coca Cola agency. All three were burnt to the ground. The Coca Cola agency was set ablaze during a curfew which was imposed in the afternoon. The curfew continued for about a week.

During curfew on 13 June, Meos assembled in the mosque to offer prayer. A few dozen Hindu women were used as a shield by Hindu miscreants who tried to disturb the prayer. The Superintendent of Police rescued the besieged Meos safely.

A panchayat of Meos comprising about 5,000 of them took place in Shikarpur village. Zakir Hussain, a defeated Lok Dal candidate in the 2014 Lok Sabha election, tried his best to provoke the Meos. However, the sensible elements in the gathering controlled the situation. In Patherheri village nearby, Rao Inderjit Singh, a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) member of parliament (MP) from Gurgaon constituency and Ram Bilas Sharma, the  president of the state BJP and Sukhvir Singh Jaunpuria organised a meeting of Hindus. They did their level best to instigate the mob. Ram Bilas Sharma in his provocative speech observed: “Tension lene ka nahin, tension dene ka time aa gaya hai”(It is not the time to get tense but an opportune moment to teach others a lesson) Thus, some politicians of both the communities were a part of the problem. It was Aam Aadmi leader Yogendra Yadav who was seen moving from house to house in Tauru, meeting members of both the communities.

Advocate Hashim Khan told the team categorically that there was a planned strategy to polarise the situation on communal lines in the run-up to the coming assembly elections. This impression was strengthened by Dr R P Sharma, a well known physician in the town and an office bearer of the RSS who told the team that there was love jihad and appeasement of Muslims who did not know how to conduct themselves in a democratic set up.  

Tek Chand Saini, a trader and  several other Hindus told the team that they felt secure, thanks to the security forces deployed by the central government. They were of the view that antisocial elements among Meos possessed illegal fire arms and committed all kinds of crimes, like theft, extortion etc. This was confirmed by Ramzan Chaudhry, a distinguished social worker among Meos.

At present Tauru is peaceful but tension is simmering beneath the surface which might erupt at any stage. If the tension is worked up in Mewat to reap the electoral harvest in the coming assembly poll in the state, there would be direct impact in Gurgaon, Palwal and Mahindergarh districts besides Mewat district. The rest of Haryana too would not remain unaffected. The communal conflagration in Muzaffarnagar district of western UP orchestrated by Hindu communal elements in a planned strategy had impact all over the state and played a significant role in BJP’s massive victory in the state in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. There is an urgent need for the secular, liberal elements to be on guard to avert this kind of eventuality.

Ramifications and Recommendations

1: The situation in Mewat at present seems to be peaceful but the divide between the two communities is quite deep which can be exploited by communal and antisocial elements.

2: The administration tried to organise a joint peace committee of both the communities but did not succeed. Meos have formed a 21 member Aman (Peace) committee which is trying its best to keep the fundamentalist and antisocial elements in the community under check. Ramzan Chaudhry, a prominent member of the committee, told the team that it was impressed upon the Meos not to get provoked under any circumstances. Unfortunately, some Hindus under the influence of communal elements have formed a Sangarsh Samiti. This is a dangerous portent. This Samiti is reported to have met the chief minister of Haryana with a demand to detach the Tauru Block from Mewat and merge it into Gurgaon district. Attempt should be made by the administration and sensible elements in both the communities to have a joint peace committee.

3: The Haryana government should institute a high level judicial probe to ascertain the causes of a simple accident being blown up as a communal conflagration. The elements responsible for the unfortunate situation should be spotted and given appropriate punishment. Normally a communal episode is brought under control with the help of police and paramilitary forces and then forgotten. There was no necessary follow up action - a tendency which leads to  communal tension in society. Elements in both the communities who suffered property damage should be suitably compensated.

4: The forces in the state and outside which are keen to maintain communal harmony should organise public meetings, big and small, at different places in Mewat district to educate members of both the communities about the dangers of communalism in a democratic set up. There is need of sustained campaign to offset the influence of fundamental forces in both the communities in Mewat.

5: The police must launch a campaign to unearth illegal fire arms, confiscate them and try their owners as per law. 

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