Mainstream, VOL LII, No 45, November 1, 2014
Violence In Mewat-Tauru, A Flashpoint
Sunday 2 November 2014, by
This article was sent quite sometime ago, but could not be used earlier due to unavoidable reasons.
A simple road accident in the Tauru town of the Mewat district on June 8, 2014, so common all over India, resulting in one casualty, triggered communal violence disturbing the communal harmony Mewat is known for. Even during partition and demolition of the Babri Masjid, Mewat remained an island of harmony. To understand this paradox a team of the Haryana Insaaf Society comprising Prof D.R. Chaudhry, S.P. Singh, Mrs Mukesh Yadav and Ms Nisha visited Tauru, met a cross-section of people of 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.
I. Who are the Meos?
The Meos are a Muslim community with their distinct traits that are radically different from other community groups. They are found in and around Mewat that includes the Mewat district of Haryana and parts of adjoining Alwar and Bharatpur districts of Rajasthan. They are scattered in small numbers in UP and Madhya Pradesh also. The religion they profess is a blend of Islam and Hinduism. They are converts. Meos subscribe to Islam but their caste structure is deeply influenced by their Hindu background. They share many gotras with Hindus. According to Col Toad, Meos share three hundred 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 elder generation still sing songs associated with Hindu festivals. There is no sight of burqa-clad Meo women in Mewat.
On account of their typical background, Meos have a liberal ethos. They are an easy-going and freedom-loving community. History provides enough evidence of this. Babur tried his level best to detach Hassan Khan Mewati from Rana Sanga but failed. Babur became the ruler of India after defeating Ibrahim Lodi in the Second Battle of Panipat but he found his victory incomplete without vanquishing Rana Sanga. In his battle against this valiant Rajput chieftain, Hassan Khan Mewati, the Commander of Rana Sanga, laid down his life while fighting against Babur.
In the 1857 revolt against British rule, Meos played a glorious role. Raisina, a village in Mewat, was the centre of the rebels. Many Meos here laid down their lives while fighting against the British. The land of the Meos in Raisina and adjoining villages was confiscated. Several villages in Mewat were set on fire. Fiftytwo Meo Chaudhris were hanged from a tree in Nuh. The Pinguwa village was blasted with cannon balls. Many more such instances can be given to establish the patriotic credentials of the Meos.
Intrusion of petrodollars from some Muslim countries, especially Saudi Arabia, in Mewat led to a string of mosques and Madaras. However, the Wahabi brand of Islam, highly conservative and fundamentalist, has failed to make any significant dent in this liberal ethos.
It is the Tabliq Jamat, an Islamic religious movement based on the teachings of Prophet Muhammad, which has significant effect on the Meos. This movement is aimed at spiritual reformation in response to the 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, 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, the 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. Fortunately, it does not preach any kind of fundamentalist ideology though it tends to keep the Meos frozen in the realm of conservatism.
The present model of development has spawned lumpen and criminal elements, especially around the national Capital Delhi, in almost every community like Jats, Gujjars etc. Meos too 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 also contributes to this phenomenon.
The Hindu community too has been largely free from the communal and fundamentalist forces. However, during the last few years the RSS and its affiliates have made significant inroads in Mewat and they played a highly provocative role in injecting the anti-Muslim virus in the body of Mewat. They have been emphasising the role of Meos in spreading the concept of Jihad, love Jihad—young Muslim boys luring Hindu girls and marrying them, if possible, and all that. 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 through love Jihad in Mewat.
II. Incident Triggering Violence
On June 8, 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 the 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 driver or his assistants 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 cleaners were of different religions, Hindu communal elements in the mob imparted a communal colouring 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 Hindu communalists so ruthlessly, that they lost consciousness. Sawai Singh Sehrawat, living in a close neighbourhood, tried to hide the injured in his house but the mob dragged them outside and continued beating them The policemen sought to save them but the mob snatched them from police and the beating continued. They were left as dead.
Some elements in the mob started man-handling and beating any Meo they spotted in the town. Ismael Meo suffered serious injuries. Three motor cycles of the Meos were set ablaze.
The rumour mill started operating overtime. 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 and this infuriated the Meos. A large number of them reached the spot in different vehicles. There were some anti-social and fundamentalist elements among them and some of them were 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 was a full-scale communal fight. The Meo mob looted some Hindu shops. Meanwhile Shahida Khan, an ex MLA, reached the spot and tried to pacify the irate Meo mob.
The elements owing allegiance to the RSS and its affiliates started spreading rumours. It was rumoured that the Radhswami Satsang Bhawan and Pagha temple were razed to the ground. It was found by the team that the Radhaswami building was intact and there was an incident of stone pelting near the Pagha temple and in the locality around by about three dozen Meos who came from a nearby village.
The Hindu communal elements, especially those belonging to the 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, almirah containing his cash box were set ablaze These elements organised a meeting in Aggarwal dharmsala. 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 owned by Rafiq. All three were consigned to flames. The Coca Cola agency was set ablaze during the curfew which was imposed in the afternoon. The curfew continued for about a week.
During the curfew on June 13, Meos assembled in the mosque to offer prayers. A few dozen Hindu women were used as a shield by the Hindu miscreants who tried to disturb the prayer. The Superintendent of Police rescued the besieged Meos safely.
A panchyat of Meos, comprising about five thousand Meos, took place in Shikarpur village. Zakir Hussain, a defeated Lok Dal candidate in the Lok Sabha election, tried his level best to provoke the Meos. However, the sensible elements in the gathering controlled the situation. In Patherheri village nearby, Rao Inderjit Singh, the BJP MP from the Gurgaon constituency, 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 create tension.). 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 Jihad, 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 anti-social elements among the Meos possessed illegal firearms and committed all kinds of crimes, like theft, extortion etc. This was confirmed by Ramzan Chaudhry, a distin-guished social worker among the 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 polls in the State, there would be its direct impact in the Gurgaon, Palwal and Mahindergarh districts besides the Mewat district. The rest of Haryana too would not remain unaffected. The communal conflagration in the Muzaffarnagar district of western UP, orchestrated by Hindu communal elements in a planned strategy, had an impact all over the State and played a significant role in the BJP’s massive victory in the Lok Sabha elections in the State. There is an urgent need for the secular, liberal elements to be on guard to avert this kind of eventuality. There are political parties which profess secularism but the concept is used as a tactical ploy to use minorities as a captive votebank. This kind of fake secularism needs to be exposed. There is a disturbing divide, which needs special attention, between Hindu and Meo students in the educational institutions in Mewat which can be worked up to create communal conflagration.
III. Ramifications and Recommendations
I: The situation in Mewat at present seems to be peaceful but the hiatus created between the two communities is quite deep and this can be exploited by communal and anti-social elements.
Ii: 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 anti-social 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, Haryana with a demand to detach the Tauru Block from Mewat and merge it into the Gurgaon district. All attempts should be made by the administration and sensible elements in both the communities to have a joint Peace Committee.
iii: The Haryana Government should institute a high-level judicial probe to ascertain the causes of a simple accident being blown up into 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 the police and para-military forces and then forgotten. There is no necessary follow-up action—a tendency which helps the growth communal tension in society. Elements in both the communities who suffered property damage should be suitably compensated.
Iv: 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 for a sustained campaign to offset the influence of fundamental forces in both the communities in Mewat.
V: The police must launch a campaign to unearth illegal firearms, confiscate them and try their owners as per law.
The author is the General Secretary, Haryana Insaaf Society, Rohtak.