On July 31, 2023 communal violence erupted in Nuh, a predominantly Muslim district, and soon spilled over to parts of Gurgaon, Sohna, Badshahpur and Pawal areas in Haryana. The violence erupted after a religious procession – Brij Mandal Jalabhishek Yatra – organised by Vishwa Hindu Parishad and its youth wing, the Bajrang Dal, was allegedly stopped by a Muslim mob and pelted with stones after it reached Khedla Mod in Haryana’s Nuh district. Several attacks on Muslims in response to the Nuh clashes were reported from different parts of Haryana like Sohna, Gurugram, Palwal, Bahadurgarh and Faridabad. The violence resulted in six deaths, including two cops and a young Muslim Cleric who was stabbed to death.
At least 300 families, mostly Muslim immigrants have fled the district following demolitions of their shops, vending carts and homes by the Haryana government on the plea of them being illegal structures, threats by Hindutva groups and issuing of diktats by several panchayats barring entry of Muslims in villages and demanding that their shops and businesses be shut down. There are also reports of arbitrary arrests of more than 150 Muslim men for violence by the police.
As of 7th of August, the demolition drive has been halted by a judicial order issued by the Haryana and Punjab High court, stating that, “the law and order problem is being used as a ruse to bring down buildings without following the procedure established by law. 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 also berated the home minister’s statement who likened bulldozers to a form of “ilaaj” or “treatment” during the government’s action in regard to the outbreak of communal violence. But by then hundreds of homes, shops, hotels and makeshift settlements, mostly belonging to the Muslims have already been destroyed. The Hindustan Times reported that over 750 houses, shops and establishments have been demolished since the drive started.
A report of a fact finding team led by a group of journalists, researchers and lawyers documented the accounts of affected families of individuals who were arrested by the Nuh Police and also recorded the statements of responsible citizens operating in the area including Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) and community leaders, shedding light on several human rights violations perpetrated by the state.
The fact-finding report by the Association for Protection of Civil Rights (APCR) revealed that in the days leading up to the tumultuous events in the town of Nuh, signs of unrest began to emerge. While there are different accounts about the immediate cause for the violence, both the Muslims and Hindus agree on one thing: the provocative atmosphere and hateful online build-up in Haryana in the days and months led to the violence. The Hindu nationalists led by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) accused the Meo Muslims of Mewat violently ambushing the Braj Mandal Jalabhishek Yatra. On the other hand, the Meo-Muslims blame the Hindu nationalists led by the Bajrang Dal for initiating the violence. The Muslims allege that a video by the absconding cow vigilante leader, Mohit Yadav, who goes by the name Monu Manesar, and is said to be involved in the murder of two Muslims youths from the region, provoked the riots. In the past, Monu Manesar has been associated with several gruesome cases of anti-Muslim violence whose videos and films were shared by Monu and associates on their social media.
Videos of other Hindutva leaders like Bittu Bajrangi and Dinesh Bharti provoking hatred against Muslims surfaced online. They have been involved in anti Muslim hate speech in the past. Videos by Mewati Muslim Youtubers have also come under police scanner. However, one of the most viral videos of provocation was the one that was actually by a Pakistani Youtuber named Ahsan Mewati. The video was widely shared with the false claim by the Hindu right-wingers that it was from a Mewat Muslim from Haryana. In the video, Ahsan Mewati can be seen provoking Muslims to take violent action against the VHP procession and kill Montu Manesar. A video of the VHP secretary, Surendra Jain, allegedly shot before the violence broke out has also gone viral on social media. Describing Mewat as Krishna’s land, Jain said, “We need to change Mewat’s character.” “It is not the land of cow killers, Hindu murders, [Inter-Services Intelligence/Pakistani] agents, Rohingya and Bangladeshi infiltrators, or those involved in conversions,” he added.
Local activists said that they had reached out to the administration and warned them about the simmering communal tensions in Nuh. The atmosphere was communally charged and concerns were voiced to the authorities. Yet, despite these warnings, a lack of action prevailed, setting the stage for the events that would follow.
The fact finding report contains accounts that provide a glimpse into the administrative oversight, deliberate inactivity and compliance of the police with the rioters. Several testimonies pointed to police complicity in the violence. Videos and accounts suggest that police actively participated in the vandalism, destruction, and intimidation during the riots, undermining the trust citizens have in law enforcement agencies. The arrests made by the police were one-sided, targeting Muslim and leaving out any potential involvement by Hindus. This skewed approach to arrests further deepened the divide between communities.
Also, in the aftermath of the violence, the administration embarked on a path of revenge against the Muslim community, manifested in the demolition of Muslim shops and homes, coupled with their arbitrary arrests. The dire conditions of the Muslim residents are epitomized by the comprehensive testimony of Advocate Tahir Hussain Devla. Adv Devla revealed that 95% of the Muslim men sought refuge in the nearby hills to evade arrests. Many even fled to neighbouring state of Rajasthan.
Read the full report here.
Nuh Violence - a fact finding report