P M Salih
A few weeks back, I got an opportunity to travel through Mewat geographically located near Delhi. The journey was mainly through those areas of Mewat which belongs to Haryana. Mewat in Haryana is the most backward district of the country as per the latest Niti Aayogs ranking of 101 aspirational (backward) districts of India 2018. Just two hours drive from the national capital Delhi, the district is still deprived of some of the very basic amenities that is necessary for human survival. The intention of the journey was to visit houses of some of the victims of saffron terror and Sangh animosity. In recent times Mewati or Meo Muslims are the target of majority of Hindutva mob lynching’s and Hindu nationalists’ attacks in India.
In the history,Mewat acquired a special status as a region when it was declared as an independent state during the period of Firoz Shah Tughlaq under the Delhi sultanate. Mewat province was then ruled by Khanzada Rajput Dynasty making Alwar as the capital. These Rajputs were among those who embraced Islam during its advent in the subcontinent. Mewat retained its rank even when Taimoor conquered Delhi because Rajputs succeeded in making a contract with Delhi Sultan. The status of its independent nation lasted for a while and during the course of time it came under Mughal Empire.Majority of the population embraced Islam by the influence of Muslims in the region. In the past they have actively involved in freedom struggles and movements and continued to resist all grades of intolerance. From that instant onward they remained distasteful to the ruling class and envisaged all sorts of negligence from the state and it’s machinery and even the state employed tyranny and suppression against the fellow habitants.
In the early 20th century some of the converted Rajputs (Muslims) returned to their former religion as a result of efforts made by some Hindu reformation groups.
The above instances came into the notice of Muslim community leaders. Under the leadership of Moulana Muhammed Ilyas Nanoothwavi community empowerment works centralised in and around the region which resulted in the formation of Tableeg Jamaat. Mewat is the birth place of Tableeg Jamaat from where it spread across the country. The activities of Tableeg rendered steadfastness to the Muslim community and emboldened them.Many of the potential faculties eroded from the region when India was partitioned. many of them emigrated to Pakistan. This sort of dispersal was more pronounced in the northern parts of the country. It has impaired the Muslim establishment in the area.
Demographically Muslims remained the majority, however in many of the localities they became socially and economically backward.
Historical region of Mewat now expands over thousands of kilometers in the states of Haryana and Rajasthan. some parts of Mathura district in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh also falls under it. The post independent India and it’s governments always ignored this Muslim dominated region.
The conspiracy behind the partition of Mewat among four states was to forbid Mewat Muslims from emerging as a crucial power in defining the politics of the region.
This was my second time to Mewat, I came here for the first time when I was holding the responsibility of General Secretary, Students Islamic Organisation of India. I had then partaken in their various programmes. Recollecting one of those incidents” SIO cadre Qasim was the chief organiser of programs in Mewat. He handed over a notice inviting me to join them for a day. In the notice I could see his designation as Moorgivala (Chicken seller). He was dealing with fowls.” The above experience conveyed that the natives progressed socially that they never hesitated to disclose their identities, may be due to influence of Islamic values they are fostered with.
Sangh Parivar hostility
The number of mob lynchings and attack on Muslims in the name of cow vigilantism has been increasing day by day. statistical analysis indicates that Mewat alone witnessed a significant proportion of the total anti-Muslim hate crimes in the country. Still the people maintain a state of harmony and peace in the region. Cattle rearing and agriculture-based activities are the main occupation of the villagers. They are socially and educationally marginalized due to the continued ignorance of the Government.
Sangh outfits often failed to plot violence and create palpable tension in the region. Some of their odd attempts to destabilize the region using the state executive were unsuccessful. But these extremists have adopted an aggressive and brazen act of attacking the villagers who cross the borders for their agricultural requirements and to buy cattle. In many of those instances which even took their lives (including Pehlu Khan) happened in the outskirts of Rajasthan and Haryana. The police liable to deter Sangh Parivar atrocities even shot the villagers, on the ground of false accusations of cow smuggling.
Sangh Parivar is trying to infuse Muslim hostility in the minds of thousands there by ‘othering’ the Muslim community. In the regions where they cannot directly plot violence ,they deprive the livelihood of villagers by any means. Mewat is such a project site of Sangh experimentation. When the fellow villagers come out of Mewat to sell their agricultural products and to buy cattle and cattle fodders these Sangh perverts instill fear by brutally attacking them obliterating their livelihood.
To meet the victims of such Hindutva attacks, me along with Thashreef K P Mampad and Rashad Melattur, research students of Jamia Millia Islamia set out our journey to Mewat. We visited the houses of Hafiz Junaid, Pehlu Khan and Akbar Khan, who were lynched by Hindutva mobs in Mewat.
Maktab Junediya (Junaid School) is a Hifz study center for girls (to memorize Quran) built in the memory of Junaid in his motherland Salaheri in Mewat. It was a small effort by his family to promote religious education among girls. The main objective of our journey was to visit Maktab Junediya. In the institution we received a hearty welcome from Junaid’s mother Saira , his brothers Hashim and Shakir and brother-in-law Nafees. His brother explained the horrific instances of the day when Junaid was murdered. Later he shared the difficulties and travails associated with the case. Last week the main accused was also released on bail which has certained the exoneration of all his assailants.
Junaid’s mother Saira is a great epitome of hope in this Fascist era. When her son was lost, she preferred to have an institution in his name instead of drawing benefits from the financial assistance and other benefactions. When Fascism eliminated her son who memorized the whole Quran she responded by creating platforms for many to study and memorize the Quran. We all have a great message from this brave lady.
Solidarity Youth movement of Kerala has been in contact with them through Nahas Mala, National president of Students Islamic Organaisation of India regarding the construction work of the institute. They were successful in completing the project after benevolent endowments of INR 100,0000 from CPI(M) and INR 100,000 from Kendra Sahitya Academy Award winner and Malayalam literaturate KP Ramanunni. The collaboration of different ideologues to accomplish this dream project necessarily promulgates the need of a grand alliance and a public space to resist the existing Fascist regime. It is admiring that they have joined their hands in something related to Junaid’s faith. Solidarity had decided to provide necessary furniture and essential equipment to the newly constructed building. We were in Mewat as a part of distributing computers, printers, photostat machine and fans directly to the family. It was our pleasure to interact with the students in the institution.
Hope Maktab Junediya bring about an educational awakening in a totally ignored region like Mewat.
With beloveds of Pehlu Khan
Our next destination was Pehlu Khan’s home in Jaisinghpur which was more than 20 kms away from Salaheri. Pehlu Khan was murdered in the periphery of Rajasthan when he was bringing home cattle for agrarian needs. It was in 2017. He was brutally lynched to death. His wife Jabuna , sons Irshad and Arif cordially received us. One of his son who witnessed the catastrophe explained the harsh experiences they gone through and biased behaviors from the spectators including the Police. They expressed their helplessness in proceeding with the case. Last week the murder attempts against witnesses( his son too) in Pehlu Khan lynching case obviously revealed the intentions of interested factions behind the curtain. They were tried to harmed when they came to hear the case in the court. The family is complaining that the executive and it’s associated machines are the greatest impediments in proceeding with the case.
Though we reached there late night they were eagerly anticipating us. They set their grievances and difficulties infront of us. They are still doing cattle trade which secures their necessities of life.Though they are afraid of they don’t have any other alternatives.
In Akbar Khan’s house
We also visited Akbar Khan’s house who was brutally beaten to death (cops delayed in taking him to health centre). He was lynched in Alwar last July, while he was transporting his two cows on foot for agricultural needs.
We were given an esteemed welcome in his village Kolgav. His father Sulaiman, brothers Ilyas Khan and Shameem Khan received us. Out of his 7 children, four are studying in Aligarh. Younger Rihan and Manseera were there. They tried to be more hospitable despite of having difficulties.They explained the horrific situations he had to confront that day when Akbar Khan was murdered. They’re confident that they will overcome all this ordeals.
They inspire and encourage us to be resolute and unwavering against this Fascist regime.
Al Jamia Mewat Campus
The absolute negligence of Mewat by govt and it’s machinery has already mentioned. Ignorance is more pronounced and profound in education sector. A foundation stone was laid down aimed at the development of this sector. Al Jamia Mewat campus opened on 24th August 2017 was such an endeavor and is a project under Vision 2026 of Human welfare foundation. At present senior secondary sections are functional in the campus and the students are provided with free education.
Now, there are around 40 students in the campus. .The students received us wholeheartedly. We had a great time in conversing and interacting with the students. Such an institution and it’s student investment in a region like North India especially in the contemporary situation gives us a great hope.
According to 2011 Census, Mewat district had total population of 1,089263. 88.61 % percent of its population is rural and just about 11.39 % percent is urban. Muslims, account for 79.20 % percent of the total. The total literacy rate is 54.08%, gender wise, male and female literacy were 69.94 and 36.60 respectively. They are listed under the OBC category which means they are recognized as part of the backward class communities. There are 493 primary schools but only 45 High Schools are in the whole district. Economic backwardness, unemployment, lack of health facilities are just some of the challenges that population face everyday.
Liability of Indian Muslims
The important observation drawn from visiting Mewat was the discrimination shown by higher state authorities in this Muslim dominated region. Agriculture and cattle rearing are their main sources of livelihood. There is no dis-junction between cattle sheds and their inhabiting areas. May be separated by a fragile wall or some other forms of concealment. Poverty and paucity surrounds everywhere. Meanwhile the allied front of Sangh outfits, police and the government are directly as well as indirectly depriving their livelihood. We met the victims of such Sangh experimentation.
Mewat witnessed the highest number of mob lynchings and cow vigilant attacks in the country. But the official systems are dealing in such a way to prevent them from proceeding with the case and court filings. Sangh Parivar exterminate their moves by threats and murder attempts, while the system obliterate the cases by entangling them in the intricacies of law. The acquittal of the main accused in Junaid’s case and murder attempts against witnesses in Pehlu Khan lynching case unveils it.
Indian Muslim leaders and collectives owes to bring forth such hostilities to the public and offer them strong support in legal conducts and civil rights protection. Along with relief works and financial assistance some other measures are required to prevent repetition of such hate crimes and communal violence.
P M Salih is a youth activist based in Kerala and the president of Solidarity Youth Movement.
This article is originally published in Malayalam and translated into English by Mohammed Ameen, graduate student of Ramjas College, University of Delhi.