Sunday, December 10, 2023

Was Monu Manesar a Catalyst for Nuh Violence?

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On July 31, Nuh district in Haryana was marred by communal clashes that left six people dead. The unfortunate incident transpired as a result of clashes between two groups. As the procession made its way to Nuh, violence erupted between the two groups, eventually spreading to neighbouring districts like Gurgaon, Palwal, Hodal, and Rewari.

The precise cause behind the outbreak of communal violence remains undisclosed, prompting authorities to initiate an in-depth investigation into the matter. Notably, a central figure in the ongoing investigation is Monu Manesar (also known as Mohit Yadav), a prominent member of the vigilante group Bajrang Dal, who has a controversial history regarding the Mewat region.

Recent times have witnessed a troubling escalation of violence under the pretext of cow protection in the country. This surge became especially noticeable after the ascent of the Modi government in 2014. According to data furnished by Human Rights Watch, the years between 2015 and 2018 saw such attacks claiming the lives of 44 individuals. Alarming as it may be, out of these victims, 36 were Muslims.

Monu Manesar rose to prominence through his active engagement on social media platforms. He notably shared videos of alleged cow smugglers, often capturing instances of physical altercations with them. His presence was particularly conspicuous in the Mewat region throughout 2022.

Notably, on April 23, 2022, Bajrang Dal workers were involved in a violent incident where a Muslim man was assaulted, women were harassed, and another man was abducted under allegations of cow smuggling in Firojpur Jhirka village. Similar incidents unfolded in Basai Meo and Rawli villages. Intriguingly, Rambhakt Gopal, a criminal known for the Jamia Millia Islamia shooting, was seen in the company of Bajrang Dal members, brandishing firearms at women and children.

Monu Manesar’s connection to these incidents emerged due to his leadership role in the vigilante group, where he consistently posted content featuring confrontations with Mewati drivers and conveyed unfavourable opinions about Mewat and its inhabitants.

One particular incident transpired in Husainpur village in the Mewat district. A 22-year-old Muslim youth named Waris, who was allegedly linked to the cattle trade, lost his life on January 28th. Disturbingly, photographs taken prior to his death captured Monu Manesar and others physically assaulting him. The lack of an initial FIR from the police concerning this event further fueled public anger.

In a shocking turn of events that rattled the nation, two Muslim men, Nasir (25 years old) and Junaid (35 years old), were reportedly abducted and brutally murdered by individuals affiliated with the Bajrang Dal in Nuh district, Haryana. Monu Manesar emerged as the main accused in this incident. Surprisingly, the Haryana police appeared to give Monu Manesar a degree of latitude, which contributed to his portrayal as a heroic figure by some and a malevolent presence by others, particularly within the Mewati community.

On July 28th, Monu Manesar posted a video on his social media account announcing his intent to participate in the religious procession, extending an invitation to others to join him. This declaration raised significant questions concerning the roles of the Haryana and Rajasthan police, who were concurrently pursuing Monu for his suspected involvement in a double murder case within Haryana’s Bhiwani district. His online proclamation set off reverberations across the Mewat district, sparking apprehension and discontent among Muslims.

The video cast doubt on the community’s confidence in receiving justice from the local police.

Within the video, Monu employed inflammatory language that resonated deeply within the Mewat community, exacerbating existing tensions and fueling resentment. Advocate Talim Hussain, affiliated with the Haryana Punjab High Court, asserted that Monu Manesar’s deliberate video upload two days prior to the event served as a catalyst for the orchestrated violence by Bajrang Dal and VHP members, primarily targeting the underprivileged Muslims in Mewat.

Hussain further held both the Rajasthan and Haryana police responsible, citing their collective failure to fulfil their duties as contributing factors to the prevailing turmoil in the region.

Akhtar Hussain, the President of Mewat Vikas Sabha, pointed out that activists from groups such as Bajrang Dal, including individuals like Bittu Bajrangi, intensified tensions through inflammatory social media posts and live broadcasts. Hussain stressed the importance of the government taking decisive action against such individuals.

Even individuals with limited formal education, like truck driver Sabir, had an awareness of Monu’s impending presence in Mewat. Sabir speculated that Monu might have allegedly orchestrated the sending of troublemakers under the guise of a religious pilgrimage to disrupt the peace in Mewat.

A fact-finding report titled ‘Beyond The Surface: Exposing Systemic Violence & Police Complicity,’ compiled by the Association for Protection of Civil Rights (APCR), has highlighted a one-sided approach in police arrests following the communal clashes on July 31st in Nuh. This report indicates a disproportionate targeting of Muslims in these arrests, with potential involvement by Hindus largely overlooked. An alarming total of 393 arrests and 160 First Information Reports (FIRs) have been registered in relation to these events.

In the aftermath of the violence, 1208 structures were demolished under the pretence of addressing illegal encroachments in Nuh.

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