Chandigarh: The Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s attempt to get a foothold in Muslim-dominated Mewat got a big boost Tuesday, with Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar accepting most of its demands. He visited the district to declare that his government would bring a law to ban forced conversions and set up a Dharmada Board to protect Hindu common properties.
The VHP has, over the last few days, been highlighting the issue of alleged atrocities committed against Hindus and Dalits by the dominant Muslim community in Haryana’s Nuh district, earlier and more commonly known as Mewat.
Throwing its weight behind two “public probe reports” on the alleged atrocities — one that it had commissioned on the condition of Hindus, and the other commissioned by the Haryana Valmiki Sabha on the condition of Dalits — the VHP had taken it upon itself to “set things right” in its new “karmabhoomi”. It had also put pressure on the BJP-led Haryana government headed by Manohar Lal Khattar to act on the alleged atrocities.
Tuesday brought with it a boost for the Right-wing Hindu organisation, with CM Khattar accepting most of the demands it had put forth.
Mewat/Nuh is the only Muslim-dominated district in Haryana, and CM Khattar made a visit to the district Tuesday to hold meetings with various Hindu and Muslim organisations, as well as government officials.
He then announced that the government will bring in a ‘freedom of religion’ act to curb forced conversions, and set up a Dharmada Board to protect Hindu common properties. He added that a unit of the Indian Reserve Battalion (IRB) would be deployed in the district to supplement the police in maintaining law and order.
Though the CM made light of the specific cases of alleged atrocities listed by the VHP, saying those were “minor incidents”, he accepted most of the solutions suggested by the Right-wing Hindu organisation.
Addressing a press conference, Khattar said there was no need to form a joint committee of Hindu and Muslim leaders of the area to further probe these incidents. “These are borne out of general feeling of mutual distrust and over-highlighting by the media,” he said.
He added that there were genuine concerns regarding cow slaughter, for which the government would ensure fast-tracking of the punitive process.
‘Mewat a graveyard for Dalits’
An inquiry into the alleged atrocities committed against Dalits in Mewat/Nuh was conducted by a retired district and sessions judge from Haryana, Pawan Kumar, along with three other members. The probe was completed early this month, and a brief summary was released to the press on 1 June.
The former judge said in the press statement that Mewat has become a “graveyard” for Dalits, and there is “no difference between Pakistan and Mewat”.
Kumar listed several instances of atrocities and crimes committed against Dalit women, including an alleged gangrape and murder “passed off as suicide”, as well as the kidnapping and gangrape of a Dalit girl at the house of a policeman, in which no action was taken.
The statement added that demolishing and looting Dalits’ marriage pavilions was also common, as was forced conversion of women. The judge’s statement also mentioned a case where a Dalit man was allegedly beaten up, his stomach cut open, filled with cotton, and set alight, among other instances of atrocities.
Kumar said such atrocities are not possible without the collusion of the police, and recommended action against them, apart from a further probe by the national commissions for SC and STs.
Mewat/Nuh is the only Muslim-dominated district in Haryana, and the BJP had lost all three assembly seats in the district to the Congress in last year’s assembly elections.
Report on atrocities against Hindus
On 14 May, the VHP set up a three-member investigation team led by Maj. Gen. G.D. Bakshi (retd) to report on the condition of Hindus in Mewat, which was submitted in one day and released by the VHP.
The report stated that three police station areas of Mewat (Punhana, Bichhor and Nagina) were the focal points of atrocities against Hindus families, who were being “brutally tortured by Muslims and no action was being taken by the police”.
The report said the entry of Hindus into their temples had become difficult, and mosques were being constructed through “illegal occupation” by Muslims. “The cattle wealth of Hindus is also not safe. In particular, cow progeny is grabbed hold of, slaughtered and eaten up. In government offices where there are lots of Muslim officers, a hateful attitude towards Hindus is adopted,” it said.
“It also came to light that children are being pushed towards jihad and illegal mosques (are) being constructed,” the report alleged.
The report recommended that the entire police apparatus in the affected areas should be replaced by a new set of “upright, hard-working” police personnel who are able to transcend pressure.
Situation worsened because it was ignored: VHP
Speaking to ThePrint, VHP’s central joint general secretary Dr Surendra Jain said the reason the VHP was focusing on Mewat was because things had “gone too far”.
“Over the years, the condition of the Hindus and Dalits worsened because they were ignored. It happened due to the gross negligence and inaction by the government,” Jain said. “But it is not that we are focusing only on Mewat. We have been talking about issues in Bengal and Bihar as well. Wherever Hindus are under attack, we take it up.”
Jain said, “When the report on the Hindus was submitted by G.D. Bakshi ji, I along with many organisations of Haryana met the Prime Minister about it. We were assured that action will be taken on it. However, after the shocking report on the atrocities on Dalits in Mewat, we have not met the PM. But the state government is committed to take action and ensure the situation changes.”
He added, “We have asked the government that based on the facts and evidence given by us (through these reports) should be probed by a retired judge of a high court, and strict action be taken against those responsible.”
Jain said, “The government could not find out for years what our inquiry officers found out in just two days? The main reason is that the bureaucracy in Mewat is not giving correct information to the government and has misguided it. The government has lost its connect with Mewat; it should jump over the heads of the bureaucrats and connect directly to the people.”
‘Reports aimed at causing disharmony’
Dr Subhan Khan, a retired government official and patron of the Mewat Development Society, an NGO working for the uplift of the area, said it was unfortunate that such reports were generated to spread propaganda.
“I set up this society in1988 and have worked closely on the ground. Muslims and Hindus in Mewat have been living in complete harmony and such reports are generally aimed at causing disharmony and giving everything a communal colour,” Khan told ThePrint.
“In fact, Muslims living in Mewat are not aggressive people. Culturally and traditionally, they are mild because they were among the last to be converted,” he said.
The Congress, meanwhile, has termed the entire exercise a “farce” to defame a particular community.
“These homemade reports commissioned by agenda-driven organisations have no validity. If the condition of Dalits and Hindus was so bad in Mewat, wouldn’t central bodies like the national commissions for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes or the National Human Rights Commission have taken cognisance and sought independent reports?” asked Nuh MLA Aftaab Ahmed.
“The only aim of these reports is to defame a particular community and an area,” Ahmed alleged.