On September 17, the Nuh district court in Haryana extended the police remand of Congress MLA Mamman Khan by two days, following a request from the police for a five-day extension. This extension is related to three additional cases filed against him at the Nagina police station, all stemming from the incitement of violence in Nuh on July 31.
Khan, a two-time contestant before securing his seat as a Congress MLA in 2019, was arrested on September 15 for his alleged involvement in the communal violence that rocked Nuh and its neighbouring districts. The violence had left six people dead and hundreds injured, turning the town into a police bastion. Even now, buses with police personnel are stationed throughout the town, and SMS and internet services remain suspended.
Satish Kumar, Deputy Superintendent of Police of Ferozepur Jhirka (Nuh), told Frontline that Khan had been summoned multiple times for questioning regarding the violence before his arrest. After Khan’s arrest, three more FIRs were added against him on September 17 by Nuh police. The arrest of the Congress MLA came three days after the police had booked cow vigilante and Bajrang Dal member Monu Manesar. The Haryana police’s inability to arrest Manesar, despite video evidence of his provocative speech before the violence in Nuh in July, had sparked massive outrage on social media.
Monu Manesar, also known as Mohit Yadav, is the leader of Haryana government’s cow protection task force in Gurgaon. He had been at large for six months after being implicated in a murder case. Manesar came to public attention when he was named in the murder of Waris Khan, a youth from Haryana. Waris, a mechanic, was allegedly beaten by cow vigilantes led by Manesar, who had been chasing his vehicle on suspicion of cattle smuggling.
Manesar’s arrest had elicited extreme reactions from Hindutva outfits, including the VHP and Bajrang Dal, which expressed anger and disappointment, stating that the ruling BJP had failed to protect Manesar. Following Manesar’s arrest, the Haryana police transferred his custody to the Rajasthan police, which is investigating the vigilante’s role in the Junaid-Nasir murder case, where he is an accused. Nasir and Junaid, two Muslim men from Rajasthan, were allegedly kidnapped, beaten, and burned alive by Bajrang Dal members on February 15.
While Manesar’s arrest after six months of being named as an accused in the murder case surprised many, Khan’s arrest is being viewed by many as a case of political vendetta because he was the only MLA who had raised the Nasir-Junaid murder case in the Haryana Assembly. Shortly after the killings of Junaid and Nasir, Khan had identified Monu Manesar as one of those responsible for the murders and demanded strong action against him, raising the issue in the Budget Session of the Assembly in February.
Khan had also presented photographs depicting acts of violence allegedly committed by Manesar, as well as images of Manesar carrying weapons. He questioned in the Assembly, “On what basis has the government allowed them to possess weapons?” Manesar’s arms licence, which had been granted to him in 2019, was revoked after the murders of Junaid and Nasir.
Following Khan’s accusations, Haryana Deputy Chief Minister Dushyant Chautala had announced a committee to investigate the matter. However, BJP members accused Khan of inciting violence through his “provocative” statements in the Haryana Assembly.
A balancing act?
Many see the State government’s decision to arrest both Khan and Manesar as a balancing act, attempting to appease Hindutva forces while also being seen as taking action against those who provoked violence.
Aftab Ahmed, the Congress MLA from Nuh, called Khan’s arrest “witch-hunting” and “vendetta politics”. Further, the government’s lax approach towards cow vigilantes is evident in how it handled Manesar’s case. He acted with impunity, brandishing weapons, and terrorising entire villages with his team, both in real life and on social media.
The issue of cow vigilantism is a grave concern in Haryana, with numerous incidents in recent years involving cow vigilantes attacking and lynching Muslim youth on suspicion of cow smuggling, creating a climate of fear and insecurity among the Muslim community.