The Deputy Chief Minister of Haryana on the violence in Nuh, the wrestlers’ protest, the growing BJP-JJP alliance, and more.
In the political landscape of Haryana, the ascent of the Jannayak Janta Party (JJP) has drawn considerable attention. Established in 2018 by Dushyant Chautala, the great-grandson of former Deputy Prime Minister Devi Lal—known as Jan Nayak or people’s leader—the JJP swiftly established its presence in the State.
The JJP’s rise marks a significant shift from the era of the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD), which Devi Lal founded in 1996, and held sway over Haryana’s politics for years. In the 2014 Lok Sabha election, Dushyant won from Hisar. In 2018, he formed the JJP after breaking away from the INLD over leadership issues. The JJP’s success underscores the enduring legacy of Devi Lal, who championed Jat representation, pro-poor policies, social harmony, and farmers’ rights.
Dushyant captured the imagination of the youth, but his decision to form an alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) after the 2019 Assembly election surprised many. That he was propelled to the post of Deputy Chief Minister pointed to the JJP’s growing influence.
The BJP-JJP alliance has come under scrutiny several times. This includes the farmers’ agitation in 2020-21 against three controversial farm laws passed by Parliament in September 2020 (which were repealed later). The Jat community and other rural voters who support the JJP were against the laws. Then came the wrestlers’ protest against allegations of sexual harassment involving BJP MP Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh during his tenure as the president of the Wrestling Federation of India. Supporters of the JJP stood with the “daughters of Haryana” as most wrestlers are from the community.
The latest episode to test the BJP-JJP alliance happened on July 31, when a religious procession organised by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) ended in violence while passing through a Muslim-majority area in Nuh district. What began as stone-throwing escalated into widespread violence across several districts of Haryana. Four civilians and two home guards lost their lives, and over 200 people were injured. Numerous vehicles and shops were set ablaze. The violence spread to the neighbouring areas of Gurugram and Palwal in the National Capital Region.
The procession’s route through a Muslim-majority area has largely been peaceful earlier, but rumours of the presence of Monu Manesar, a Bajrang Dal member and gaurakshak accused in the murder of two Muslim youth, fuelled resentment among Nuh residents. The limited presence of the police allowed the violence to escalate.
Following the incident, the Haryana government arrested more than 300 people, filed over 150 FIRs, and suspended Internet and SMS services in Nuh and Palwal districts.
The authorities also demolished at least a thousand houses and shops claiming that they were “illegal structures” amid allegations of targeting of Muslims. The incident exposed the underlying societal tensions and sparked discussions about the lack of effective preventive measures by the authorities.
Weeks after the violence, on August 13, Dushyant granted an interview to Frontline at his farmhouse in Delhi.
Ever since the BJP came to power in Haryana, the largely peaceful Mewat region has been polarised communally. The violence in Nuh also was not spontaneous. Was it not the government’s responsibility to control the violence?
Such communal riots take place quite frequently in this country. What’s important is how quickly the violence can be brought under control and how we can minimise the casualties. We have to look at why these clashes took place in Nuh for the first time. The Haryana Police are already in the process of doing so—more than 300 people have been arrested and over 150 FIRs have been registered. With regard to the spread of communal disharmony, social, political, and official lapses have to be investigated. We will take action against whoever is found responsible in any way.
You stated recently that you had information that morning itself of the possibility of violence and that you had alerted the authorities. With both BJP and anti-BJP camps agreeing that the violence was planned, why was it still allowed to unfold?
It was not in the morning. I was informed by one of my party people about the violence when it began. The Nuh SP was on leave, and I spoke to the Palwal SP, and ADG CID. He could not come from Palwal at the time. ADG Law and Order and SP Bhiwani were then put on duty to control the situation. Through your medium, I want to request those who claim to know people who were involved in the “pre-planned” violence to come forward and name them. Let us take action against them.
It is a fact that tension has been building up in the Nuh region for several years, the repercussions of which we saw recently. We managed to control the violence within a few hours. It could have easily spread to Gurugram, Rewari, Faridabad, and other places. During the anti-Sikh riots in 1984 in Delhi, many Sikh families even in Rewari in Haryana were burnt. We managed to curtail and manage this kind of repercussion.
The High Court of Haryana and Punjab has observed that the demolition drive carried out after the violence in Nuh was targeted at a particular community. The court used the term “ethnic cleansing”. Many individuals whose houses have been demolished claim that they were not served notice or served on the day. How will you address this issue?
We welcome the court’s observations. Encroachments on government land were removed. How can they say that it was their house when it was an encroachment and multiple notices were served on them? This happens across India, in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, and not just in Haryana. The demolition drive is not illegal.
I don’t understand why we want to connect the demolition of encroachments with the violence in Nuh. But yes, if someone says that they were not given prior notice, we will file an official written response in the High Court. On our part, we have taken some strong steps, such as assigning new and highly experienced officials in important positions who are capable of containing any violence in the region in future.
The demolition drive followed Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar’s statement that “those involved” in the violence and arson in Nuh and nearby areas will be made to pay for the damage. Is it wise to follow the UP bulldozer model in Haryana?
Be it UP or any other State, there are relevant departments in each State which govern encroachment drives, like we have the Town and Country Planning department in Haryana. Their job is to prevent the spread of illegal activities. Any house should comply with the government’s regulations, if not action can be taken even if it is connected with another issue. All this comes under the set regulations of the government
The BJP practices the politics of polarisation, but you made a deal with them after the 2019 election. Do you not become a party to such politics?
For a long time, there have been efforts by cow vigilantes, also known as gaurakshaks, to disrupt peace in this area. But we do not know if they are outsiders or locals. The police are looking into it.
“I don’t understand why we want to connect the demolition of encroachments with the violence in Nuh.”
In Haryana, Bajrang Dal members have been empowered to protect cows in the name of gauraksha, but many of their social media accounts call out Muslim youth on the suspicion of cow smuggling, and they boast of vehicles and even arms. It seems the Bajrang Dal and the VHP have become tools for the BJP’s polarisation tactics.
Beef consumption in north India is lower compared with the southern part of the country or the north-eastern region. People here are more attached to cows, especially because they keep cows. Historically, several cases have been reported in Haryana of courts punishing people for lynching people in the name of cow trading. A mob has no face. In today’s age, it has become more complex because of social media. Magazines, newspapers, and television function under government guidelines, framework, and regulations, but not social media. With the IT world evolving at a fast pace, it is difficult for anyone to control it or keep track of it. We are still trying. The government is bringing in laws such as the Digital Personal Data Protection Act, 2023, to govern social media.
When it comes to the Bajrang Dal, the name of Monu Manesar keeps popping up. His videos were allegedly the main cause of the violence, and he is also an accused in the murder of two Muslim men, yet he is free. Is the Haryana government protecting him?
No, we are not. Despite the collective efforts of the Rajasthan and Haryana Police, he has not yet been found. They have conducted joint raids three times.
“Magazines, newspapers, and television function under government guidelines, framework, and regulations, but not social media.”
Manesar has been posting videos regularly.
It is difficult to monitor who is going live from which place. The police have their own intel and points of information collection. The Haryana Police and the Rajasthan Police are working jointly. They have arrested hundreds of people so far. Whoever has indulged in violence will be arrested.
You come from a family that has wielded power for at least four decades. But the BJP often criticises dynasty politics.
Being a dynast does not make any difference if one is capable and has a clear vision. I have been an MP, then an MLA, and the Deputy CM. Does my being from a certain family colour the way I work? It does not. In fact, the legacy of my great grandfather, Chaudhary Devi Lal, just means that I have a bigger responsibility to manage four generations of cadre. I think it becomes a bigger challenge to keep them motivated.
There are many political families who could not sustain in politics and crumbled. Only those who are capable are able to sustain it. And I can happily say that I am the fourth generation of Devi Lal. I can proudly say that it’s us and the Gandhi family that has been able to sustain itself for four generations within the circles of power.
Is it a crime to serve people through politics? Doctors want their sons to become doctors, same with lawyers and teachers, while we politicians are the only ones who have to appear for a test every five years. Our jobs are not permanent. Only the public has the power to appoint and reappoint us. If they trust and vote for us, we have to show them that we are capable.
“Being a dynast does not make any difference if one is capable and has a clear vision. Does my being from a certain family colour the way I work?”
The Assembly election, it is said, may see a direct contest between the BJP and the Congress. Where do you see yourself and the JJP in this?
If we talk about the Lok Sabha election next year, it will be between the NDA and the UPA’s new version called “INDIA” [Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance]. Many such alliances have come into being before but have been unable to sustain themselves. INDIA’s sustainability is, I think, currently in question. Coming under one umbrella in today’s times looks tough.
Would you consider coming under this umbrella?
No, we are part of the NDA. We don’t need to look for another alliance.
Haryana’s politics in the past revolved around socialist leaders, including Devi Lal and Om Prakash Chautala. Is there any possibility of the offshoots of the Lok Dal, including the INLD and the JJP, to come under one umbrella in the coming election?
It is too early to say how things will pan out in the future. I feel the NDA is doing good work in the country. Just look at how the COVID-19 situation was managed. In a country like India, that itself is a huge accomplishment.
You won a large number of votes from the Jat community, but your silence or collaboration with the ruling party on the farmers’ agitation and the wrestlers’ protest seems to have angered them. Do you feel there is resentment building up against you for going with the BJP?
I want to ask them, over which issue have I not supported them? Farmers are the largest beneficiaries of our policies in the State. We are buying vegetables on MSP [minimum support price]. There has been progress in the three years of the BJP-JJP government in Haryana.
We are a small State yet we contribute hugely to the national agricultural produce. Haryana’s GST revenue collection is growing at a fast pace. I believe that our voter base is intact. In the 2019 Assembly election, we got 17 per cent of the votes and 10 MLAs; in the next Assembly election, our target is to get 40 per cent of the votes.
In several mahapanchayats across Haryana, there have been talks about an economic boycott of Muslims. Do you support this?
No one can boycott people of any community. This society functions only when people from all castes and religions come together. Some people, for their own publicity, come up with such things. In a country where Muslim artisans make Hindu idols and Hindu traders sell the marble used in the making of big mosques even abroad, the coexistence cannot diminish. There are some anti-social elements who are trying to damage the cordiality between the Hindu and Muslim communities.