Haryana’s Mewat region has seen a number of incidents of mob violence and lynching in recent years. The victims of the attacks have been mostly Muslim men who were thought to be involved in cow smuggling and slaughter. The most recent incident involves Waris Khan, a car dealer and mechanic, whose family claims that he was killed by Hindutva goons posing as cow protectors.
On January 28, a video of three Muslim youths allegedly being harassed by Bajrang Dal members in Tauru near Nuh in Haryana went viral on social media. The video shows Waris and his friends Shaukeen and Nafis in the backseat of a car being questioned about where they hail from and so on. The interviewer’s tone is hostile while the three young men are barely able to speak. Hours after this video was shot, Waris, 22, father of a three-month-old girl, died. Citing the video as proof, his cousin Shahid Hussain said, “They killed him. They tortured them for hours before he died.”
Even as Waris’ family maintained that “it is a hate crime in the name of gauraksha” (cow protection) and named a local Bajrang Dal member, Monu Manesar, for his involvement in it, Nuh Superintendent of Police (SP) Varun Singla called it an unfortunate road accident.
Waris was on his way back from Rajasthan’s Bhiwandi with Shaukeen and Nafis when their car allegedly met with an accident. The police arrested Shaukeen and Nafis after a mini-truck driver involved in the collision filed a report. Waris died before he could be presented in court. A cow was found in the trunk of Waris’ car, the police said.
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The three men were also charged with violating the Gauvansh Sanrakshan and Gausamvardhan Act of 2015, which prohibits cow slaughter, trafficking, and consumption of beef in the State. However, no investigation has been done into the family’s claim of a hate crime.
Hussain told Frontline that the family had written to the Director General of Police, the Inspector General of Police, the national and State human rights commissions, and the National Commission for Minorities asking for an investigation into the death, but to no avail. He said, “Several eyewitnesses told me that they saw the men beating Waris brutally. We want an investigation into his lynching by right-wing goons.”
Monu Manesar, also known as Mohit Yadav, is a leader of the Haryana government’s cow protection task force in Gurgaon. In 2019, the Manohar Lal Khattar government added teeth to the 2015 ban on cow slaughter by authorising the police to seize any vehicle involved in the transportation of animals for slaughter and search the premises used for such a purpose.
Cow protection task force
In 2021, a State-level special cow protection task force was constituted to combat cow smuggling and slaughter, rehabilitate stray cattle, and pursue legal action against cattle smugglers. Gausevaks and gaurakshaks such as Monu Manesar, so far in an informal set-up, were given the opportunity to join the special task force, which works closely with the Haryana Police, frequently apprehending and handing over suspected cattle smugglers to authorities. It has a network of informers across Panipat, Sonipat, Gurgaon, Rewari, Nuh, Palwal, and Jhajjar districts.
Monu Manesar has a sizeable social media following on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. He can be seen holding weapons and guns in his Instagram profile picture. He regularly posts videos threatening cow smugglers. In one viral video, he is seen walking with guns in a Muslim area, scaring children and forcing people to go inside.
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Speaking to Frontline, Manesar said that while the video of the three men was shot by members of his team, they were not responsible for Waris’ death. “Our work is limited to informing the police about cow smugglers. We handed over the culprits to them. Later, we got news of the death of one of them,” he said. According to the police, the vigilantes informed them of the incident, after which the injured were taken to a medical facility, where Waris succumbed to his injuries from the alleged car crash.
According to the port-mortem report, Waris died of “severe internal bleeding in the abdominal cavity due to rupture of the liver” caused by “blunt force injury”. Waris’ friend Shaukeen said the vigilantes tortured them for hours.
Ramzan Chaudhary, a social and political activist based in Haryana, said the State government had given the vigilantes unchecked power. “They have terrorised entire villages of Muslims, and the police are biased,” he said. He believes the anti-cow slaughter law is increasingly being used to target Muslims and send a “larger message” to the community.
“Cow slaughter is practised by 1 per cent of the population in Mewat region,” he told Frontline. “This involves Muslims as well as Hindus who do it as a business. The police are also involved in some cases.”
According to Chaudhary, the government is not genuinely interested in resolving the issue. “If the government really wanted to get rid of cow smuggling, they would have convicted the criminals and the police could have built strong cases. But then how can this be used as a political tool?” he asked.
The majority of cow smuggling cases tried in Nuh in recent years have resulted in acquittals, suggesting the possibility that the law is being used to target Muslims and settle personal grudges. The law appears to have become a tool of harassment for the police and vigilantes.
In May 2022, several Hindu organisations, including the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), the Bajrang Dal, and the Gau Raksha Dal, organised a mahapanchayat near Nuh to issue an ultimatum to the government to quash all cases against Hindus trying to stop cow slaughter. Later that year, in July, in another panchayat held in Manesar, members of Hindutva groups called for an “economic boycott” of Muslims.
Efforts have been made at the local level, Chaudhary said, to persuade people not to indulge in cow slaughter and smuggling as it has led to an increased attacks on Muslims. Sadiqiue Ahmed Meo, patron of the Mewat Vikas Sabha, a well-known social organisation of Mewat, organises such meetings regularly.
Muslims in Mewat, known as Meos or Meo, have long followed both Hindu and Muslim traditions. “Meo Muslims have many cultural similarities with Hindus, which is why they are also soft targets for ghar wapsi campaigns. Meos were at the forefront in the fight for Independence. Meos don’t give their cows for slaughter even when they turn old. Still, we are considered the other, called Pakistanis,” Chaudhary said.
History of peace
The Muslim-dominated Mewat region spreads across Alwar and Bharatpur in Rajasthan to Nuh, Palwal, Faridabad, and Gurugram in Haryana, and Mathura and Agra in Uttar Pradesh. Nuh (formerly Mewat) is one of Haryana’s 22 districts.
The reasons for lynchings here are complex, but key factors include the economic and social marginalisation of a large population of Muslims who are seen as easy targets. Junaid Khan, 16, from Haryana’s Ballabhgarh, was among those killed in a lynching on a train in June 2017. Rakbar (Akbar Khan), 28, a dairy farmer from Mewat, was beaten to death by a mob of cow vigilantes in 2018, 15 months after Pehlu Khan, 55, a dairy farmer from Nuh was lynched in Rajasthan. The recent death of Waris in Hussainpur has caused fear in his village.
The rise of social media, which is often used to spread misinformation, has heightened religious polarisation between Hindus and Muslims. The situation is made worse by the absence of effective law enforcement and judicial accountability.
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Umar Mohammad Padla, a social activist and farmer leader, said that the two communities have long coexisted peacefully in Haryana. “In recent years, we have seen politicians misguiding people and creating false stories about Muslims,” he said.
Bhupender Chaudhary, national spokesperson of the Rashtriya Lok Dal, said the State has a history of cordial Hindu-Muslim relations. Referring to the lynching of Waris, he said, “my land has become hell”.
“Haryana was never the land of hate. In the past six-seven years, anti-Muslim slogans and panchayats have become common. Hate has been carefully manufactured by the BJP as it suits their ideology,” he said, adding that the opposition has failed to contain the issue. “The opposition doesn’t want to appear too sympathetic. We need stricter laws, but the government is not interested.”
- On January 28, a video of three Muslim youths allegedly being harassed by a few men in Tauru near Nuh in Haryana went viral on social media. Hours after this video was shot, one of them, Waris, 22, died.
- Relatives maintained that “it is a hate crime in the name of gauraksha” (cow protection) and named a local Bajrang Dal member, Monu Manesar, for his involvement in it.
- The police charged the three men in the vehicle with violating the Gauvansh Sanrakshan and Gausamvardhan Act of 2015, which prohibits cow slaughter, trafficking and consumption of beef in the State.
- In 2021, Haryana constituted a special cow protection task force to combat cow smuggling and slaughter, rehabilitate stray cattle, and pursue legal action against cattle smugglers. Gausevaks and gaurakshaks such as Monu Manesar are part of this.
- The Mewat region has seen a number of incidents of mob violence and lynching in recent years.