PUNISHED FOR BEING BORN TO TIMES OF DIVISIVE POLITICSby HUMRA QURAISHI August 14 2023, 12:00 am Estimated Reading Time: 5 mins, 32 secs
Humra Quraishi writes, “Before I focus on the ground realities in the Mewat region of Haryana, it is important for me to talk about the background to this region”.
The Mewat region continues to be one of the most under-developed Muslim-populated regions in the country. It has been left this way by successive governments. Grim news-reports have been coming on the health of the region, socio-economic conditions and the dismal education facilities. This, when the Mewat region is situated so close to the capital city, New Delhi.
Also stands out is the fact that this martial race, the Meos, did not migrate to Pakistan during the Partition in 1947. A great majority of the Meos had opted to stay put in their country, Hindustan, and not shift to the new country. Their loyalty towards their lands continued thereafter as well! Another fact is that the Mewat Muslims clans follow the Rajput social traditions and customs. The Meos of the Mewat region, fought for the country’s Independence. The Meo freedom fighters were hated by the British rulers. Hated to such an extent that the entire Mewat region was kept backward on all possible fronts. Then. And even now!
It is also important to mention that I have been visiting the Mewat region for over three decades…and each time I have returned home feeling distraught after seeing the levels of poverty and deprivations there. To compound the tragic situation, the Meos are targeted, assaulted by the Hindutva goons. Beef-biryani rumours abound and were spread to vitiate the atmosphere. Their makeshift stalls and carts along the highway were demolished because lies were spread across Hindu communities that beef was being sold by them.
Their major livelihood, cattle raising-grazing-supplying, has been severely affected, with goons attacking them in the name of cow protection. Most Meo families have been sliding down the graph, with unemployment and joblessness hitting them as never before.
The ground realities have only been worsening over the years, with the political climate turning darker by the day. In these recent months, the Mewat region has been simmering over the government’s indifferent attitude on the killing of two Mewati men, Junaid and Nasir, in the spring of 2023. The two young residents of Ghatmeeka in Bharatpur district of Rajasthan were killed in Haryana’s Bhiwani district in February 2023. They were brutally assaulted and killed by Hindutva gangsters in the garb of cow vigilantes. Yet no timely apparent action against the Hindutva brigades was taken. Why?
And in last week’s targeted attacks, dozens of Meos homes were bulldozed, destroyed and ruined in the Mewat region as action of the government for allegedly having thrown stones at the passing ‘Shobha Yatra’ of the Hindu’s. It is said that the structures demolished were encroaching upon government land. Point noted. But can the government take such action without following the legal process?
Where do these people go? Can they survive when they are so financially and socially deprived? Who will listen to their trauma? Have we bothered to hear them…hear their side of the story? Scores of youth have been picked up and put behind bars and now the trials will go on and on while they languish in prison and let their youth go by.
Also, villagers can be heard saying those who have been arrested were never involved in any crime. I must mention here that last year, in 2022, a new jail was opened in Nuh, the township where this incident happened. Before its opening what caught my attention was this news report in an English daily: “Nuh villagers celebrate new jail, read on to know why: Celebrations broke out in many villages of Nuh as a long-pending demand of residents was fulfilled on Monday. Nearly 30,000 residents of Haryana’s Jamtara, Jamalgarh, and Nai, in Punhana, distributed sweets after the inauguration of a new facility in the district. It was neither a school nor a hospital, but a jail.”
Some very disturbing details were to follow. To further quote: It’s a boon, as almost one boy from every second home is lodged in Faridabad prison or Bhondsi jail in Gurugram. ‘We have to spend money to travel. The new jail will be nearer and we can now easily meet our children,’ said Abida Noor of Jamalgarh. Police officials claim that the new facility will reduce the pressure on Gurugram’s Bhondsi jail and the Faridabad jail. Incidentally, around 40 percent of the inmates in two jails hail from Nuh. At present, the Bhondsi jail has a capacity of 3,000 inmates and around 600 of them are of Nuh, and families travel over 60 km to meet their kin.
Why are more Mewat young jailed? Is it sheer poverty or social ills? Can the young be counselled and not jailed? What is the exact background and reason for such a high number of the young Meos imprisoned? How many of them are convicted? How many of them are languishing as under-trials? How many of the undertrials are innocent? How do they get bailed - are their families in a financially sound position to hire lawyers, to get their boys bailed out?
Here it also gets relevant to bring into focus the fact that in our country more Indian Muslims are jailed – that is, many more than their population ratio. Why?
Today, not many activists, NGOs and academics want to work in ‘the Muslim region’ because of the political climate. Also, the ongoing propaganda against the Muslim community. All sorts of myths and misinformation have been spread against the largest minority community. And with that, the gap widening! The only and only way out from this mess is to connect with each other. Let’s bypass and side track the communal propaganda and biases. Let’s be sensible and mature and prudent enough to see through the murky-ugly-dangerous-communal political games. And make way for sense and sensitivity to prevail.
I’m leaving you with these opening lines from the verse of MARION VERWEIJ titled: Space for Peace (Amity Peace Poems) Hawakal Publishers:
‘Peace is longed for by all,/but we drive it constantly away,/Yet give it the opportunity,/And it would gladly stay./So where then to begin/in giving it a safe space?/What is attractive to peace,/what emplacement and pace?/Peace is retreated to the forest,/to the lake and mountain,/What the ecology attractive to/its free flowing,/healing fountain?…’