Chaudhary Safhat, a 77-year-old landowning farmer, looked stressed and concerned when I met him in Meoli, a village 8 km from the epicentre of the violence that erupted in the city of Nuh in Haryana on 31 July 2023.
Six people—three Hindus, two Muslims and one Sikh —were killed in the violence that erupted around noon after a religious procession organised by a Hindu militant organisation, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, made its way through Nuh. The violence spread to the nearby towns of Palwal, Faridabad and Gurugram. The Muslims bore the brunt of the crackdown by the state after the violence in the form of arrests and the demolition of properties suddenly declared “illegal constructions”.
Two judges of the Punjab and the Haryana High Court asked whether it was “ethnic cleansing”.
I went to Meoli village after driving through the deserted roads of Nuh. Only the police and the Rapid Action Force (RAF) were around. All the shops were closed, as local Muslims alleged that Hindu shopkeepers were not letting shops open even after the administration had provided a two-hour window for the shops to open.
As I reached Meoli, I saw the families of those arrested gathered at the village head Safhat’s house. The men sat on stools in a circle and started telling us their plight. They told me that the police arrived on 1 August early at around 5 am with 20 vehicles and, without any warrants, picked up men from the village. The relatives of the arrested men have no idea what the charges against the men picked up from their homes.
Among those arrested by the police were nine grandchildren of Safhat, aged 21 to 38.
As he sat on a cot, Safhat showed me the date sheet of the LLB exam of Lords University in Alwar and two bus tickets, one going to Alwar from Nuh on 31 July at 8:21 am. The other was for returning to Nuh from Alwar on 31 July at 11:46 am. He said that his 21-year-old grandson, Aahir Khan, went to give his LLB exam on the day of the violence.
Safhat named them all. He introduced me to his three sons, whose sons had been arrested.
“Right now, we are not even going to the police station to meet them. As we fear the police might arrest us too. Such is the level of fear,” Safhat said.
“There has always been peace and brotherhood in our village. You can ask the Hindus here. We had no relation with the violence.”
The only Hindu present there, Maniram, a tailor, didn't even know about the VHP’s procession. He came to know about it only after the violence.
I asked Safhat if the videos of two Hindu extremists, Manesar and Bittu Bajrangi, which they made before the 31 July procession, had reached this village. He replied with a question while referring to Bittu Bajrangi’s video, where he said, “Tumhara jija aa raha hai” (your brother-in-law is coming).
“You tell me if someone speaks about your home like that, how would you feel if he says he is going to his in-laws?” he said.
Bajrangi’s taunt was a sexist slur targeting Muslim women, directed at Muslim men, telling them he was married to their sisters.
As soon as I stepped outside his house after talking to them, the village women surrounded me. During the conversation, they alleged that the police used abusive language while arresting men from their homes. They also told me how financially difficult it is for them to run their homes without the men.
You can read Kaushik Raj’s full story here.