Nuh, Haryana: Mohammad Haroon, a 35-year-old shop owner, looked despondent and helpless. On August 1, while sitting with his family, he received a distressing call from a friend in Gurgaon. The friend informed him that his shop, along with two other Muslim-owned shops in sector 66, Gurgaon, had been burnt down by a group of Hindu men.
“When he told me about the attack on my shop, a shiver ran down my spine, and I almost cried upon hearing the news,” he said in a cracking voice.
Haroon was running a restaurant in the area for the last four years and had never felt unsafe or fearful until the night of 31 July. As he was closing his shop that evening, he heard that a nearby mosque in sector 57 had been burnt down by a Hindu mob, resulting in the death of a mosque priest.
The gravity of the situation became apparent to him and his five workers, they decided to go back to their village – Ali Meo area in Palwal district, Haryana, for safety.
“I had a strong feeling that something bad was going to happen here as well. So, as a precaution, we decided to leave before any untoward incidents could occur. Looking back, I truly believe that if we had stayed in our shops, we might not have survived,” Haroon told BOOM.
A shopkeeper near Haroon's shop, an eyewitness spoke to BOOM on the condition of anonymity. He said that on August 1 around 3 pm, a group of 30-40 men from the right-wing group Bajrang Dal arrived on bikes, wielding saffron flags, batons, and even knives. They stopped at the shops and set the three Muslim-owned shops on fire.
“The attackers raised anti-Muslim slogans and hurled abuses while vandalizing the shops. Surprisingly, despite a police patrolling party being stationed merely 200 meters away, they only arrived at the scene after the shops were already engulfed in flames,” the shopkeeper said.
Haroon hasn’t visited his shop due to the tense situation in the area. He is even uncertain about resuming his business there after this incident, as he now fears the area is no longer safe for him. “I cannot bear to see the ashes of my shop. It was my years of hard work that I managed to establish a shop there. What was my fault? I recently borrowed money from a friend to renovate my shop, and now it's all gone. Is this the kind of ‘Vikas’ (development) that Modi ji keeps advocating for the common people?” he said in a pessimistic tone.
Speaking to BOOM, Badshahpur Gurugram Station House Officer (SHO) Satish Kumar said that they have initiated four FIRs against unknown persons under IPC sections 157, 148, 149, 295A, 427, and 436 in relation to the incident.
“So far we have not made any arrests but we are checking the CCTV footage and are investigating who were the people involved in burning down the shops,” Kumar said.
What happened on 31 July in Nuh
Around 40 kilometers away from the incidents in sectors 57 and 66 in Gurgaon, lies the Nuh district of Haryana, called Mewat until 2016. There was an eerie silence in the area, with all shops, other business establishments, and even schools closed. The roads were dotted with a heavy presence of police and Rapid Action Force personnel to maintain law and order in the area.
BOOM spoke to locals in the area to understand what happened on July 31 that led to the communal violence. The incident resulted in the death of six people, with dozens injured, and properties worth crores were destroyed.
At around 10:30 am, the Brajmandal yatra, with participation of Hindus from various areas of Haryana, reached Nuh's main town. While a few vehicles continued towards their main destination without stopping there, according to locals, the violence erupted around 2 pm when certain Hindu groups began chanting pro-Hindutva slogans and mocking Muslims in the vicinity.
Nuh is primarily a Muslim-dominated area. Prior to July 31, the Hindu community, comprising around 20% of the population, had been peacefully coexisting with them for generations.
Shanawaz, a local resident who chose not to disclose his full name due to fear of reprisals, recalled the events he witnessed. He said, “We were watching them from a distance, and it was normal for them to raise pro-Hindu slogans as it was their rally. However, some of them started mocking and provoking the Muslim youth.” Shanwaz also alleged that the men made lewd gestures at their women, who were watching the Yatra from their rooftops.
This, he claims provoked the youth that escalated tensions in the area.
Shanawaz further explained that the local residents from this area and neighbouring regions had already informed the police and administration about their concerns regarding the Yatra passing through their locality. They had specifically warned about the potential participation of Bajrang Dal member Monu Manesar and his associates, including Bittu Bajrangi, in the Yatra. Despite these warnings, the Yatra was allowed to proceed, leading to the outbreak of violence.
Manesar, infamous for his videos promoting anti-Muslim violence and wanted for the murders of two Muslims, Junaid and Nasir, back in February, had actively encouraged his followers to participate in the rally held in the Mewat district. His involvement and appeal likely contributed to the heightened tensions and subsequent violence in the area.
“People of this area don’t like him for his heinous actions. He is the murderer of our two brothers and has continuously posted anti-Muslim videos. It's disheartening that despite being the main accused in their killings, he hasn't been arrested yet.” he said, sounding dissatisfied with the lack of accountability for Manesar's alleged crimes.
Speaking to BOOM, Wakeel Ahmad, a 30-year-old native of Nuh, firmly believes that Manesar and Bajrangi are responsible for the outbreak of violence. He said that prior to the Yatra, Manesar had shared a provocative video inciting Muslims by informing them that they were planning to participate in the rally. The viral video played a significant role in fueling tensions and escalating the situation that eventually turned violent in the area.
What were the calls before the Yatra?
In the video, Bajrangi is heard saying that on July 31, he will be visiting the area and using derogatory language to refer to Muslims, stating, “jijaji aa rahe hain, swagat karna,” Your brother-in-law is coming, do welcome me.” In the background, his supporters are heard chanting, “Jijaji aa rahe hain" (brother-in-law is coming). “The video's content and the language is provocative,” Ahmed said.
A group of young people from Mewat, whose video is also viral online, called for a protest against Manesar. They posted on social media and met with government officials and civil society members, warning them about the situation, but the Haryana administration did not take any action.
After the riots, Deputy Chief Minister Dushyant Chautala claimed that the participants of the procession did not inform the authorities adequately about their yatra. Haryana Home Minister Anij Vij said that the violence was planned in advance.
Rao Inderjit Singh, a BJP leader and member of parliament from Gurgaon, pointed out that the participants in the procession behaved provocatively by carrying weapons.
He questioned, “Who provided them with weapons for the procession? This is not right. Provocative actions also occurred from their side. I am not denying the possibility of provocation from the other side as well,” Singh was quoted by the Indian Express.
According to media reports, in July, Bajrangi was booked for both “abusing the Muslim community” and allegedly displaying weapons.
In a mahapanchayat held in Haryana in 2021, he made a controversial statement, declaring his support for individuals responsible for the killing of a Muslim (Asif) and making a disturbing reference to his afterlife.
“We are with the brothers who killed Asif and sent him to his 72 virgins.” These statements and actions have added to the controversies surrounding him and his role in inciting violence.
Ahmed said violence soon broke out between the groups. “They have already come here with the mindset to create violence. This was not a Yatra, this was a well-organized plan to disrupt the peace in the name of Yatra. All of the Bajrang Dal and VHP people were carrying weapons and knives with them to attack us,” he said firmly.
However, Manesar did not make an appearance and asserted on Wednesday that he bears no connection to the violence or the killings. The double murder case is associated with the killing of two Muslim cousins from Rajasthan, whose charred bodies were discovered in Haryana's Bhiwani back in February.
Hindus of Nuh’s version
During the violence, numerous carts, cars, shops, and other properties suffered damage. Among them was a garments shop owned by Sheetal, a 70-year-old native of Nuh, and run by her daughters. An angry mob forcefully broke the locks of the shop, looted it, and vandalized everything within it. The shop's roof was also destroyed during the rampage.
“We are poor people, and now who will compensate us for this devastating loss? Everything that is happening is driven by politics, and it's the poor who become casualties in the process. My daughter was running this shop to support our family of five. They are orphans with no one else to look after them,” Sheetal sobbed, her voice filled with anguish and despair.
Sheetal recalled that next to her shop, there was a roadside cart owned by a local Muslim, which was also looted and destroyed during the violence. She recounted how he was heartbroken, sobbing when he saw his cart reduced to ashes the following day. “They (the rally) came and left, but now it is us who will suffer the consequences of this loss,” Sheetal expressed in a state of helplessness.
A group of local Hindus sat outside a shop front at the main bus stop, engrossed in discussions about the events of July 31. While acknowledging that they had lived in harmony with their Muslim neighbours, they shared fears with BOOM that this incident might alter the course of history and disrupt the peaceful coexistence they once enjoyed.
Yash Mahathur, a 19-year-old witness, recounted the events, stating, “They attacked the rally and even attempted to target a Mandir located on the other side of the road. I witnessed a group of Muslim boys burning vehicles and damaging Hindu shops in the town. I am not sure if they were from this village or nearby villages, but all of them were Muslims.”
Sitting next to him, Rahul, another local resident, recounted how they quickly fled the area and then stood guard outside their homes to ensure the safety of their families. Rahul described the scenes as horrific, with their family members fearing for their lives and crying out for safety. He added that their homes were also targeted with stone pelting during the violence.
The Haryana government reported a death toll of six individuals in the violence, with 116 people arrested and 90 detained. A total of 44 FIRs have been registered in connection with the clashes, which also extended to neighboring regions such as Delhi and Rajasthan's Bhiwani.
According to the police, the conflict erupted when a group of young men halted VHP's 'Brij Mandal Jalabhishek Yatra' near Khedla Mod in Nuh, leading to the pelting of stones at the procession. The incident resulted in damage to several police vehicles and the burning of cars during the communal clashes across various districts of Haryana.
ACP Varun Kumar of Haryana said in a press briefing, “A lot of rumours are being spread and videos are being posted on social media. We are identifying people. People have also been arrested and detained. I want to inform the public that we are not against Hindus or Muslims. We are against those who are misbehaving, misleading, and indulging in wrong activities. We are acting for the safety of the people and we don't want people to spread rumors.”
The government announced that internet services in Nuh, Faridabad, and Palwal districts, along with Sohna, Pataudi, and Manesar sub-divisions of Gurugram district, will remain suspended until August 5 following the recent communal violence. This measure aims to ensure public order and safety in the affected areas.