Donning his uniform, Aas Mohammad sat on a charpoy, next to a rubble heap, which was until a few hours ago his home. Kasim has the same heart-piercing smile as his father. “They demolished my tea stall as well.” The family lost everything within a day. Along with Aas, his brother Hasan Mohammad’s house was also razed on the same day. Hasan’s eight-year-old son sits cluelessly alongside his uncle and brother, with a wandering expression on his face.
Aas serves in the Nalhar Medical College as a security guard from 4:00 pm to 12 midnight. He marked his attendance on August 4, 2023, at the college gate when his sons called informing him that the administration was at their house notifying them that their home is to be demolished. He ran back and tried speaking with the officials who told him that their homes were illegally constructed, and thus must be razed. “They gave us two days of time to evacuate. However, our homes were destroyed within half an hour.” The family spent their night under the lightning sky. The next day, on August 5, 2023, the tea stall and corn cart run by his sons were destroyed along with about forty shops, violating Supreme Court orders.
In his lungi, white kurta, and long beard, Sheikh Ali (name changed) is squatted on the debris of his demolished medical shop, staring into nothingness. Soiled boxes of medicines, a steel plate, a broken plastic basket, and prescriptions are huddled on the ground. Ali’s 25-year-old grandson, Anish (name changed) shares that a group of 15 to 16 Bajrang Dal members harassed and beat him on the day of the violence as he tried to lock his shop and get out. “Oh, you are going to join the rest of your gang so you can attack us?” Anish quoted the Bajrang Dal members saying. He was eventually rescued by the guards present at the Medical college. Anguished and helpless, the young man’s eyes swell as he sighs at the sight of the demolition, “Jeet gaya Monu Manesar!” He asks where and to whom can he complain, “What’s left after all?"
A Court order dated 07/10/2022 reads, "It is directed that status quo regarding possession be maintained by all parties till further orders." Another order, in the petition filed by the administration says, "The special leave petition is dismissed."
When Nawab, 45, objected to the razing of their livelihood source and presented the police with documents, the police tore his papers and detained him. “About 50 cops held me, pushed me, humiliated me, and accused me of partaking in the violence.” When Outlook’s team reached the demolition site, eyewitnesses shared that Nawaz was taken into police custody. It was about an hour later that the police released Nawab after intervention from the MLA. Later, the sturdy-built at 6’3 breaks down at his helplessness and that of his community. “We have been wronged by this administration and government. We are poor people, where shall we go now? How will we educate our children? I persuaded them with the DC-ordered documents, they threw it at me and abused me.”
Women, elders, and children rummage through what's left of their homes and livelihood from morning to evening as the administration’s bulldozer, driven by Arshad Ali continued its work throughout the day. Not only did the administration violate SC orders, but they also deceitfully tore down their homes and businesses to the ground by presenting some of them with a backdated notice which is from June 2023.
DiPRO Pooja Singh tells Outlook that the administration decided only two days ago to undertake the demolition work. When asked what the exact number of the shops and homes razed, she responded by saying that the figures of the demolished permanent and temporary destroyed structures are yet unknown even to the administration. "Only senior officials can tell you the reason," Singh responds to the question of what motivated the administration to carry out the incessant demolitions days within communal violence.
Treacherous Aravallis, Safer Than Homes
Lightings and thunderstruck Nuh, but Ghasera resident Mohsin (name changed) is gearing up to seek shelter in the dense forests of the Aravalli mountains surrounding the district. He freezes in the middle of the road as soon as a police siren echoes in the silence of the night. As soon as the van crosses him, he vanishes into thick darkness. The 28-year-old auto driver in Gurgaon will tag along hundreds of children and youth, all men, including his 22 and 14-year-old brothers. For six nights in a row, only women, elders, and children spend the night under their roofs. "How do you manage when it rains during the night?" Mohsin responds, "We use polythenes to cover our heads, it's not like we have any options."
Following the communal violence in Nuh on July 31 during the VHP-Bajrang Dal-led Brij Mandal Shobha Yatra, villagers across the district claim that around 300 Meo youth have been picked by the police with no information to most families. The crackdown by the police started on the night of July 31st and continues to be operated, especially during the eerie hours of the night.
CCTV footage from the time of the violence in Nuh shows that 35-year-old Imran, son of Abdul Qadir was present at Chahat Communication, a shop in Nuh’s Punjabi market. Posing for selfies at the Taj Mahal with his family and kids, 31-year-old Saddam was in Agra on July 31 and returned on August 1, 2023. Tickets from the fort and toll fastag receipts from the date were provided by his family as evidence of his absence in Nuh on the day of the communal clash outbreak. However, cops barged in and picked up seven members of this family on August 2, 2023, while the family sat together and ate, accusing them of violence on July 31st. A 16-year-old boy from the family was also picked along and was taken into police custody for two days. While the police released the teenage boy, all other men of the family including 42-year-old Ibrahim and 45-year-old Ismail remain in police custody.
Mother of eight, over 60-year-old Noor Jahan (name changed) frantically ran through police stations, to no avail, after her two sons, 20 and 18 years old, and son-in-law, 22, went missing three days ago. The widow lives with her father-in-law, two daughters living with disability, a son-in-law, two sons, and a daughter-in-law. At the sight of the media, her 22-year-old daughter breaks down in the hopes that her brothers and brother-in-law will soon return home.
Scared of the police, and in fear for her children’s safety, Noor Jahan approached a lawyer after much persuasion from a neighbour, three days after the men of the family were picked by the police. She fights back tears as she describes her sons, who study in the nearby library, one prepares for NEET and has books stocked all over the house. “My sons are very dedicated, the younger one had gotten through college but his admissions required a big amount. I offered to sell away our land for his fees, but he refused saying that he will study harder and get better marks.”
22-year-old Mahboob Rahman, a Rohingya refugee living in Nuh’s Ward 7 camp since 2014 with his father, mother, and younger siblings was picked up by security forces on August 4, 2023. Despite repeated requests, the administration did not provide any information about the young man to his family.
Meo boys and men, from across the district have been seeking shelter in the treacherous forces of Aravalli, which is flooded and infested with mosquitoes, insects, and snakes, to save themselves from the rampant raids and crackdown by the law and order forces.
When asked about the breakdown by the administration, Nuh PRO Krishna Kumar told that a total of 56 FIRs have been lodged by the police and 145 arrests have been made so far. He said that at present about 1900 police and armed security personnel, including BSF, ITBP, CRPF, and RAFP are ensuring law and order in the region. Contrary to eyewitness claims, videos, and the administration’s previous statements, Kumar said that 850 police personnel were present on the ground on the day of the yatra.
When asked if the police were aware that a crowd as big as 25,000 was expected to participate in the yatra, the PRO made shocking revelations as he said that the information given to them by the procession organizers was only that of 1000 to 2000 participants. Furthermore, contrary to over a dozen testimonies, he said that family members of everyone who have been detained and arrested by the police were informed on time, as per the procedure.
On August 5, Haryana Home Minister was reported claiming a ‘big game plan’ behind communal clashes in Nuh district. He was also quoted saying that he had no information about the clashes and violence until 3 PM on the day of the violence. However, the peace committee meeting held on July 26 with the police and members of both Hindu and Muslim communities had submitted a report to the Haryana government, mentioning the palpable tensions in the village triggered by Monu Manesar and Bittu Bajrangi’s provocative videos. The PRO however says that he does not remember the date of the submission of the report as he was on leave during those days. Additionally, despite the strenuous environment in the villages prior to the violence, both the SP, Varun Singla and DC Prashant Panwar went on leave on the day of the yatra. Both officers were transferred by the state government between August 3 and August 4.
Seven FIRs, received by Outlook all point to complaints registered against the Muslim community, mostly by officials. It took Salegadhi resident, Md Arshad, 51, four days to approach a lawyer and file his complaint against those who burnt his cement shop to the ground. Arshad claims that he’s suffered a loss of Rs 15 to 16 lacs at the hands of a mob of 150-200, carrying guns, swords, sticks, and rods, screaming, “Jab mulle kaate jayenge, tab Ram Ram chillayenge” (Muslims will scream in the name of Ram when they will be slaughtered). He further added that the atmosphere in the town and his own fears prohibited him from registering a complaint so far.