Haryana violence: Online provocation hinted at potential communal clashes

By: ilma hasan&
August 7 2023

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Haryana violence: Online provocation hinted at potential communal clashes

Source: Hindustan Times/Sipa USA via Reuters Connect

Members of multiple right-wing and local community outfits had posted provocative videos online in the days leading up to the Brajmandal Yatra on July 31, indicating preemptive measures by Haryana state authorities could have stopped the communal clashes that killed seven people.

The violence started last Monday afternoon when crowds pelted stones at a Hindu procession of about 200 participating in the Brajmandal Yatra, an event organized by Hindu nationalist outfits the Bajrang Dal and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) in Nuh area. The group that was attacked was part of a larger procession of thousands. 

Although the crowd initially dispersed, it regrouped resulting in violence in the area. By evening the clashes spread to Gurugram and Sohna, with rioters spotted carrying arms. Late Monday night, a mosque in Gurugram’s sector 57 – the only government allocated land for Muslims in the area to offer Friday namaaz – was burnt down and the Imam died after crowds shot at him. Two home guards died, dozens of police officerswere injured, and vehicles, police stations, shops, and petrol pumps were torched. Nearly 2,500 people reportedly left stranded inside a temple were rescued by police later.

The Brajmandal Yatra has increasingly been at the center of the communal tensions – similar to a nationwide wide trend of incendiary commentary in the days leading up to religious festivals in the last few years.

The yatra, or procession, entails Hindu’s visiting multiple temples in several parts of Haryana including Mewat – a region where tensions have routinely been escalating owing to its significant Muslim population. In 2022, The Quint reported on how Mewat (renamed Nuh six years ago) was increasingly witnessing vigilante violence and was subject to anti-Muslim rhetoric by Hindutva groups. The region that pans from Alwar and Bharatpur in Rajasthan to parts of Haryana, has nearly 80 percent Muslim population and over 20 percent Hindu population, the report stated.

Strong arming days before the event 

Reports suggest that the initial stone pelting was triggered by videos posted on social media by  Bajrang Dal activists in the state. And rumors that Monu Manesar, a cow vigilante of the Bajrang Dal booked for the murder of two Muslims found dead in a burnt car in February, would be attending the procession further stoked tensions. 

Preceding the event, Faridabad’s Bajrang Dal cow vigilante incharge Bittu Bajrangi uploaded two videos: An Instagram post on Sunday, July 30, in which Bajrangi is walking in slow motion to a song with the lyrics, "Goli pe goli chalengi, baap toh baap rahega (gunshots will be exchanged, the father will remain the father),” captioned, “Mewat, I am coming.” Another one showed him standing with a crowd of saffron clad men saying, “We will be crossing with about 150 cars, don’t say we didn’t tell you or meet you properly.” 

Screenshot of Bittu Bajrangi’s Instagram account

Manesar, uploaded a video announcing he will reach Nuh to participate in the procession on Monday, and urged people to visit Mewat temples in large numbers. He later said that he did not attend the rally on VHP’s advice.

Additionally, a Logically Facts investigation found members of local outfits also uploaded videos calling for a “show of strength” in Mewat. On July 28, the Jat Association’s official X account (formerly Twitter) posted, “The parikrama (ritual) has started in Braj. Hindus from all over the country are uniting day and night but Hindus passing through Mewat region have time till before 5 p.m. Because these Mughals tease Hindu women, rob devotees, even killing is not a big deal. And no one can end this terror.” The account has over 50,000 followers and the post had over 2,92,000 views and was retweeted over 2,300 times.

Screenshot of The Jat Association’s post on X

In a reply to the post, a gujjar group called Gurjar Ek Awaz posted a video of a man speaking to locals saying, “Earlier there used to be problems conducting the rituals, if the Gujjars aren’t there, there would be problems in Mewat. A group of men protect us through the night, if they’re not there would be rioting. Are the governments making any arrangements for protection, there are so many Muslims?” The post was viewed over 30,000 times. 

On July 29, a Facebook page called Bajrang Dal Jhajjar uploaded a video alleging a crowd had pelted stones at a bus in a Delhi neighborhood close to Bahadurgarh, Haryana. “What happened in Nangloi today will probably happen in Bahadurgarh soon. Understand the situation,” the caption read. Two days later, after violence hit Nuh, clashes were witnessed in Bahadurgarh amid the unrest. 

Screenshot of Bajrang Dal Jhajjar’s Facebook post

On July 25, VHP leader Ishwar Mittal posted a video speaking to some members explaining the itinerary of the procession including visiting holy sites that were once “occupied by Muslims.” “Make sure you each take your family members, at least two or three cars each, so the people of Mewat and our Hindu brothers also understand that the Hindu’s are awakening,” he said in the video.

In response, accounts seemingly having Muslim profiles posted videos challenging Manesar and threatening retaliation if he reached Nuh, Hindustan Times reported

Users alleged that Muslims were ready with “cylinder bombs” to attack the ongoing procession. A screenshot of an alleged Facebook video of a Muslim man captioned, “Come Monu (Manesar) all of Mewat is waiting for you” has received over 2,00,000 views. Propaganda websites are also writing about how “Islamists pre planned” the attacks.

Screenshot of user on X alleging Muslim’s preplanned violence

Users raise alarm on Manesar’s announcement

Two days before the event, several handles - some seemingly Muslim others indicating bot and bot like behavior - tagged local authorities including Bharatpur Police shedding light on Manesar’s announcement to join the procession. Manesar reportedly could not be arrested for over five months in the February double murder case of two cattle traders. 

Logically Facts monitored online activity using relevant keywords the week before the yatra. We found over 3,300 unique authors posting about Manesar tagging police authorities on July 30 and July 31, according to Brandwatch data. Journalist Ashraf Hussain’s tweet from two days before the event was reposted nearly 3,900 times - mostly by Muslim accounts. 

Similarly, using other keywords used in posts mentioning Bharatpur Police, we found Brajmandal Yatra was mentioned by over 700 unique handles the weekend before the event, according to Brandwatch.

User Shokat Ali, who has over 8,000 followers on July 29 quoted Manesar’s video writing, “Dear @BharatPolice on 31/07/2023 Monday at the Mewat Branjmanal Yatra everyone come in large numbers, and go to the temples in Mewat.” The user had tagged Rajasthan police’s handle, the state’s chief minister’s office account, among others. It had nearly 148,000 views and 800 retweets. 

Screenshot of Shokat Ali’s X post

Several other accounts tagged authorities intimating them of Manesar’s potential attendance. “This is the man behind the Bhiwandi incident in which Junaid-Nasir were burnt alive by Monu Manesar. Apparently the Rajasthan Police has been searching for him for four to five months, but he seems to be making an appeal to come to Mewat. @BharatpurPolice please arrest him,” a user posted. 

Screenshot of post on X

Another user Sahil Khan Mev shared Manesar’s video writing, “In Mewat if Hindu-Muslim riots happen then the onus lies on Ashok Gehlot (Rajasthan chief minister) and ML Khattar (Haryana chief minister). Possible the Brajmandal Yatra happening on 31/07/2023 could damage our ancestors' mosques and graves?” Logically Facts has contacted Bharatpur Police for a comment and will update this article as and when we get a response.

Screenshot of X post speaking of potential violence

Investigation into flare up 

202 people have been arrested, 80 people have been taken in preventive detention, and 102 First Information Reports have been registered, Haryana Home Minister Anil Vij announced on Friday. So far there are no leads on whether the clashes were coordinated. 

A case has been registered against cow vigilante Bajrangi by the Faridabad Police for stirring religious unrest by posting videos and brandishing weapons during the yatra. 

Similar to spate of demolitions witnessed in Muslim majority neighborhoods, a three day demolition drive in Nuh was stopped by an order passed by Haryana and Punjab High Court’s on Sunday. 

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