Nuh villages live in fear after nocturnal raids and mass arrests of Muslim youth

Haryana Police officers stand on the road near Nuh. Nocturnal raids by the Haryana police led to mass arrests of Muslim youth across Nuh district. SHAHID TANTRAY FOR THE CARAVAN
13 August, 2023

The small village of Murad Bas, six kilometres from the town of Nuh in Haryana, was entirely emptied of men on 2 August. Two days earlier, the Vishva Hindu Parishad and its youth wing, the Bajrang Dal, had organised a march through the Muslim-majority parts of Nuh, sparking inter-religious violence which claimed six lives. In the wee hours of 1 August, a large contingent of Haryana Police arrived at Murad Bas and picked up 25 young men from the Muslim-majority village. Rehbar Khan, a Murad Bas local, told me that some of those picked up had been sleeping or in the washroom. “One was picked up in just a towel, as he was about to take a bath.” The rest of the men in the village, nearly a hundred, fled into the surrounding forested hills, fearing more nocturnal raids.

The men who were picked up from Murad Bas were listed by the police as culprits in the Nuh violence though many had not left the village on 31 July and had proof of the same, residents told me. This pattern of nocturnal raids leading to mass arrests of Muslim youth—with little investigation into their alleged role in the violence or their presence in the town on that day—has repeated itself across Nuh district. On 3 August, 120 of those arrested had been produced before the Nuh chief judicial magistrate. All of them were Muslim, including several minors. On 8 August, Haryana’s information and public relations department said, in a press note, that 170 men were arrested in relation to 57 first information reports registered at various police stations in Nuh district. The note did not mention the religious identities of those arrested. Barring one Bajrang Dal leader, there seem to be no members of the Hindu community in the lists of those arrested for their role in the violence in the Bharatiya Janata Party-ruled state. Haroon Khan, an advocate who has been tracking the cases, told me that as of 12 August he had noted 220 arrests in cases regarding the violence.

What emerged from a week of reporting in the villages around Nuh was a pattern of arbitrary and partisan arrests of Muslims, while Bajrang Dal and VHP members, who allegedly participated in the violence, faced nearly no police action. These arrests have created a climate of pervasive fear among the Muslim villagers of Nuh.