On 19 December 1947, Mohandas Gandhi visited Ghasera village in Mewat amid the tumult of Partition. He assured the Meos, a community of Muslims native to the region, that their security was paramount to him and urged them to reconsider leaving for Pakistan. Many Meos heeded Gandhi’s words and stayed back. Seventy two years later, members of the community feel betrayed by the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and Home Minister Amit Shah’s promise of a pan-India National Register of Citizens. On 18 December this year, thousands of Mewat residents congregated in Ghasera for a public meeting and demonstration against the act.
Ever since the CAA was enacted, on 12 December, there have been small protests in villages and towns across Nuh, the attendees told me. At the meeting in Ghasera, the speakers discussed the dangers of the CAA and the NRC. “We have to see the Citizenship Act and the National Register of Citizens together because it has the potential to do great damage in Mewat,” Salauddin Meo, a lawyer and the president of a local social-activism organisation called Mewat Vikas Sabha, told me. The Haryana chief minister “Manohar Lal Khattar has said that NRC will be implemented” in the state, Salauddin added. “It will be a disaster because a lot of people here are illiterate and don’t have the required documents.” Government figures substantiate this claim—according to the 2011 census, Mewat has an average literacy rate of 54.08 percent.
“If we are declared non-citizens or illegal immigrants, then we will lose all our rights, including our livelihoods and we may be sent to detention camps like what is happening in Assam,” Salauddin told me. “We feel betrayed, our fathers and grandfathers stayed back because this is our country and we love it as much as anyone else, and now we may be asked to prove once again that we are citizens in our own land.”