March 28: 13 policemen were injured after villagers numbering over 100 of Rahri reportedly attacked them with stones when they reached the village to arrest wanted ATM robber Rafiq, alias Bachhi.
May 9: 70 villagers of Ghata Shamsabad in Mewat attacked the Police when they went to arrest notorious ATM thief Sahid and managed to free the criminal.
August 7: Villagers in Mewat attack Police during an operation organized to nab wanted criminal Shabbir in a bid to free the criminal, a youth ends up dead. The cause of death is still unclear.
All these three cases are from 2018 and another common factor that appears obvious is that the villages are overwhelmingly Muslims, a community which dominates the Mewat area which cuts across Haryana and Rajasthan. There was much talk of mob violence going around on social media. It is rather intriguing that the media conveniently forgot to highlight the manner in which it has become all too common in Mewat for people to attack the Police to free criminals.
Another sad reality of Mewat is the fact that it’s a haven for cattle smugglers. This report from September 2016 mentions that Police were too scared of taking action against the criminals for fear of retaliation from smugglers and their ‘local supporters’. The same report also mentions how the Police discovered 300 hides of cows stashed in a mini-truck that was travelling from Gurgaon to Mewat. Another report from 2016, this one from August, mentions that until July 2016, Alwar Police had detected 72 cases of cattle smuggling in Alwar and 40 in Bharatpur. The corresponding numbers for 2015 were 100 and 30 respectively. This report from December, 2017 highlights how lucrative the cattle smuggling business is. “The people who transport at least 5 to 6 cows from Alwar and Bharatpur to Nooh Mewat of Haryana can earn Rs 1 lakh to Rs 2.5 lakh per trip if they managed to deliver the lot of cows safely,” the report quotes a senior officer as saying. The Police claimed at that point of time that at least 500 people were in the business of cattle smuggling in the region.
There is news of Police rescuing cows from smugglers in Mewat on a regular basis. This July 18 report mentions how the Police managed to rescue 27 cows and arrest two thieves despite the goons opening fire at them. In Mewat, it is also very common for cattle smugglers to shoot at Police offers. In May this year, the Police did manage to arrest three involved in cattle smuggling including one who is touted to be a king-pin of a cow smuggling gang. Another report from 2017 mentions how the Police managed to free over 150 cows after an encounter with cow smugglers in Alwar and seized illegal arms and ammunition from them as well. And there are reports after reports highlighting the menace of cow smuggling in the region.
Mewat also has Rohingya settlements, people who the Government of India plans to deport. Earlier in May, a major fire turned a significant section of the settlement to ashes. The reason cited by the officials was a short circuit. However, the Rohingyas claim it was an act of arson. Whatever the reason may be, 150 of them were rendered homeless. The Central Government has asserted that illegal Rohingyas in Mewat and some other regions have links with terror organizations. According to the Government, 1300 Rohingyas were living in 6 camps of Mewat in December, 2017.
Thus, it should not come as a surprise to anyone that Mewat is very susceptible to communal tensions. Rakbar Khan, Pehlu Khan and Umar Khan, three instances of murder by cow vigilantes that gained a lot of publicity in national mainstream media were all from Mewat. Incidentally, the Police had filed two cases in connection with Pehlu Khan’s murder. One, against the accused for the murder of Pehlu Khan. And the second, against Pehlu Khan and his associates for smuggling in cattle. Therefore, it is quite possible that the media created hero Pehlu Khan may not have been as innocent as he was made out to be.
Thus, there are multiple problems ailing Mewat. And the conspiracy of silence surrounding the real reasons for the communal tinderbox the entire region has become is only edging the region towards further chaos. The complete degeneration of law and order in the region and the complete inability of the Police to enforce the will of the state means that vigilantes will naturally fill in the space the state has abandoned. And I believe it will be very harsh to blame the Police for their failure to improve the law and order situation in the area. There appears to be an entire organized criminal infrastructure in place with the active participation of the locals who risk their lives to rescue the criminals from the clutches of Police. And despite all the obstacles that are thrown their way, the Policemen in the region have consistently achieved success against the organized crime mafia in the region. The situation in Mewat is an urgent reminder that there’s a desperate need for the modernization of the Indian Police Force.
There is a need to completely back the Police action in the region and enforce a severe crackdown against organized crime and all those who attack the Police in a bid to rescue criminals. In the recent incident where a youth has turned up dead after a mob attacked the Police to rescue a criminal, villagers are now demanding compensation for the deceased family and blaming the Police for the youth’s unfortunate death although the Police themselves are not sure about who or how he ended up dead and are not ruling out the possibility that the youth was perhaps shot by the criminal or his aides. There are reports that 30 Policemen are to be named in the FIR in the matter of the youth’s death. If we back the Army in Kashmir against stone-pelters, then Indian authorities should definitely back the Police in a situation where they were besieged by a mob which attacked them with the sole purpose of rescuing a criminal.