On 30 July, one day before communal clashes broke out during a religious procession in Haryana's Nuh leading to the death of seven people across districts, Ramzan Chaudhary — an advocate and civil rights activist from the town — in a Facebook post, had assured the locals that there was no reason to worry.
After all, Chaudhary had attended a peace committee meeting on 27 July, three days before the violence erupted at the Khedla Mod near the Nalhar Shiv Temple in Nuh.
The meeting, held at the District Secretariat, was attended by at least 20 community leaders and chaired by Usha Kundu, the Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) in Nuh.
"We addressed the issue of some hateful elements trying to create unrest in Nuh via social media posts. ASP Usha Kundu had said that the administration is fully prepared to handle such elements," Chaudhary wrote in his post on 30 July.
A day after this reassuring post, Nuh was burning.
"It's terrible that this happened despite police assuring us that they have it under control," said Chaudhary.
The Quint went through 15 FIRs, and spoke to police officials, eyewitnesses and civil society members to trace the timeline of the violence.
This report aims to establish how the Haryana police not only failed to pre-empt the possibility of communal violence in Nuh but was also underprepared to deal with it and prevent it from spreading to other neighbouring districts.
'Showed Videos, Provocative Social Media Posts to Top Cop 3 Days Before Violence'
At the peace committee meeting, Chaudhary recalled how he spoke to Nuh ASP Kundu about several social media posts and their provocative nature. "Some videos, in fact, were shown to her. She assured us that there was no need to worry as the administration has things under control and if such elements try to enter Nuh, they will be dealt with strictly," Chaudhary told The Quint.
An update regarding the meeting was also shared by the Nuh police on their Twitter account.
On 31 July, three days after the peace committee meeting, Chaudhary's worst fears came true as communal tensions gripped his town after violence broke out during the Brij Mandal Jalabhishek Yatra, a procession led by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) — a right-wing Hindutva organisation.
As per figures shared by the Haryana police at the time of publishing this story, at least 165 people were arrested across Nuh, Gurugram, Faridabad, Palwal, and Rewari in 83 FIRs registered filed in connection with the violence.Expand
Serial Offenders, Unrest on Social Media, and a VHP Yatra: Did No One See the Writing on the Wall?
Located in south Haryana, 80 km from Delhi, Nuh is the only Muslim majority district in the state. It shares its borders with Gurugram in north, Palwal in east, and Rajasthan's Alwar in southwest.
On 31 July, clashes broke out when a religious procession led by VHP and attended by members of other right-wing outfits such as Bajrang Dal and Durga Vahini, was disrupted by locals who attempted to halt the march.
"There is no problem with a Hindu religious procession passing through a Muslim-dominated area. The problem is with the way in which the yatra passed," said Irshad, a shopkeeper in Nuh.
"Provocative videos of people like Monu Manesar and Bittu Bajrangi were shared widely on social media even before the yatra started," he said.
Some of these videos and messages, as advocate Chaudhary claimed, were then brought to the notice of ASP Kundu during the peace committee meeting.
Monu Manesar and Bittu Bajrangi are self-styled cow vigilantes and members of the Haryana unit of the Bajrang Dal. Manesar is also an accused in the April 2023 Junaid and Nasir case, in which charred bodies of the uncle-nephew duo — kidnapped and murdered, allegedly on suspicion of cow smuggling — were found in Haryana's Bhiwani.
In one such purported video, accessed by The Quint, Manesar urged his followers to participate in the yatra in large numbers, "I will be in the yatra in person and my whole team will also be present. All Hindus should join and visit temples in Nuh."
As per several eyewitnesses, a purported video by Bajrangi also led to widespread anger. In the purported video, Bajrangi can be heard saying that the people of Nuh should welcome their brother-in-law with flowers and garlands. "Do not complain later that we came without warning. We are currently in Pali (Rajasthan) and at least 150 cars will go to Dhauj (Faridabad) via Nuh. Your brother-in-law is coming. Be ready," Bajrangi can be heard saying amid chants of Jai Shri Ram and Har Har Mahadev.
Soon, several other videos made by locals in response to those by Manesar and Bajrangi went viral on social media. In one such video, allegedly posted by one Mohd Sabir Khan, several gas cylinders can be seen with a caption that read, "We are ready to welcome all Monus and Sonus."
In another video Naseem Gorwal, a resident of Nuh, urged the administration to stop Manesar from entering the town, and issued a warning that in case the officials fail, people will deal with him in their own way.
On 1 August, one day after the violence, the Faridabad police booked Bajrangi under IPC section pertaining to outraging religious feelings.
He has not been arrested yet.Expand
Despite Concerns Raised in Peace Committee Meeting, Yatra Allowed
Despite tensions on social media, the permission for the yatra was not revoked and it went as planned. The procession was flagged off in the morning from Gurgaon’s Civil Lines and the participants on their way to Ferozepur Jhirka, passed through Nuh around 1.30 pm.
Meanwhile, Haryana Deputy Chief Minister Dushyant Chautala, on Wednesday, 2 August, said that strict action should be taken against the organisers of yatra. "The organisers did not inform the district administration properly about the yatra. Strict action should be taken against them and whoever was involved in the incident," he said.
On the same day, state Home Minister Anil Vij also said that that if found guilty, action will be taken against Monu Manesar. "Even in this case, if he [Manesar] has any role, he will not be spared," Vij said.
On Thursday, 3 August, SP Singla told reporters that three FIRs were registered against people for escalating violence in the Nuh by allegedly spreading rumours on social media.
"The information being shared on the social media accounts is being thoroughly investigated by the district police team," he said.Expand
Inadequate Force, No Riot Gear, SP on Leave: What Happened on the Day of the Yatra?
Superintendent of Police (NUH) Varun Singla, at a press conference on Wednesday, said that 800 police personnel were on duty in Nuh on the day of the Brij Mandal Jalabhishek Yatra. "800 Nuh police personnel were on duty that day and 20 companies of paramilitary forces were sent in by the Centre after violence broke out," he said.
A senior police official in Nuh told The Quint that SP Singla was on leave on the day of the procession due to a family emergency. "Since SP Singla was on leave, Palwal SP Lokendra Singh was in-charge that day. He, however, wasn't on ground," claimed the police official.
The Haryana government's Home department, in an order dated 3 August, transferred SP Singla to Bhiwani. Narendra Bijarniya, currently the SP of Bhiwani, has taken charge in Nuh.
The police official, on condition of anonymity, said, "A large number of police personnel from the force were on VIP duty in Rewari district that day."
Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar was on a visit to Rewari when violence broke out on 31 July.
This brings us to three pertinent questions:
Despite concerns being raised regarding the yatra in a peace committee meeting, why was it allowed?
And if at all it was allowed, was enough force deputed to tackle the situation?
Was it possible to not rope in Nuh police personnel for VIP duty in Rewari that day?
'Mob Carried Sophisticated Weapons, Cops Had Laathis': Temple Priest
As per Prashant Panwar, Deputy Commissioner (Nuh), the yatri were asked to strictly avoid weapons during the procession. "When we gave them (VHP) permission, we had asked them to strictly avoid any weapons during the yatra," Panwar said.
Several videos on social media, however, show people with weapons including guns and swords on the road and inside the premises of the Nalhar Shiv Temple, where several yatri allegedly took refuge as clashes broke out.
"Several women and children who were part of the yatra took shelter in the temple. We were being attacked from all sides. There were police personnel within the temple premises. What was striking, though, was that while several people inside and outside the temple had sophisticated weapons, most of the policemen only had laathi," Sanjay, the deputy priest of the temple told The Quint.
Anil Mohania, a freelance journalist who was covering the yatra, had earlier claimed to The Quint that a police officer refused to help him when he approached after he saw the mob vandalising his car.
"My car was toppled, the windows were smashed and later burnt right in front of my eyes. A senior woman officer was standing right next to me but when I asked her if she can stop the mob, she said, ‘Kaise roku main unko? Mere haath mein kuch bhi nahi hai. Main kya kar sakti hun? (How can I stop them? Nothing is under my control. What can I do?)” he said.Expand
'Less Cops, More Home Guards on Duty that Day'
A senior police official said that most police personnel on duty were actually home guards who weren't trained to handle such a serious law and order situation. "This is the third year that this yatra was organised. We had fewer policemen on duty as compared to the previous years. Of those who were present, most were home guards who are not trained to handle something of this scale," the official said.
Two home guards — Neeraj Khan and Gursev Singh — were killed in the violence on 31 July.Expand
Police Station Attacked, Additional Force Shows Up After 4 Hours
In one of the many instances of rioting, a "mob of thousands" attacked the Cyber Crime police station in Nuh on 31 July.
An official from the Cyber Crime police station told The Quint that additional force arrived at the station approximately three-four hours after the mob first attacked them. "We held the fort for three-four hours," he said.
Interestingly, the Sadar police station — near the Cyber Crime police station — is barely four km away.
When The Quint visited the Sadar police station, a senior official said it was not possible for them to reach the Cyber Crime police station in time. "We had limited number of officers and the entire stretch of road was blocked by rioters," the official said.
"I watched as they (mob) descended on the police station and wreaked havoc for hours," said Giriraj Prasad, owner of Chandiram Sweets, a shop approximately 100 m away from the Nuh cyber crime police station.
Prasad alleged that only shops belonging to Hindus were torched and attacked by the rioters.
"First, they attacked the police station. I heard at least 125 rounds of firing in an hour. There were six to eight police officials inside the police station who were fighting the mob as they set police vehicles on fire and rammed a bus into the wall of the police station. Some of them came for our shops and vehicles too... But only Hindu properties were targeted," claimed Prasad.
He claimed that he tried calling the police at least thrice within a span of 10 minutes but got no response. "My staff was also calling them but to no avail," Prasad told The Quint.
As per a complaint registered by police inspector Sooraj who was at the Cyber Crime police station in Nuh, "a mob comprising thousands of people armed with weapons attacked the police station around 3.30 pm on 31 July.
"A large and agitated mob, consisting of thousands, suddenly surrounded the police station from all directions and began pelting stones. The rioters engaged in acts of violence, including pelting stones, firing shots at the police, and setting ablaze several vehicles belonging to the police staff.”PI Sooraj in complaint
Based on this complaint, an FIR was registered under multiple sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) pertaining to rioting, unlawful assembly, voluntary harm or hurt to a public servant, mischief by fire or explosive substance with intent to cause damage, and dacoity, among others.Expand
Muslim Cleric Killed, Shops Torched Despite Police Presence: How Violence Spread to Gurugram
The main evidence of the failure of the Nuh police in controlling the violence is the fact that within hours, the violence spread to other districts -- Sohna, Palwal, and Gurugram.
At 12 am on Tuesday, 1 August, hours after violence first erupted in Nuh, its tremors were felt -- 44 km away -- in Gurugram's affluent sector 57 neighbourhood where a mob allegedly set fire to the Anjuman Jama Masjid.
Naib Imam of the mosque was killed in the attack.
"There were at least 10-15 police officials present around the mosque when this happened," kin of a person who was trapped inside the mosque during the attack told The Quint.
"It looked like the police didn't have anything under control. The mob was armed and they started firing when police personnel tried to stop them," he said.
"There was police presence around the mosque since 5 pm on 31 July. We have no idea how they weren't able to control the mob and save the Imam."Kin of one the persons trapped inside the mosque when it was attacked.
An FIR was registered in connection with the case at Gurugram's sector 56 police station under multiple IPC sections pertaining to murder, rioting, unlawful assembly, obstructing public servant in discharge of duty, and damage to property, among others.
As per the FIR, filed on the basis of a complaint by ASI Sandeep, seven police officers were on duty when the mosque was attacked by a mob of 90-100 people.
"Some of them (mob) had covered their faces. They were armed with sticks and guns and were chanting Jai Shri Ram as they surrounded the mosque from all sides. When police officials on duty tried to stop them, they attacked us. We tried to safely evacuate people who were trapped inside the mosque. Some of them suffered injuries as they were rushed to W Pratiksha hospital," ASI Sandeep said in his complaint.
At 2 pm, on the same day, a mosque was vandalised in Gurugram's Sohna, hours after a peace committee meeting was held by the police and district authorities.
“There was a peace meeting in the morning. Locals too told us that we don’t need to leave now as everything is fine now. It is because of that assurance and trust that we stayed but we regret it now,” said Shamim Ahmed, caretaker of the mosque.
Hours later, around 10 pm, several shanties were torched in sector 70A in the district, one after the other.
The Quint was present at the spot and saw at least two Police Control Room (PCR) vans patrol the street when the incident happened.
"We don't know who is torching these shanties. It's as if they're catching fire by themselves. By the time we reach one shanty, we see another one going up in flames. The police is here. It's their job to find out. But all they do is call the fire brigade to douse the flames," said Suresh Moni, a resident of sector 70 A, who along with other locals, sat on guard outside his basti.
"We can't trust the police. So we're taking turns to guard our basti," he said.
Three hours later, Gurugram police released a statement on Twitter which said that only some minor incidents of arson and skirmishes took place in the district after which the security in sensitive areas was strengthened.
"We request the public to please not worry. There have been some incidents of arson and skirmishes today. But there has been no major incident. We have strengthened security in sensitive areas and are on alert to maintain peace," the statement said.
(The Quint has reached out to DGP PK Agrawal, ASP Usha Kundu, SP Varun Singla, and CP Kala Ramachandran for a response. This copy will be updated as and when we hear from them.)Expand