Jobless & A Dropout: The Main Accused in Gurugram’s Mob Attack
A heated argument over an alleged cricket game could have remained just that. But 19-year-old Mahesh Kumar, the main accused in the Gurugram violence, slipped into a fit of rage. He headed to his village and returned with reinforcements to vandalise the home of Sajid Siddiqui. While he was the first to be arrested on 22 March, a day after the incident, police are currently working on rounding up the others.
Sajid's home is buzzing with local leaders and mediapersons who are escorted to different floors by Sajid's family. They reiterate details of the brutal mob attack patiently. The broken glasses, windows, dented doors and blood stains are strewn all over for everyone to see. But about a kilometer away in Mahesh's neighbourhood, everyone is tight-lipped.
The Quint visited Naya Gaon, Mahesh's village in Bhondsi district, and met his relatives. Their initial reluctance to divulge details transformed into defending the accused and eventually abusing the Muslim family who their son had thrashed.
Who is Mahesh Kumar?
Naya Gaon primarily consists of Gujjars. "Badhana Gujjar hai hum (We are Badhana Gujjars)," the locals say with pride. Mahesh and the others who accompanied him were all from the same community. He is the youngest in the family with four older sisters. The family suffered gravely when his father passed away due to a heart attack seven years ago, Mahesh's mother Om Pali said.
While the girls have been married off, Mahesh lives with his 55-year-old mother, wife and two sons in Naya Gao. While one of his sons is eight months old, the other one is two years old. The home is essentially one big room with parts which need rebuilding.
Pali says the family lives a hand-to-mouth existence. "There is no work here. I cut grass in other people's fields close by while my son drives an auto-rickshaw," she says pointing at his rickshaw, which hasn’t been used since Holi. It has only been a few months since Mahesh was able to arrange an auto rickshaw; before that, he too would go to different chowks for daily-wage labour. Mahesh dropped out of school in Class 8. His village does not have a high school; the closest one is in Badshahpur seven kilometers away.
Mahesh’s neighbours who responded to his calls for a confrontation with Sajid's family were also dropouts and engaged in daily labour. One of Mahesh's neighbour, a 20-year-old who dropped out of school in Class 9 and doesn't do anything for a living, smiles while saying, "Main bach gaya, main room mein baith ke PUBG khel rahaan tha (I got saved, I was sitting in my room and playing PUBG). I thought the issue was a minor fight or something, but this has blown out of proportion."
Pali returned from work – in a nearby field – to rumours about Mahesh. "Kissi ne bola, Mullah ne tere bete ko maar diya. (Someone said, the Muslims killed your son)," she recalls. She met Mahesh the following evening when police had nabbed him. In those brief 20 minutes, she didn't ask him anything about the incident but saw there were cuts on his his arms. "He was crying as he was in pain due to all the injuries on him. I fed him with my hands but he barely ate. The hospital has not even properly looked after him," she said betraying concern about his health.
Was Mahesh Wrong to Lead the Mob Attack?
Mahesh’s family does not deny his participation in the vandalism. They even admit that they would have stopped him if they could. "If we had known these guys were going out to beat people up, we would have never let them out of our sight," Rekha, Mahesh's elder sister, says.
When asked if he had done anything wrong, Mahesh’s sister and mother said, "This is being made into a big deal. It was just a fight that happened. The Muslims are giving this a wrong spin. Isn’t it understandable that someone would be angry if they were hit first and as badly?".
Sajid’s family, meanwhile, completely deny that Mahesh was hit by a cricket ball. They insist that he, in fact, started the issue by asking the Muslim boys why they were playing cricket in the compound, adding that they should “go to Pakistan and play”.
Mahesh’s mother still insists that her son was not capable of such acts. "Mullo ki itni chal rahi hai. Unki prashasan sun rahaan hai. Humaari kyu nahi sun rahaan hain? (The Muslims are getting their way. The administration is tending to them. Why are they not listening to us?)." Pali added that the Muslims were “not even residents of Haryana”.
"They've come from somewhere in Uttar Pradesh only a few years ago, while we, who have lived all our lives in this village, are being ignored."
Sajid and his family moved from UP’s Bhagpat to Bhoop Singh Nagar, a kilometer away from Naya Gaon, three years ago, in the hope of better career prospects. They repair electronic appliances and used their savings to build a three-floor home which was vandalised.
When asked if they had seen the video where the Muslim family was being beaten up, Mahesh's aunt – who wished to remain unnamed – said, "Ullu ki pathi hai vo ladki jisne video liya hai. (The girl who shot the video is a fool.) What was the need to shoot a video? And why not shoot and show the video of the first fight as well? If my sons were were hit by the ball, will they not react?," she said.
All the boys from Mahesh's neighbourhood have not been home since Holi. The street is primarily filled with women and girls, who believe the Muslims are being given preferential treatment.
"They are being heard while we are being harassed. Police have not come once to ask us patiently what had happened. They keep coming to search our homes for the boys. What is this behaviour? Don't we have self respect?" Rekha said.
The villagers have thrown their unabashed support behind Mahesh, who has been booked under Sections 148 (rioting), 149 (unlawful assembly), 307 (attempt to murder), 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), 452 (house-trespass after preparation for hurt, assault or wrongful restraint) and 506 (criminal intimidation) of the IPC.
With calling the Muslims outsiders, abusing the girl who filmed the video and saying the Muslims are making a big deal out of a small fight, Naya Gaon stands behind their sons. Despite the vandalism being captured on video, in the time we spent with them, they did not utter a word in sympathy for the victims of the attack.