At 10:53 am on Monday, 31 July, Bittu Bajrangi, a Bajrang Dal member, went live on his Facebook. In the live, that lasted four minutes and eighteen seconds, he went around recording all the other Bajrang Dal members accompanying him for the Shobha Yatra or the ‘Brij Mandal Jalabhishek Yatra’ in Haryana.
At one point during the live, he flipped the camera, and recorded himself saying, “they will complain we came to our in-laws' and didn’t meet them. So we are giving our exact location...Keep the garland ready.” Then one of the men accompanying him retorted, “tumhare jija aarahe hai (your brother-in-law is coming)”. To this, Bittu Bajrangi responded saying “bilkul! (absolutely)”.
It is this snippet from the live that went viral on WhatsApp and other social media platforms on Monday, just hours later the yatra reached Nuh, in the afternoon.
Nuh locals say this, along with a Monu Manesar video from a few days ago, caused fear and paranoia among them even before the yatra reached their area. Monu Manesar, a murder accused, had released a video calling for “huge numbers” to be present at the 31 July rally, and stated that “I will participate in it too.” Monu is an accused in the Junaid and Nasir murder case and named in the Rajasthan police’s chargesheet.
Burnt Shops, Fear and Anxiety In The Air
The yatra reached Nuh around 1:30 pm, and in a matter of minutes, violence began to spread like wildfire in the region.
Irshad, whose shop is one among the many that was set on fire, said that there was a “sense of fear and tension” among the residents of the area even before the yatra had reached, because of Bittu Bajrangi and Monu Manesar’s videos.
“Is it right to say things like “your brother-in-law is coming? Who will be okay with it? In the past, several shobha yatras have been taken out. Recently the Kanwar yatra also went through this region. No one has ever had a problem here. But making such statements while going through a Muslim area is not right,” Irshad told The Quint, standing in front of his burnt shop.
Nuh is largely a Muslim-majority region, with Hindus in the minority. “Despite this, you would’ve never heard of any tussle between the two communities. But outsiders came and ruined everything,” he added.
A Vandalised Temple in Nuh
Besides the shops and vehicles that were targeted in Nuh, a temple too was vandalised.
The gate of a Goddess Kali temple was damaged, and the temple priest’s motorcycle set on fire.
“The mob cornered me, pushed me around, and broke the lock of the temple gate. They also set my motorcycle on fire and stole 10-15k Rupees from the temple,” Lal Chand, the temple priest, told The Quint.
He insisted it was the “local rioters” who were the culprits. “Only locals will know everything so well...Hindus are not safe here,” he said.
Lal Chand further blamed the government and the police too. “The government has failed. Officials didn’t show up till after the violence, we kept calling but no one came during the violence to control things,” he said.
While there were reports and claims of violence against the Nalhar Shiv Temple in Nuh, the priest of that temple denied there being any such violence, as The Quint reported.
On 1 August, a mosque was vandalised in Sohna, despite heavy police presence in the area, hours after a peace meet. Earlier, on the night of 31 July, a mosque in Gurugram sector 57 was set on fire and its Naib Imam killed.
Eyewitnesses Share Videos of Violence
In Sohna, over twenty kilometers from Nuh, residents claimed that the procession had passed through peacefully earlier in the day, but returned in the evening.
When The Quint visited Sohna on 1 August, the residents showed videos they had recorded from their homes of stone pelting, the previous evening.
In the videos, mobs can be seen pelting stones at the houses, and gunshots can also be heard. The Quint checked the date and time of the videos on the phones they were recorded from, and all the videos were from the evening of 31 July.
Many Flee Their Homes
Families who had been living in Sohna for several decades said they have decided to flee for their villages. Many had already sent their family members away.
Shakeel, a 53-year-old man, said he sent his children to run away “through the hills.”
“There was relentless firing and stone-pelting. It became impossible to continue staying here. We couldn’t run away but we sent our children away late in the night. We got them to climb up the hills and just run,” Shakeel said.
The lanes bore a deserted look, as most houses had been vacated.
In one particular colony, that has a majority of Muslim houses, a Hindu woman said that she has always “lived peacefully with the Muslims.”
“They have never troubled us. Never hurt us or said anything wrong. We have always had very good relations with one another. I don’t know what happened now, but locally, we have all lived together peacefully,” Angoori said.