Mewat’s Meo Muslims Turn the Scars of Lynching into Haunting Songs

Mewat’s Meo Muslims Turn the Scars of Lynching into Haunting Songs

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Video Editor: Kunal Mehra
Camera: Athar Rather
Camera Assistant: Rahul Nair
Voice-Over Script: Prabuddha Jain

(This story was first published on 2 April 2018 and has been reposted from The Quint's archives.)

In Haryana, some 60 km from Delhi, is a village named Ghasera. It isn’t an ordinary village. What makes it special is Gandhi’s visit to the village in 1947 — and every resident, young or old, knows this.

On the behest of Yasin Chaudhury, Mahatma Gandhi visited the riot-stricken Mewat region and asked Muslims leaving for Pakistan to stay back. “He had said Muslims were the backbone of India,” recalls 52-year-old Liaqat Ali, a Meo Muslim and a Mirasi singer.

Where Mahatma Gandhi came to visit Muslims of Ghasera, is now a school. 
Where Mahatma Gandhi came to visit Muslims of Ghasera, is now a school. 
(Photo: The Quint/Athar Rather)

Meos are the inhabitants of Mewat, a region in northwest India situated between the cities of Delhi, Agra and Jaipur. Most of them belong to Rajput families and had embraced Islam four centuries ago, though a lot of Hindu customs were practiced as late as the mid-20th century. Meo society is still divided into pals and gotras and marriages happen based on clans.

The folk singers, Mirasis, constitute lower caste Meo Muslims. For a community that has no written record, Mirasis’ bards reveal a lot. Gandhi’s visit to Ghasera, an important chapter in Mewat’s history, is something that they continue to sing about with pride.

Bapu Ghasera Aayo
Hindu Muslim Sab Samjhayo
Angrezon Ne Phoont Ger Di
Aaj Unke Moond Laga Deo Talo

(Bapuji came to Ghasera
Got Hindus and Muslims to embrace each other
The British drove a wedge between us
But were left tongue-tied forever)

A few weeks after his visit to Ghasera, Gandhi was assassinated. With his death died his dream of a country free of communal tension.

Mewat is a Muslim-dominated region which saw several controversies in the last few years. First, the controversy over beef in Mewati Biryani, followed by the gang-rape of two women in Dingerheri village. And then the lynching of Pehlu Khan by a raging mob.

These atrocities drove Liaqat to pen a fresh song. His song paints a very different picture of India – one starkly different from the song on Bapu’s visit to Ghasera which was incidentally written by his uncle.

Speaking about the emotion of the song, Liaqat says, “I will give words to what I see. Bapu’s India was very different from the India we see now.”

Pehla dukh Dingerheri
Duja Pehlu Maar Diya
Junaid Khan Chalti Gaadi Mein
Kuch Gundon Ne Maar Diya

Ghar se College Gaya tha Padhne
Aaj Talak Nahin Aaya
Maa Ki Akhiyan Taras Gayi
Najeeb Laal Nahi Aya

(First, the horror in Dingerheri
Second, the killing of Pehlu
Junaid Khan while on a moving train
Was lynched by a raging mob

He went to college
And what transpired is unknown
His mother's still waiting
but Najeeb never came home)

Kaise Kaise Zulm Ho Chuke
Bigda Bhaichara
Bharat Tha Sone Ki Chidiya
Narak Bana Diya Sara

Hindu Muslim Sikh Isai
Bigda Bhaichara
Bharat Tha Sone Ki Chidiya
Narak Bana Diya Sara

(Various atrocities took shape soon after
Our brotherhood witnessed a never before rupture
What was once a golden bird
The India of yore – now a living hell

Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians
In peace did dwell
What was once a golden bird
The India of yore – now a living hell)

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