Shahjahan (left, sitting) leaves for work in Haryana’s Mewat district. Picture by Rajesh Kumar
Clean-shaven, hair brushed back and dressed in T-shirt and jeans, he looks like any other 27-year-old. But his name, and more than that, his address make him a “pariah”.
At least, that is what Mohammad Gulpham, from Nizampur village in Haryana’s Mewat district, feels.
Mewat has a curious claim to notoriety: it is purported to be synonymous with “crime” and “criminals”. Muslims account for nearly 90 per cent of its population and the buzz is that 90 per cent of them make a living out of “crime”.
Gulpham appears to be paying a price for the reputation Mewat has. “I am not getting a job only because I am a Muslim from Mewat,” he says.
The youth claims he has cleared all exams for the post of a “plaster technician” at Mewat Medical College and Hospital as well as a bus conductor for Haryana Roadways but has been rejected because of the place he comes from. After completing his Plus Two, Gulpham did a diploma course from the government ITI.
The ruling Congress government touts the medical college, four ITIs and 10-12 hours of electricity in Mewat as its biggest achievements. But Gulpham says such things are of no use if people don’t get jobs.
“What will youngsters do if they don’t get jobs? They will take to crime — loot, dacoity,” says Gulpham’s father Taj Mohammad, acknowledging that youths do take to petty crime like stealing cattle.
Mohammad works in the Hero Honda factory in Manesar, bordering Gurgaon. “I tried to get Gulpham a job in Hero Honda but no luck. I believe the tag of ‘Muslim from Mewat’ is the reason,” he says. When Mohammad got the job, Mewat had no such tag.
Gulpham is the eldest of his three children, is married and has a two-year-old daughter. The family owns 2 acres of agricultural land.
The very notoriety of Mewat has become the reason for its minority Hindus to root for Narendra Modi. The Hindus — mostly Ahirs, Jats and Gujjars — say they want “liberation” from Mewat and believe that none else than the BJP mascot can help them.
“We want to be part of Gurgaon district. No one wants to marry into our family. We are considered untouchables,” Ramchandra Rao says angrily. The big farmers say the Mewat tag hugely depreciates the value of their land.
The Mewati Muslims are known as Meos. The Meos are believed to be “Kshatriyas” who converted to Islam but retained many of their Hindu traditions. Like the Hindus, Meos do not marry in the same gotra.
“The Meos, who trace their roots to the early Aryan invasion of northern India, call themselves Kshatriyas and have preserved their social and cultural traits to a surprisingly large extent,” says the Haryana government’s website.
However, a deep divide has now fractured what used to be a peaceful co-existence.“We fought against the Mughals and also against the British. This country is ours and we love it. Those calling us criminals are enemies of the country,” says Rafiq Ahmed, who is from.
Given the Modi propaganda here, the Meos seem reconciled to the BJP mascot heading the country.
“There is a Modi wave. Everybody is talking about Modi. If Allah wills he will come,” says Shahjahan, a farm labourer sitting in a tractor- trolley with his family, goats and khatia before setting out to harvest wheat 15km away.
“We are not scared of Narendra Modi. Let him come if people of this country want,” declares Mohammad.