Asif Khan, a muslim resident of Mewat, Haryana’s Khalilpura Kheda village, was lynched by a mob of Gujjar men on the night 16 May while he was returning home after buying medicine. Asif, a gym trainer by profession, husband to a wife and father of 3 small children, one of whom is an infant of five months, was beaten to death for his religious identity.
People guilty of this terrible crime were arrested by the police after an FIR was lodged. Usually when a crime of this degree takes place anywhere, the conditions are condemned and people try to reform. However, most parts of India have grown past that stage. This time around, something more despicable happened with relation to this case. Despite the COVID-19 lockdown in the state, mahapanchayats were held in multiple Haryana villages in support of those arrested for lynching Asif Khan.
On May 30, a mahapanchayat was held in Indri village, Nuh. According to someone present, it was attended by around 50,000 people coming from Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan, even though Section 144 was in force in the state because of surging COVID-19 cases. The mahapanchayat was held in the village’s Sangam School from 11 am to 3 pm, and chaired by Arun Jaildar. Before the big mahapanchayat in Indri, smaller ones had been held in other villages. One mahapanchayat was held in the Kira village of Nuh tehsil; another was in Badoli village of Faridabad district. In these small mahapanchayats, people were informed about the planned event in Indri.
What was the purpose of this gathering and all the other gatherings in the name of mahapanchayats all across the state of Haryana? The purpose was demanding the release of all the 14 men arrested for lynching Asif to death. People gathered in thousands, to demand the release of murderers who lynched a muslim man to death because they believe that Asif deserved to die. One of the chief organizers of the mahapanchayat in Indri was heard giving explicitly islamophobic statements, calling for genocide against the muslim community. All of these remarks surfaced and became viral on social media.
Isha Khan, Asif’s cousin, told The Wire that they lodged a complaint after they saw videos in which the mahapanchayat attendees were abusing Muslims. Isha also shared a video clip which shows some people abusing and threatening Muslims while talking to a local reporter. In the video, one Bittu Bajrangi called Muslims ‘pigs’ and himself ‘jihadiyon ka jija (brother-in-law of jihadis).
As of now, the administration has not taken any concrete actions to punish those who violated law to gather during a pandemic, to punish those questioned the rule of law for arresting murderes, or to punish those who gave out explicitly genocidal remarks against a particular community.