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Mainstream, VOL LI No 21, May 11, 2013

Communal Harmony and Freedom Movement in Mewat

Saturday 11 May 2013, by Bharat Dogra

The one hundred and fiftysixth anniversary of the Great Indian Revolt of 1857 has been observed this month. It began in Meerut on May 6, 1857 though the spark of the Revolt was lit by Mangal Pandey at Barrackpore earlier that year. In that context we are publishing the following piece.

The Mewat region, spread over parts of Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, is known to be a communally sensitive area. Its impor-tance increases due to its proximity to Delhi—a significant part of the Mewat region is located in the present-day Gurgaon district and its neighbourhood. A recent study by Dr G.D. Gulati, that emphasises the rich traditions of communal harmony in this area, should therefore by welcomed for the positive contri-bution it can make in bringing together and strengthening the tradition of harmony and unity in this area which sometimes can get marginalised under modern pressures.

This study, in the form of a collection of research papers, has been published very recently as a book titled Mewat—Folklore, Memory, History. Dr G.D. Gulati, who is known widely for his work in medieval Indian history, has given special attention in this book to making it more relevant for the present social needs. Several quotes are given in the local dialect. Sections in Hindi and Urdu have been retained for their linguistic flavour.

Four aspects emphasised by this book deserve special mention. Firstly, that Hindu and Muslims used to fight side by side against invaders. An example is the alliance of Hasan Khan Mewati and Rana Sanga. Also Hindus and Muslims fought side by side in the 1857 uprising against the British.

Secondly, this book emphasises many aspects of a mixed cultural legacy of Hindus and Muslims. The Meos of Mewat, a Muslim community, still erect Bhaironji Ka Chabutra to honour a local deity. They also celebrate Dussehra, Holi and Diwali. Though belonging to the Sunni sect of Islam, they observe Muharram and take out the tajiya procession.

Thirdly, this book emphasises the contribution made by Sufis and saints of this region. Lal Das, Charan Das, Sahjo Bai, Allah Baksh, Shah Chokha and others attracted followers from diverse religious communities and became symbols of communal harmony and unity of all people. Their shrines are still visited by followers of all communities. Sant Lal Das in particular is widely respected by the people of Mewat. Sant Charan Das established a ‘silsilah’ corner at Delhi in 1730. It is believed that Muhammed Shah, the Mughal Emperor, used to come for his ‘darshan’. Churh Sidh was first a cowherd and then became a saint respected by both Hindus and Muslims.

Last but not the least, the book emphasises the unity of Hindus and Muslims in the struggle against the British particularly in 1857. There are several vivid descriptions of the initial successes of this united action. Dr Gulati writes:

“When about 300 sepoys from Delhi marched into the Gurgaon district on 11th May (afternoon) 1857 they found great support from the local populace. Hundreds of peasants from the neigh-bouring villages and artisans and poor people from the towns of Gurgaon swelled the sepoy’s ranks in no time. A few impoverished feudal nobles like Nawab Ahmed Mirza Khan and Nawab Dula Jan also joined them. It is interesting to note that the rebels did not entrust their leadership to the two newly arrived feudal chiefs, but kept it in their own hands. W. Ford, the Collector-Magistrate of Gurgaon, tried to check the rebels of Gurgaon at Bijwasan, a small village, 12 kms. from Gurgaon in the morning of 12th May. But he failed. The rebels next attacked Gurgaon, the seat of the district administration. Ford made another attempt to repulse the rebels, but he failed this time also.

“...In Mewat, the sturdy and warlike Mewatis came out in large numbers and formed a dhar (a crowd turned into a somewhat organised gathering) to finish the British rule.”

The author is a free-lance journalist who has been involved with several social initiatives and movements.

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