Less than 30 kilometres from the bustling city of Gurugram, a figure known as Monu Manesar has drawn significant national attention for his ‘gau raksha’ (cow protection) activities.
Behind the title "Manesar" lies Mohit Yadav, a 28-year-old revered by the younger generation and applauded by the older for his steadfast commitment to his cause.
Yet, despite local admiration, Yadav has found himself in the crosshairs of law enforcement. Last Tuesday (12 September), he was first arrested by Haryana police and then by their counterparts in Rajasthan and continues to be in jail — a move that has been met with substantial public outcry in his native village.
Manesar, the largest village between New Delhi and Jaipur, has a population of about 28,000. More than two-third of the residents are Yadav — the same caste as Monu. Jats and Gujjars form the dominant part of rest of the population.
The village is a rapidly emerging industrial area, and has changed in character over the past decade to resemble a small town.
Monu’s aggressive gau raksha activities have made him a popular figure in not only Manesar but also the surrounding villages.
On the day we visited (14 September), the young members of Monu’s gau raksha team had gone to Rajasthan to show their support in the Bharatpur court, where he was set to be produced.
The Rajasthan police had arrested Monu two days earlier in connection with the killing of two suspected cow smugglers, Junaid and Nasir, whose charred bodies were found in Haryana's Bhiwani district in February. The two hailed from Ghatmika village in Rajasthan’s Deeg district.
Jagroop, the first villager we talked to, criticised Monu’s arrest. He said, “All the ten surrounding villages know that whenever ‘gau mata’ (mother cow) is found injured, it is Monu who immediately reaches her for treatment.”
“He brings haldi and applies on her wounds. If needed, he gets her medical intervention."
Jagroop and other villagers sitting with him vouched for Monu’s character and said they had been watching him since he was a child, and he is known for being respectable to all.
“The entire village knows that Monu has never spoken to anyone in a loud voice, be it a woman or an elder. He greets us with 'Ram Ram' whenever we cross paths. But news media and the government have painted him as a criminal,” said Jagroop.
The group said that in the next elections, the Yadavs would not vote for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is currently in power in Haryana led by Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar.
We then met Dr Dharmendra Manesar, who runs a hospital named Radhe Hospital and Trauma Center near the Manesar bus stand. He introduced himself as a volunteer for the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the one who started the first gau raksha dal in the area to “tackle cow smuggling and cow slaughter by criminals in Nuh”.
Readers may note that Nuh, an almost wholly Islamised district in Haryana located about 30 kilometres from Manesar, is a hub for illegal beef trade.
It was recently in news for a violent attack on a Hindu religious procession on 31 July. Two home guards and two civilians were killed on the spot while two others, a Hindu and a Muslim, were killed in retaliatory violence in the coming days.
Dharmendra questioned why the police arrested Monu when Haryana ADG Law and Order Mamta Singh had earlier given a public statement that no case of hate speech was made out against Monu.
Notably, the Haryana police booked Monu, a month after the violence over a video he had uploaded on his social media account ten days before the violence, accusing him of provocation.
In the video, which Swarajya has seen, shows Manesar appealing to his followers to join the procession on 31 July in large numbers. He says that he, too, would be present for the procession in Nuh.
Over this video, the cyber police in Nuh filed a case against Monu on 26 August under IPC sections 153A, 295A, 298, 504 and 109.
An enraged Dharmendra said, “If a wedding procession comes to your house and there is a ruckus, will you put the blame on the person who distributed the invitations?”
He added that he had received "credible information" that when Monu was arrested by the Haryana police, Meo community members were part of the raiding team. “We will release the evidence when the suitable time comes. But politics over our child will not be tolerated,” he said.
He also criticised the Rajasthan police for arresting Monu despite the police chief denying his role as a key accused in the Bhiwani murder case.
Readers may note that responding to a journalist last month, the DGP of the Rajasthan police, Umesh Mishra, said that Manesar was not found directly involved in the killing of Junaid and Nasir.
Earlier in May, when the Rajasthan police investigating the murder case filed the charge-sheet, three men namely Rinku Saini, Monu Rana alias Narendra Kumar and Gogi alias Monu were charged for the murders, while Monu was not named as the key accused.
Defending his and Monu’s gau raksha activities, Dharmendra said the Haryana police had known Monu’s activities for long and had benefitted from it for their own career growth.
“All along, it was Monu who has been catching cow smugglers and beef traders, but the police take credit for his work. All the medals that policemen receive for catching cow smugglers are due to Monu’s hard work,” he said.
Justifying their work, he said that they were only doing their duties as responsible citizens. “If a crime is happening in front of you and the police or administration is not there, then as a citizen of the country, it is your job to stop it. Cow protectors do the same,” he said.
He further criticised the media and activists of calling gau rakshaks as hooligans while “never using the same language for cow smugglers”. “Media calls them dairy farmers!” he said.
Asked about Monu’s social media posts where he is seen with pistols and guns, Dharmendra said Monu’s weapons are licensed, explaining that he had faced fatal attacks in the past. “If he keeping weapons is wrong, then why did the government give him the licenses?”
Dharmendra said that several residents of Nuh, who are known cow smugglers, also post pictures with weapons — “illegal weapons”, he said — but are never booked or arrested for that. “We inform the police about those men many times, but they don’t act."
Asked if he criticised the BJP government over Monu, Dharmendra said that while it was a known fact that the Sangh and the BJP work together, he was confident that the judiciary would do justice to Monu (who is associated with the Bajrang Dal, young wing of Vishwa Hindu Parishad).
Dushyant Kumar, a sweets shop owner, also viewed Monu’s arrest as a political move rather than one based on clear evidence.
He said that the entire Manesar and surrounding villages were with Monu. He explained his support for him saying that both the Haryana and Rajasthan police chiefs arrested him “after giving statements vouching for his innocence”.
“Our Monu bhaiya is being made a political pawn,” he said.
As we moved in the direction of Monu’s house, a resident said that the house was locked as all members had gone somewhere.
We next went to a gathering of villagers at an open community hall. Sudesh Kumar Yadav repeated the popular sentiment as he said that he was arrested over a video that had no inflammatory content.
Another resident, Ishwar Singh Yadav, echoed another popular sentiment — disillusionment with the ruling BJP over this incident.
He said that the villagers considered Monu innocent, and if anything wrong were to happen to Monu, they would “launch a movement to give the BJP a befitting reply”.
“Eleven MLAs are from our Ahirwal belt. We will show them our strength.”
The sentiment of political unity was palpable as we walked through Manesar, and community gatherings spoke of a collective feeling of betrayal and a determination to seek justice for their local hero.
In this politically charged atmosphere, it remains to be seen how the scales of justice will tip for Monu Manesar.
(Note: The ground visit was made by Mayur Bhosale and Prabhat Kumar. The report has been written by Swati Goel Sharma based on their inputs)
Swati Goel Sharma is a senior editor at Swarajya. She tweets at @swati_gs.
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