Late last week, a video of some Muslim youths feasting on beef and asserting that slaughtering cows is their religious and cultural right went viral in Sunsari district of southeastern Nepal bordering India.
The video caused outrage in the Himalayan nation, where cow slaughter is banned. And it evoked largescale protests from Hindus who have planned a series of protests to demand the arrest of the Muslim youths and stronger enforcement of the beef ban in the country.
A number of residents of Dharan, a prominent city in Sunsari that lies across the border from Araria district of Bihar, told Swarajya over phone that the Muslim youths on the video are suspected to be recent immigrants from Bihar.
“They spoke in a mix of Urdu and the dialect of the community of the Seemanchal area of Bihar. That shows they are recent immigrants from Bihar,” Santosh Yadav, a prominent businessman of Dharan, told Swarajya.
The dialect of the Kulhaiya community is a unique mix of Maithili, Urdu and , a language spoken in the Kutch region of Gujarat and in Sindh.
Yadav said that the language spoken by the young men in the video is not usually heard in Sunsari or the entire Madhesh region of Nepal that has a huge number of people who share ethnic and cultural links with people of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.
“Our enquiries reveal that the young men who made the video are recent immigrants from Bihar. They have gone underground and we are trying to trace them,” Hem Kumar Chhetri, a senior police officer of Sunsari told Swarajya over phone from Inaruwa, the district headquarters.
Not content with making the inflammatory video, the Muslim men also posted on social media (facebook and X) that eating beef is the religious and cultural right of all Muslims and the beef ban in Nepal has to go.
Their posts were shared widely and fuelled a lot of indignation among Hindus. Angry Hindus rallied together and gave a call for protests across the country.
“The Muslim youth who made the video and posted their opposition to the beef ban on social media are suspected to be residents of Dharan,” said Humkala Pandey, the chief district officer of Sunsari.
The district authorities went into damage-control mode and convinced Hindu groups which had called for a mass rally in Dharan to call off their protests.
District authorities had learnt that the making of the video and the posts on social media was a pre-planned conspiracy to create communal trouble in Sunsari.
The Muslims knew that Hindus would protest. They were planning to attack a Hindu protest rally and that would have triggered a lot of violence. That was the aim of the Muslim side, said a district official.
The officials, and others who spoke to Swarajya, underlined the fact that Nepal, including the areas bordering India, have remained free of communal tensions. “But recent Muslim migrants may be wanting to stoke communal passions for their own vested interests,” said Chhetri.
But even though the planned protests have been called off, anger prevails among the Hindus who have called for the arrest of the Muslims who made the video and posted objectionable content on social media.
Deputy Inspector General of Police Rajesh Nath Bastola said security has been beefed up and Hindu groups have been convinced to not only call off their protests, but also abandon their plans of bringing in people from other parts of Sunsari and neighbouring districts to Dharan.
Bastola had to promise the Hindu groups that the guilty Muslims would be arrested soon and strong cases filed against them.
Immigration Of Muslims From Bihar Causing Problems In Nepal:
In recent years, immigration of Muslims from Bihar, especially from the Muslim-dominated Seemanchal area of Bihar, has become a major problem.
The largescale immigration now threatens to disturb the delicate demographic balance in Sunsari and other districts in Madhesh area of Nepal.
Muslims now form more than 17 per cent of the population of Sunsari; they were 11.5 per cent of the population in the district in 2011.
“This fast growth in Muslim population is disconcerting. It is not a natural growth, but fuelled by largescale immigration from Bihar,” Krishna Prasad Bhattarai, a retired professor of history, told Swarajya from Itahari city in Sunsari district.
The steep growth in Muslim population has led to assertion bordering on militancy by a section of Muslims of the district.
“The Muslims, especially the new immigrants, are very assertive and have been creating a lot of trouble. They are involved in a lot of petty crimes like robberies, drug trafficking, prostitution, abductions and crimes against women, especially women of other communities. There are also reports of Muslims trying to convert Hindus forcibly to Islam,” said Dinesh Sharma, leader of a vocal Hindu group called Hindu Sanskriti in Sunsari.
Sharma’s views are endorsed by a number of people Swarajya spoke to in Sunsari and neighbouring districts that have witnessed a substantial rise in Muslim population in recent years.
“Crime has increased and women no longer feel safe to venture into Muslim dominated areas of many places like Biratnagar (a city on the Indo-Nepal border). The problem is mainly because the Muslims, especially the poor among them, have been radicalised by clerics from India,” said Vivek Gurung, a Biratnagar-based businessman who is a C&F agent of some Indian consumer goods companies.
Sunsari district authorities say that the clerics who come in from India and radicalise the Muslims are all Deobandis who preach a regressive and radical form of Islam.
“That is why we see many Muslims now keeping long beards and shaving off their moustaches and their womenfolk wearing black burqas. This was not the case earlier,” said the Sunsari district official.
The primary trouble-makers among the Muslim community in Madhesh are the Kulhaiyas, say of the district. It is the Kulhaiyas who are behind a number of crimes and anti-social activities.
They are also very radical Islamists and frequently target people of other communities.
Who Are The Kulhaiyas:
The Kulhaiyas have descended from the tribe of Yemen who migrated to western India as mercenaries.
They were brought in as soldiers by the sometime in the 15th century and settled in Northeast Bihar.
The , who were vassals of the Bengal Sultanate, recruited the Hadrami mercenaries in their army to stave off frequent invasions by the Gurung and Gurkha tribes of Nepal.
As they grew in numbers and gained power, they brought in Gurjar herders from Gujarat and Jat farmers from Sindh to settle down in northeastern Bihar comprising present-day districts of Kishanganj, Araria, Purnea and Sapaul.
The British notified the Kulhaiyas as a ‘criminal tribe’ under the . The Kulhaiyas were involved in various crimes like dacoities, abductions and murders and used to frequently abduct, rape and forcibly convert to Islam many Hindu girls and women. That’s why the British notified them as a criminal tribe.
One of the most famous, or rather infamous, personas of this community was Mohammad Taslimuddin, a Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) strongman who won Assembly and Lok Sabha elections from Seemanchal many times.
Taslimuddin, who had many serious criminal cases against him, including that of murder and illegal possession of weapons, was inducted as Minister of State for Home in the H D Deve Gowda Ministry but had to resign after the Opposition BJP raised objections over his criminal antecedents.
Taslimuddin is said to have been a crime lord and presided over mafia gangs engaged in extortions, arms smuggling, human trafficking and contract killings.
The increase in migration of the Kulhaiyas from Bihar’s Seemanchal to Nepal is now causing consternation among the local people as well as the district administration.
Old Muslim residents of the region are also perturbed and frequently dissociate themselves from the Kulhaiyas. Akbar Ali, a prominent businessman of Biratnagar, has taken the lead in condemning the beef eating video and calls for lifting the beef ban.
Ali has rallied many Muslim organisations and clerics to condemn the video and call for punishment of the young men who made the video and posted objectionable content on social media.
“We have been living together harmoniously with all other communities. We respect the sentiments of Hindus and people of all other faiths, and we oppose attempts by some recent migrants to disturb that harmony and our way of life,” Ali told Swarajya.
Hindu Sanskriti’s Sharma said that the stand taken by Ali and many Muslim organisations as well as community leaders is laudable.
“The opposition to the radical Islamists and troublemakers from the Muslim community has come from within the community and that’s welcome,” he said.
Sunsari district authorities said they will now work closely with Muslim community leaders to tackle the issue of radicalisation of some Muslims and keep a strict watch on potential troublemakers who may try to stoke communal tensions.
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