Bharatpur: anatomy of police brutality

14 September 2011 a major incident occurred in the sleepy town of Bharatpur in East Rajasthan. Cooped inside an armoured vehicle, a group of heavily armed policemen fired at a mosque in the district's Gopalgarh qasba, killing more than half a dozen people instantly. Since then, the death toll has climbed to ten-despite the dead belonging to the Muslim community, men in uniform burned most of the bodies and hid them in a well. The body of a half-dead man was also burned in this gruesome incident, the first of its kind-police firing inside a mosque-in Independent India.

Initial reports termed the incident as a riot-however visits by Shri Chandrabhan, the Rajasthan Pradesh Congress Committee (RPCC) President, human rights organizations and conscientious individuals confirmed that this was no riot but a case of Police brutality and highhandedness. All the ten dead were Muslim Meos-they also fell without exception to Police bullets. At no point were the dead attacked by rival Hindu mobs, though a day earlier, on 13th September, a Muslim Maulavi was thrashed by some Gurjjar elements.

An anatomy of the incident reveals the following pattern: a dispute over a piece of land was simmering between Hindu Gurjjars and Muslim Meos. These two communities have lived in harmony for centuries in East Rajasthan. In fact, Muslim Meos, inhabit a huge strap of land covering three states. Beginning from Rajasthan, this girdle crosses Bharatpur, Dausa, Deig, and parts of Jaipur. Then it stretches onto Haryana encompassing the present-day Nuh-Palwal-Sohna-Firozepur-Hathin-Mewat region-the thick Meo belt. Finally, it moves on to the Mathura-Agra-Ruhelkhand area in Uttar Pradesh. Gurjjars and Jats are also predominant in this belt. Other communities include Meenas and Yadavs.

Meo history can be traced back to ancient times; even after converting to Islam from possibly Buddhism, Meos fought the Turkish slave dynasty. They sided with Ibrahim Lodi and Rana Sanga when Babur came knocking with his Mughal army. In the 18th century, Meos raided the army of Ahmed Shah Abdali. In the same period, they played a critical role in the setting up of the Jat-Hindu kingdom of Bharatpur and several small Gurjjar-Hindu principalities in Dausa. Conversely, Jats and Gurjjars helped Meos in setting up the Firozepur state in Haryana.

During the 1857 struggle, Meos fought fiercely as a community against British armies. Gurjjars and Meenas, who also fought against the British, were pastoralists and Adivasis respectively; like Jats Meos were-and still are-peasants. Their participation in 1857 kept a pace with Jat anti-British incursions. Meos, Jats and Gurjjars kept Delhi free from British occupation for four months. Even after the capture of Delhi by the British, Meo resistance did not cease. British reprisals were harsh. Meo villages as far as Allahabad were destroyed. Thousands were killed and buried unceremoniously. Swanky British bungalows, Cantonment and Civil lines were erected on the ashes of ruined Meo villages.

When Delhi was being built as India's new capital in the early 20th century by the British, confiscated Meo village lands in the Raisina area were used to build the Viceroy House. This same building is known today as the Rashtrapati Bhawan.

On 14th September 2011 in Bharatpur, just before the police firing, a compromise between Meos and Gurjjars was almost effected, in the Gopalgarh thana. According to reports, both Gurjjar and Meo MLAs of the area, along with the district administration were present, when a group of RSS workers burst in the thana shouting that some Meos had killed Gurjjars. In the ensuing pandemonium, the local SP, accompanied by a posse of Gurjjar Police personal, mounted an armoured vehicle and drove straight into the local Masjid.

Rajasthan has a Congress government; a group of Meo civil society members made representations to Rahul Gandhi, Digvijaya Singh and other Congress leaders in Delhi. Consequently, the SP and DM were transferred and a CBI plus a judicial enquiry was ordered by the Rajasthan Chief Minister. Later, the entire police force of Gopalgarh thana, including the local SHO was transferred. Furthermore, the DM and SP were suspended from service. The IG Police too has been removed. Though Ashok Gehlot, the Rajasthan CM, acted late, his actions were decisive even in face of opposition in the form of Dhariwal, his Home Minister. Efforts are on to register cases under section 302 against the afore-mentioned district officials.

Hindus and Muslims have jointly condemned the incident. Communal harmony remains undisturbed, even though rabid VHP leaders like Praveen Togadia are trying to communalise the situation. The incident has brought forth the need to enlist more Muslims in the Police force-a point made by Shri Digvijaya Singh, the Congress General Secretary, in his last Times of India blog-and equipping khaki personnel with a solid secular ideology.  (

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-31 October 2011 on page no. 12

We hope you liked this report/article. The Milli Gazette is a free and independent readers-supported media organisation. To support it, please contribute generously. Click here or email us at

blog comments powered by Disqus