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After Biryani Raids, Mewat Finds No Comfort in Naqvi's 'Progress Panchayat'

File photo of Union  Minister Mukthar Abbas Naqvi.

File photo of Union Minister Mukthar Abbas Naqvi.

Residents of Mewat had hoped for comforting words from minority affairs minister Mukthar Abbas Naqvi in his 'Progress Panchayat' but were disappointing as he did not mention the biryani raids that took place on the eve of Eid.

Eram Agha

Bichor (Mewat): It was supposed to provide a healing touch to a town pained at the infamous Biryani raids that had marred the Eid celebrations a month ago. Instead, all that Mewat got from minority affairs minister Mukthar Abbas Naqvi’s first-ever ‘Progress Panchayat’ was a lecture on making “good news” and the promise of a “driving school of international standards”.

‘Progress Panchayat’ is a unique new minority outreach programme of the BJP-led Union government, and this Haryana town, just 50 km from Delhi, was chosen as the launchpad. However, the government contingent that had arrived to make way for Naqvi on Thursday was greeted in and around Mewat with posters of another panchayat: a ‘Mahapanchayat for Justice’ to be held here on October 8.

The town famous for its Mewati biryani shot into national headlines when Haryana Police conducted raids on the eve of Eid-ul-Zuha, suspecting the presence of cow meat. Worse, on August 25, a couple was beaten to death and two of their relatives were allegedly gang-raped in nearby Tauroo by a vigilante squad on the lookout for evidence of cow slaughter.

Residents like Ramzan Chaudhry want to put all that behind them, but he says ‘Progress Panchayat’ is not exactly the way to go about it. “Why not a Pashchatap (repentance) Panchayat,” he asked, pointing out at the angst and anger over the raids and the reported rape. He said selling biryani was the source of livelihood for many in the region and the raids have affected the lives of thousands of people. Around 15,000 vessels that served biryani at the roadside have disappeared, he said.

Chaudhry, an organiser of the ‘Mahapanchayat’, said the October 8 event will take the shape of an indefinite dharna until the demands for justice are met. It is being held at the behest of the district bar association and will be attended by members of 36 communities, he told News18.

Bharti Arora, DIG, Haryana Police, dismissed the livelihood claims. “What is wrong with conducting raids? We have to abide by the law of the land. A lot of people steal for their livelihood. Should that be allowed too?” she asked.

Local BJP leader Zahid Hussain, who was busy ensuring the smooth conduct of the ‘Progress Panchayat’, echoed DIG Arora’s words and argued that scepticism was not the solution to Mewat’s problems.

“This panchayat is a much needed move to bridge the gap between Muslims and BJP. The gap has only been widened by other political parties, we are trying to bring change here. It is time the community understands the importance of jobs and development, especially when Bichor is the most backward of the already backward Mewat region. This move has given minorities hope that the government is with us,” he told News18.

As Hussain went on elaborating his party and government’s plans for Muslim emancipation, the crowd around him started whistling and booing as a party of “Ragini” dancers from western Uttar Pradesh took to the stage. “Stay away from them… they are zahreeli spreading their poison,” the host naughtily prodded the crowd pointing to the dancers doing raunchy numbers. As the dance got over, an organiser in spotless white kurta made a request to the assembled media not to take the performance “otherwise”.

“The crowd here has not come to see the Ragini dancers but to hear the minister, who will address today’s progress panchayat, the first one in the national series,” he said. Thursday’s event would be the first one in a series of 100 such ‘Progress Panchayats’.

Soon enough the minister arrived. Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi entered the stage wearing a silver-coloured crown gifted by the organisers.

“Even someone from Germany has made efforts to be here for the panchayat as he found it to be a departure from all the negative stories emanating from here,” the minister said, stressing on the importance of generating good news. Naqvi announced that “Sadbhav Mandaps” will be set up in all blocks of the district for sports activities that could double up as community centers. And, of course, he promised a driving school of international standards for the Mewati youth “famous” for their driving skills.

Naqvi didn’t mention biryani in his speech.

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