The Jantar Mantar protest, staged by the youths of the Meo community of Haryana and Rajasthan on May 21, 2017, underscored the role of growing youth activism. The Mewati youths are no longer reliant on their elders and, in fact, critical of their ability to turn things around.
They are assertive in their approach, educated and aware of their rights, unlike their elders who remained ignorant of their entitlement and content with periodic political patronage and short-term assistance. They acted like gullible electorates and were used to fill the vote-bank.
On the contrary, the youths of today are conscious of their identity, sensitive to their needs and well-acquainted with changed political realities. This has catalysed the transformation of youths.
This change is manifest as youths hit Jantar Mantar recently to urge the authorities to deliver justice not only in the recent killing of a fifteen-year-old Junaid but also in Pehlu Khan’s death by cow vigilantes in Alwar district and Dingerheri twin murder and alleged gang rape of two women by alleged robbers on Kundli-Manesar Expressway.
The Jantar Mantar protest holds special significance for twin reasons. One, it followed the nation-wide ‘Not In My Name’ demonstration, called by Saba Diwan, a film-maker, and two, it was an initiative taken absolutely by the youths of Mewat. A considerable amount of efforts were put in by youths in this protest to make it worthwhile and result-oriented. This is a good move and will go miles to transform the youths from being mere acquiescent to assertive.
The mob lynching of 15-year-old Hafiz Junaid, and brutal attack on his two brothers and two friends, who were returning home from Delhi in Mathura-bound train after shopping for Eid a few days before the festival, outraged the entire nation and prompted the citizens to hit the streets to seek justice for the teenager and call upon the government to halt the increasing cases of mob lynching and atrocities against Muslims and Dalits.
Back home, his funeral witnessed a huge gathering thanks to youths who left no stone unturned to ensure that his burial should see a massive assembly of people. The youths used social media to convey the strong message that this should not occur again and pressed their elders and clerics to ask people to wear a black band on their left arms while praying in Eid to show solidarity with the victim.
The nation sympathised with the victim for his brutal murder at a young age. He was fasting and was a Quran preserver (hafiz) who was pursuing Islamic studies in an Islamic seminary to become a big Imam. His dreams were shattered and so were his family’s. He was the fifth child of his parents who had recited the whole Quran in 26 nights during the month of Ramadan.
This is not the first time that the Meo-youths have reacted. They did the same in April this year when the grisly lynching of Pehlu Khan, a 35-year-old dairy farmer in Nuh district of Haryana, by self-styled cow vigilantes, hogged the national headlines sparking widespread public outrage.
The gruesome lynching led to the nation-wide demonstrations and acted as a rallying point for Meo-community’s hitherto scattered and unresisting youth brigade. The youngsters, shaken by the tragic death and apathy of the Rajasthan government, sprang into action and mobilised the grief-stricken community against the growing menace of self-styled, intolerant right wing-cow vigilante groups who seemed to have embarked upon the killing spree of hapless Muslims.
The youths took community leaders on board and helped them hold large public gatherings (maha panchayats) to register the community’s collective resentment with the administration and fight against government’s apathy. The ruling dispensation has, woefully, either played down the lynching or accused the victim as cattle smuggler despite having all relevant legal permits to transport the milking cows from Jaipur to Jaisingpur in Mewat.
The youth activism was seen for the first time in Mewat following the disgraceful Dingerheri twin murder case and alleged gangrape of two Muslim women in August 2016. This was probably the first time that the youths took to social media to vent their anger and frustration with the local administration for failing to act swiftly in the horrific violence unleashed by armed robbers on a helpless family.
As the youths were clamouring for justice in the gruesome attack, they cried foul again when police and animal husbandry department embarked upon collecting Biryani samples, on the eve of Eid-ul-Azha, to check out whether the feast contained beef.
The growing youth activism has a lot to do with the increasing number of educated youths in Mewat. They are actively encouraging the teenagers to excel in education and imparting them free counseling to pursue higher education in central universities.
In April 2017, a Mewat based Al-Aman Islamic Dawah Centre, a full-fledged youth organisation dedicated to social change in the region and to promote education and impart free career guidance to teenagers, organized a day-long career-counseling program in Punhana block of Mewat district in which students of Delhi University, Aligarh Muslim University and Jamia Millia Islamia addressed the teenagers and their parents and motivated the local students to get them enrolled in a central university of their choice.
This is a paradigm shift in youth activism. They are at odds with their elders whom they criticise for all the mayhem Mewat is in. They are also critical of local politicians whom they think are using them as a vote bank in politics and are not doing enough for them.