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Meo Muslim, Mev, Mewati Muslim Kukreja, Reena

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The Meo, also called Mev or Mewati Muslim, self-identify as a distinct socio-cultural ethnic community, and, despite their Muslim religion, trace their lineage to the Hindu Rajputs in North India. It is also contended that the Meo converted to Islam after leaving other Hindu caste groups and a tribe, Meena, with whom they shared several similarities or that they were a nomadic Islamic tribe called the Mids, or Meds, who migrated from Western India into the region now known as Mewat, between the ninth and eleventh centuries. Today, perceived as converts from Hinduism, the Meo, numbering around 20 lakh, are considered low caste, or Neech zat, by the Indian Muslims. The Meo men and women are disfavoured for marriage by the Indian Muslims because of their suspect religious identity and their low caste status within the Muslim hierarchy. Till recently, they have considered themselves both as a caste group and a distinct religious faith within Islam because of this dual identity. During the colonial period, they were considered a distinct caste by both Hindus and Muslims. Their customs, traditions, life cycle ceremonies and modes of prayer, till the 1990s, closely replicated the Hindus with nominal adherence to Islamic practices like circumcision, nikah or marriage ceremony, and the burial. Though lauded for their syncretic culture and religious practises that adopted and adapted traditions from both religions without succumbing to the hard-core religiosity of either, they historically faced rejection from both the faiths because of their identification as neither a ‘true’ Muslim nor Hindu. Historically, the Meo inhabited a geographically contiguous space called Mewat or the ‘land of the Meo’, understood more as a cultural space than an administrative unit. In present-day India, it is administratively divided up between the districts of Nuh (formerly Mewat), Palwal, and Faridabad in southern Haryana and Alwar and Bharatpur and Dholpur districts in Rajasthan. A small portion of historical Mewat also lies in western Uttar Pradesh; however, it is in Nuh, Haryana that they comprise an overwhelming majority.

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