Over 400 Dalits Converted to Islam Since Collapse of 'Caste Wall' Claimed 17 Lives, Says Tamil Nadu Outfit
Members of Dalit community, who converted to Islam gather to offer prayers. (Image: News18)
Around 400 Dalits from Coimbatore district of Tamil Nadu have converted to Islam, claimed a Dalit outfit named Tamil Puligal Katchi. The outfit said that since January 5 around 40 families have converted and that the process is still going on.
Referring to an incident of wall collapse in Mettupalayam on December 2, Ilavenil, State Secretary of Tamil Puligal Katchi said, "The death of 17 people in Mettupalayam is the reason behind the conversions. These people like the religion and perform their prayers regularly. They also visit the mosques regularly."
The sudden spate of conversions of Dalits to Islam has been attributed to the wall collapse incident, where 17 people lost their lives. The structure, which was also referred to as the 'caste wall', was seen as a barrier between the Dalit community and the others. The Dalits villagers have claimed that the wall was built to decimate the people of their community.
Those who converted produced affidavits stating that their conversions were by their own free will and not under anyone's influence.
"For the past three years, I was inspired by Islam and I decided to follow the religion because of its religious laws and doctrines. This decision wasn't taken with any guidance," one of the affidavits accessed by CNN-News18 said.
The affidavits have mentioned that they are accepting Islam wholeheartedlly and are willingly adopting Mulsim names.
Banu, previously Poongudi, who converted to Islam said, "Freedom from this religion (Hinduism) is the only way to overcome caste discrimination and untouchability. Muslims are the only people who don't see any differences and see us as equal beings and this is why we embrace the religion."
Alleging threat by police, a recent convert Raiz, previously Ravichandran, said, "Those who are converting legally are being threatened by the police. As a result, there are people who can't talk about the conversion openly." There are some people who shy away from their conversions fearing authorities. But the youth of the area seem to be more vocal and don't pay heed to still being called by their caste names."
Members of the Tamil Puligal Katchi stated that they are constantly discriminated, hurt and disrespected. They are considered as untouchables and are not allowed to enter temples and have tea in shops along with the others. This had led to their announcement in December last year that 3,000 people from neighbouring districts will be converting to Islam starting Janurary 2020.
However, this move by the Dalit outfit has angered a section of the villagers. They claim that only a handful of them, belonging to the Dalit outfit, have converted and are spreading rumours that thousands are converting.
Eashwaran, a resident of Mettupalayam said, “They have linked the 17 deaths to Islam conversion. They said 3000 will convert. Residents of this particular locality are like one big family. We are not planning to convert to another religion. They (Tamil Puligal Katchi outfit) are spreading wrong news.
“We believe in Lord Vishnu. We will never convert to any religion. All people here are like my family. No one here will convert,” added Kannama, another resident.
(With inputs from S Annette Beryl Elizabeth)