Forty people from eight Dalit families in Theni, southern Tamil Nadu state of India have embraced Islam after they found living amongst the upper caste Hindus a nightmare.
The conversion occurred a couple of days before at Dombicheri village in Bodinayakanur town in Theni district and Islamic priests solemnised the conversion.
Incidentally, Bodinayakanur is the constituency of the former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu and senior leader of the AIADMK, O. Panneerselvam.
Those converted said that they were continuously attacked by Upper caste Hindus who don’t allow them to drink tea or coffee from local restaurants and wayside tea shops citing the lower caste status. The new converts charge that while the men were beaten up, the Dalit girls were teased and lewd comments and gestures were made at them while they were walking on the streets.
Rahima (32), who was earlier Veeralakshmi while speaking to media said: “We are forced to convert. We are being teased, beaten, insulted, and not being allowed to walk in the same street where Upper caste Hindus walk. Our parents and grandparents suffered this ignominy and we decided that enough is enough. We are now Muslims and we don’t find any demarcation here.”
The converted people alleged that the upper caste Hindus attack them regularly and once in every six months and several incidents of violence against the Dalits were reported in the village of Dombucheri.
Raheema’s husband Mohammed Ismail, who was Kalaikannan earlier, said that he was beaten up in November 2021 during the Deepavali celebrations by upper caste men and he decided to convert to Islam after the incident. He said that he was mercilessly beaten up by the upper caste men when he bought a motorbike, and said that the Dalits in the villages of Tamil Nadu were living a life of misery.
Mohammed Ali Jinnah, Tamil Puligal Party’s Theni north secretary told media that he was Varimuthu earlier and converted to Islam fifteen years ago. He said: “The reason for conversion is nothing but the atrocities on Dalits by the caste Hindus. We were not even allowed to walk on the streets through which they walk. Since fifteen years, I am getting respect after converting to Islam and this is what a man wants.”
It may be recalled that in Meenakshipuram village of Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu, 180 Dalit Pallavar families had converted to Islam on February 19, 1981, creating a major uproar across the country and international media had also reported on the untouchability that was dormant in India. Those who converted to Islam alleged that they were attacked by the majority Thevar community and that conversion was their last resort to escape the torment at the hands of upper-caste Hindus.
Disclaimer: Forty people from eight Dalit families embrace Islam in Tamil Nadu - Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Latheefarook.com point-of-view