“It would be fatal for the Scheduled Castes, whether in Pakistan or in Hyderabad, to put their faith in Muslims or the Muslim League. It has become a habit with the Scheduled Castes to look upon the Muslims as their friends simply because they dislike the Hindus. This is a mistaken view.”
—Dr B R Ambedkar
Thirty three years ago, on February 19, 1981, an incident of mass conversion shook the nation. A small town of Meenakshipuram near Madurai witnessed mass conversion of 800 Hindu brethren from Scheduled Castes to Islam. An Islamic organisation called Isha-ad-ul Islam was instrumental in making those conversions a reality. Thanks to Hindu Awakening, further attempts of conversion were curbed and the Justice Venugopal commission was constituted to file a report and recommendation on the issue. Unfortunately, because blatant communal politics in the name of ‘secularism’ had put the report under wrap, the same Meenakshipuram is now called Rahmat Nagar.
Almost, another Rahmat Nagar was in the making in a more horrendous incident at Rampur of Uttar Pradesh. More than 800 Valmikis were forced to consider conversion to Islam to save their houses from demolition. While protesting for almost a week they alleged that civic authorities painted red marks on their houses a few days ago as signs of encroachment. According to them, the demolition of their houses would pave the way for building a shopping mall, allegedly backed by the UP minister and Rampur strongman Azam Khan. They also claimed that similar localities with Muslim inhabitants were kept out of this anti-demolition drive. The role of Azam Khan in UP politics and his reign of ghettoism and fear is reported time and gain. According to media reports, the proposed road to the Mall where the recent protest by Valmiki community took place is actually planned for the Zohar University, a pet project of the Rampur strongman.
The reactions from media and ‘liberal-secular’ intellectuals were more disgusting. Initially, everybody ignored the incident. Some stories of caste discrimination, as happened in the case of Meenakshipuram, were also thrown in the ring. The apathy of local and state administration was never questioned. In the parallel drama of ‘Janata’ unity, Mulayam Singh, who has shielded Azam Khan for vote bank politics, is declared as a mascot. Another messiah of ‘secularism’ Lalu Prasad Yadav and his son has floated Dharmanirpeksha Sevak Sangh as a platform against Hindutva organisations. Are they going to replicate the Azam Khan model of politics in Bihar? Why both the Congress and the Communists are keeping mum now, when they had left no stone turned to raise loud protests against ‘Ghar Wapasi’ few months ago? Surprisingly, the votaries of ‘Dalit’ rights including BSP leader Mayawati are also conspicuously missing from the scene. Are they too afraid of talking about Azam Khan in UP?
Unfortunately, all this was happening on the eve of Dr Ambedkar’s birth anniversary who in his message was loud and clear-He never thought of Islam as an option in his fight against caste based discrimination.
The myth of equality in Islam and Christianity in Indian subcontinent is busted time and again. If we want to delink the caste issue from politics of conversion, then the politics of ghettoism and communal secularism should be opposed tooth and nail. Undoubtedly, there is a need to consolidate the Hindu society on larger cultural platform with the spirit of brotherhood with equality and dignity. The time is also ripe for taking up the recommendation of Justice Venugopal Commission to make politics of conversion redundant once and for all by bringing stringent anti-conversion law. Else, various form of fears, force, allurement etc would keep dividing Indian social fabric on communal lines and many more Rahmat Nagars will continue being created.