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Agra: Muslim families deny changing faith, slam Hindu groups

About 57 Muslim families contested on Tuesday hard-line Hindu groups Dharma Jagaran Manch and Bajrang Dal’s claim that they have switched to Hinduism, saying they were tricked into a conversion event couched as a 'homecoming ceremony' in Agra.

india Updated: Dec 10, 2014 10:10 IST
Hemendra Chaturvedi
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About 57 Muslim families contested on Tuesday hard-line Hindu groups Dharma Jagaran Manch and Bajrang Dal’s claim that they have switched to Hinduism, saying they were tricked into a conversion event couched as a “homecoming ceremony” in Agra.

“We were not aware that it was an exercise to convert us to Hinduism. We are Muslims and would continue to be so,” said Noor Mohammad, one of the people who alleged that the two Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh offshoots had lured them into Monday’s programme to collect BPL and ration cards.

The Bajrang Dal said the families “reconverted to their original faith” at the event after having embraced Islam some 25 years ago.

Such reports stoke fears of the rise of the Hindu right fringe which has shown signs of assertiveness since the election of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The so-called new converts, who eke out a living by picking rags and doing odd jobs, live in the Ved Nagar area on Devri Road of Agra. This colony of poor people is inhabited mostly by Hindu Dalits and the Muslim families, comprising 300 members, who had migrated from Bengal and Bihar.

“What is the difference between Allah and Bhagwan? We are Muslim and never converted to Hinduism and would remain Muslim,” said Sufia Begum, 60.

Muneera, a woman who stayed away from the ritual, said people were converted so that they give their consent to build a Kali temple on a plot owned by Muslims.

Neighbour Jehangir said he went because he was promised a ration card.

The rebuff caught many off guard because they saw Ismail Siddique, popular as thekedar (contractor) change to Raj Kumar on Monday and pledge to worship Hindu deities. The new converts were apparently given an idol of Kali after a ritualistic purification prayer.

Ismail on Tuesday denied having changed his faith. “We are Muslims and never converted to Hinduism.”

Red-faced organisers of the function promptly blamed “pressure from outside to reverse their reconversion”.

Ajju Chauhan, a Bajrang Dal functionary, said no force, coercion or lure of BPL and ration cards were used to bring people to the camp, considered a dry run to a massive function with a similar agenda lined up for December 25 in Aligarh.

The Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Bajrang Dal insisted that such functions be called homecoming, not conversion, ceremonies. “I strongly object to this term conversion. Why don’t you call it homecoming?” asked Prakash Sharma, former national convenor of Bajrang Dal.

“Go back in history, at least four-five generations; you will see your ancestors were all Hindu. Then, is it homecoming or not?” he said.

(With inputs from Haidar Naqvi in Kanpur)