Uttar Pradesh police on Tuesday arrested the state convener of the hard-line Dharma Jagran Manch (DJM) over the alleged forced conversion of more than 50 poor Muslim families to Hinduism in Agra last week.
Sources said police were questioning Nand Kishor Valmiki who was on the run after authorities launched raids and announced a cash reward of Rs 12,000 on any information regarding his whereabouts following an FIR against him.
The Bajrang Dal and DJM, the groups that performed the mass conversions, reportedly described the event as ‘ghar wapsi’, or homecoming, saying the families were originally Hindus and adopted Islam around 30 years ago.
“Several raids were conducted by the police team forcing the accused to change locations – Aligarh, Kasganj, Mathura and Etah districts,” said Shalabh Mathur, senior superintendent of police in Agra. “The accused, when arrested on Tuesday, was in the process of moving from Etah towards Rajasthan, but was nabbed while crossing Agra.”
The episode triggered a wide-ranging debate with some parliamentarians and religious leaders demanding an anti-conversion law, while several Hindu groups vowed to persist with the conversion programme.
Many of the slum dwellers told HT they were tricked into the ceremony with the promise of ration cards and other inducements.
Following the incident, opposition lawmakers and Islamic leaders accused Hindu organisations tied to the ruling BJP of trying to undermine the nation’s secular foundations.
Police came close to arresting Valmiki on Sunday in Etah but he managed to escape, while his son and a relative were held at a local guesthouse.