About 80 lower caste families from Uttar Pradesh, backed by the BJP, accused state minister Azam Khan on Wednesday of targeting them after they reportedly converted to Islam this week to prevent the demolition of their houses allegedly built on government land.
Rampur residents from the Valmiki community announced a protest against the UP’s Samajwadi Party (SP) government, saying a local municipal worker considered close to Khan told them they could protect their homes by adopting Islam.
The controversy comes at a time when hardline Hindu groups have conducted a series of ceremonies across the country over the past eight-ten months to convert members of minority communities to Hinduism, terming it ghar wapsi, or homecoming.
While Muslim clerics were barred from carrying out conversion, the Valmikis, who traditionally favour the BJP, donned skullcaps to show they had taken up Islam. However, no conversion rituals were reportedly performed. “It’s a sin to convert anyone either by force or allurement. As they decided to embrace Islam to save their colony, we have decided not to accept their request,” said cleric Furqan Raza.
The Valmikis say civic authorities painted red marks on their houses a few days ago to identify them for razing to facilitate the construction of a shopping mall that reportedly has Khan’s support.