40 Muslim families converted by Yogi’s outfit 4 months ago still live in margins
Six months ago, Lalchand used to fast during Ramzan, go to the mosque to offer prayers and greeted other Muslims at the Eidgah grounds.india Updated: Dec 15, 2014 00:46 IST
Six months ago, Lalchand used to fast during Ramzan, go to the mosque to offer prayers and greeted other Muslims at the Eidgah grounds.
Now, the 37-year-old sports a sacred thread and points at the spot where he sacrificed a goat during Dussehra. "I fasted during Ramzan when my name was Naseeruddin. Now I go with Hindus to celebrate Diwali," he says.
He is one of the 200 people in Uttar Pradesh's Ghazipur village, who have converted to Hinduism. All 40 families who converted belong to the impoverished Nat (nomadic) tribe.
Why did they become Hindu? Community elder Ekam says their forefathers were Hindus but Muslims converted them, saying their burial practices were closer to Islam.
Four months back, activists from the Hindu Yuva Vahini (HYV), founded by Gorakhpur BJP MP Yogi Adityanath, met the families. "Yogi welcomed us in the Hindu fold - it's ghar wapsi (home coming) he told us; if you return, your dignity would be protected," says Ekam. The village's name was also changed to Hari Om Nagar.
Women, too, practise Hindu customs now. Godawali - earlier called Tabbasum - says she fasted on Teej with Hindu women.
Once they decided to convert, Muslims pressurised them but the Nats remained adamant, Ekam says. "We used to live marginalised lives as Muslims, so what is wrong with conversion?" the elder asks.
But have their lives improved? Not noticeably. Still forced to live on the outskirts of the village, the 40 families share only two hand pumps. Few have BPL or ration cards and none get old-age or widow pension. None have benefitted from the state government's land scheme in 2010 and only a few were lucky to get houses under the Indira Awas scheme.
HYV chief Sunil Singh, however, says no allurement was given to the Nats for conversion.
"We assured them a better life. We are raising their problems of drinking water, education and health with the district administration. We want to showcase Hari Om Nagar and motivate other members of Hindu community who have converted to Islam to return home," he says.