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February 6, 2020

Why I converted to Islam, buried my Hindu identity: Dalit camera founder

World

February 6, 2020

NEW DELHI: I learned one thing in my eight years’ experience with the Dalit movement through Dalit Camera assignments, and my research on caste for the last 14 years. Babasaheb Ambedkar was right when he said that leaving Hinduism is the only way to fight caste. Dalit Camera is a digital platform that documents voices of Dalits, Adivasis, Bahujans, and minorities through a website and a YouTube channel by the same name. Following his footsteps, I chose to leave Hinduism and embrace Islam on 30 January 2020 in Kodungallur, a historical town in Kerala’s Thrissur district. Kodungallur is where the first Indian mosque was built. I am now Raees Mohammed. The date is significant. It is the day when the first Hindutva terrorist Nathuram assassinated Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. It is also the day when our beloved brother Rohith Vemula, who fought against caste discrimination in Hinduism, was born. In my childhood, as a devotee of Lord Ayyappa, I had been to Kodungallur six times. It is also where CPI-ML (undivided) Kerala state secretary Najmal Babu embraced Islam in 2015. Rationalist Thanthai Periyar (father) had said that if one wanted to annihilate caste in 15 minutes and live with self-respect, then Islam is the only solution. Periyar had also suggested to Babasaheb Ambedkar to choose Islam as a religion for emancipation. In my years of research, I too found Islam to be the only religion in India with the strength to annihilate the caste system.