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February 19, 2020

Over 430 Dalits convert to Islam in Indian state citing injustice

Peshawar

February 19, 2020

COIMBATORE, Tamil Nadu: Post the tragic incident in Mettupalayam, Coimbatore, where a wall collapsed and led to the death of 17 Dalits, close to 3,000 people from the Dalit community announced that they were to convert to Islam.

Illavenil, the state secretary of the Tamil Puligal Katchi, said that legally 430 people have converted to Islam and many more are in the process of the conversion.

On December 2, after heavy rains lashed Mettupalayam and the surrounding regions, a wall which was claimed by protesters in the region to be the "wall of discrimination" collapsed on three houses and killed 17 people.

This was the breaking point for many Dalits in the region who claimed that they have been regularly discriminated, reported foreign media on Monday.

Mohammed Abubaker, originally known as Marx, converted to Islam soon after the December 2 event.

"We converted to Islam all because of the prevailing caste injustice and untouchability. For example, any dalit who is underprivileged could not enter into Mariamman [Goddess Durga] temple. Tea shops have discrimination here.

We can't sit with other people equally in the government bus," said Mohammed.

Illavenil, who has converted to Islam, said, "We decided to leave Hinduism according to what Ambedkar said. I need to lose my identity, which means I need to get rid of the caste remarks such as Pallar, Parayar, Sakkriyar.

I can live with self-dignity only when I shed this cast-based identity. While following Hinduism because of our caste, we aren't even treated like humans."

Another youngster named Sarath Kumar who converted to Islam and changed his name to Abdullah said, "While 17 of our people were dead, no Hindu voiced for us. Only the Muslim brothers stood with us and protested for us.

Where is Arjun Sampath who said that he would voice for the Hindus who are persecuted? Where is that leader? Our Muslim brothers invite us to their houses. Hindus never called us. Would you make me enter the common temple? We could enter any mosque though. I have visited four to five mosques after converting. I worship God there with all levels of people. But would you permit me to enter Mariamman temple and seek god?"

In regions like Coimbatore where these mass conversions are underway, there has been several reported cases of discrimination right from entry into temples to discrimination at the burial ground to discrimination towards Dalits at tea shops and public space. They are still called by their caste names.

Though many have shied away from raising their voices against this, the younger generation seems to be more vocal.