India: Over 430 Dalits convert to Islam in Southern India
Complaining about discrimination from the authorities in the Southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, about 3,000 Dalits (also known as "untouchables," are members of the lowest social group in the Hindu caste system) in a small village near Coimbatore, had on January 5 announced their intention to convert to Islam in phases.
Illavenil, the State Secretary of the Tamil Puligal Katchi, a pro-Dalit organisation told India Today that about 430 people have legally converted to Islam and many more to follow.
The decision to become Muslims was taken following the wall collapse incident that took place on December 2 due to incessant rains.
They said that police are not taking action against the owner of the house as per the provisions of the SC/ST atrocities act.
No discrimination in Islam
“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 [Hindu goddess Durga] temple. Tea shops have discrimination here. We can’t sit with other people equally in the government bus,” said Mohammed, originally known as Marx, converted to Islam soon after the December 2 event.
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. 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 changed his name to Abdhuallah said, “While 17 of our people were dead, no Hindu voiced for us. Only the Muslim brothers stood with us and protested for us. 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 the Almighty God there with all levels of people. But would you permit me to enter Mariamman temple?”