Members of Hindutva groups in Uttar Pradesh who engineered what they refer to as ghar wapsi – the conversion of Muslims to Hinduism – over the past two years are now running scared from their new converts.
This is because they have been unable to deliver on a key promise made to the Dalit Muslims they persuaded to convert to Hinduism – that they would be issued with Scheduled Caste certificates if they did. The new converts are not inclined to forget that promise.
“It is our right to get the Scheduled Caste certificate,” said Singhari Devi of Sohgupur village in Ambedkar Nagar district. “As Muslims we were not entitled to it, but now we have become Hindus and expect to be treated as other Hindu Nats.”
Singhari Devi, who was formerly called Saira Bano, was among 24 Muslims from a Dalit caste called Nat who were persuaded by local Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh activist Surendra Kumar to convert to Hinduism. The conversion took place at an Arya Samaj temple at Faizabad on May 20.
Since Dalit Muslims are not recognised as Scheduled Castes, only Hindu Nats are given Scheduled Caste status. The Nats following Islam are listed among the Other Backward Classes category.
At the time of their conversion, the Muslim Nats were made to believe that changing their religion would make them eligible for all government benefits meant for Scheduled Castes. But so far none of them has received a Scheduled Caste certificate, which is usually issued by officials of the local administration. This has led to the converts feeling that they have been cheated, and Surendra Kumar is the person they hold responsible.
Kumar expressed his helplessness in this regard.
“I thought once ghar wapsi is completed the senior office bearers of the RSS would ensure SC [Scheduled Caste] status is granted to them,” said Kumar. “That was also the impression I got when I set out to explain to Muslim members of the Nat community about the risk of continuing to follow Islam and the benefits they might get by becoming Hindus. These people now keep asking me about the SC certificate and I do not know what to do. So I keep avoiding them.”
In April, a batch of 19 Muslim Nats from Ambedkar Nagar had also converted to Hinduism at the Arya Samaj temple. Surendra Kumar played a key role in those conversions too.
Himanshu Tripathi, a prominent name in the local RSS unit of Faizabad and the manager of the Arya Samaj temple, echoed Kumar’s remarks about not knowing what to do once the conversions went through.
“We encourage ghar wapsi but do not know what to do after it is done,” said Tripathi. “We tried talking to several people to resolve the issue, but nothing happened.”
This is perhaps the case with every instance of religious conversions carried out by Hindutva groups in Uttar Pradesh recently.
In January 2015, the Hindu Yuva Vahini, the private militia of Adityanath, were able to effect the conversion of a good number of Muslim residents of Ghazipur village in Kushinagar district. These converts also belonged to the Nat community. Two-and-a-half years later, they have not received Scheduled Caste certificates either.
“The Vahini people send a priest regularly to help us perform Hindu rituals,” said Shivnath, who was known as Shahabuddin previously. “But that was not the promise they made in the beginning. Where is the SC certificate?”
Another convert, Chhote Lal, who was known as Aslam previously, said: “We do not bother about ourselves. But our kids are growing and they desperately require the SC status. Please ask Vahini people to give us SC certificate.”
The local office bearers of the Hindu Yuva Vahini are as clueless as their RSS counterparts in Faizabad. Whenever they face the new converts, their usual aggression disappears and they meekly accept their helplessness.
“When I see them coming, I just run away,” said Rakesh Kumar Gupta, a local Hindu Yuva Vahini leader, who is also the head of Ghazipur village. “The whole operation has become pointless. I hope that Yogi-ji [Adityanath] will do something.”