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After conversion, they run for cover

Even since they decided to change their faith, Om Prakash Verma and his family have rarely had a moment of peace. After Verma and his family voluntarily converted to Islam, they have been on the run...
Verma, who worked as a cycle mechanic in Rasoolpur Khaulri, recently declared himself as Ibadur Rahman. He named his wife Rajeshwari as Sumaiya, his daughter Asha (18) became Ayesha and Bimal, Sajida. When news of the conversion broke out in the village, it sent out shock waves. Om Prakash (Ibadur Rahman)’s brother-in-law Tej Prakash Verma, who works with the State Electricity Board, accused the other community of luring his sister’s family to change her faith.

The couple’s relatives and community members are demanding that the couple be produced before them. ‘We have to find out whether they were lured with incentives or threatened to adopt Islam or whether they did it voluntarily,’ says Tej. 

Members of the Muslim community allege that after their conversion, the relatives threw them out in the middle of the night. The family has reportedly been given shelter in one of the Muslim-dominated villages.

‘What’s wrong with voluntary conversion? After all, it’s a free country,’ say community elders Sadiq, Anees and Saeed. They point out that Om Prakash had been practicing Islamic rituals for the past 17-18 years ever since he arrived with his wife in his in-law’s village. He procured a certificate of conversion only recently, says Senior Superintendent of Police, RP Singh. It’s no forcible conversion, clarified the SSP. 

Predictably, the situation has got politicized, with local units of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad demanding that the community produce the family to ascertain whether they were forcibly converted. ‘If he had problems marrying off his daughters, we are even prepared to raise Rs one or two lakh,’ says VHP Meerut Mahanagar chief, Krishan Johri. But the administration is not allowing us to speak to the couple, he alleged. 

The VHP has threatened to launch an agitation if the couple was not produced before them. The villagers too are gearing up for a showdown. 

Hindu-dominated villages held their panchayat in Dolcha o 19 August. It was attended by representatives of 40 villages, claims Balbir Singh. Following this, Muslims held their own panchayat. ‘We don’t want bloodshed or communal trouble here,’ says villager Babar Qasmi. We will not allow the village's name to be blotted by this kind of thing, he adds. District magistrate Avneesh Kumar Awasthi has ordered a magisterial inquiry, Singh says.

Excerpts from report by MVR Rao, the Indian Express, 20 August 2000q

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