Born Hindus, will die Muslims

New Delhi: “We were born as Hindus, but will die as Muslims,” said Dalits after conversion in Delhi on 8 August. Dalits from Haryana’s Bhagana village near Hissar, offered Namaz after conversion to Islam at Jantar Mantar near Parliament House in New Delhi on 8 August.

Praying at Jantar Mantar after embracing Islam on 8 August

About 250 (Hindu) Dalit community converted en masse to Islam at the Jantar Mantar near Parliament House here on Saturday, 8 August, afternoon. They recited Kalimah (the simple affirmation that God is One and Muhammad is His Prophet) and offered Namaz on the roadside while security people looked on in disbelief. These people who have been sitting here on dharna for over two years, had made their intention public a week ago. They had been holding a sit-in at Jantar Mantar, India’s Hyde Park, for over two years seeking justice against the atrocities unleashed on them by the powerful Hindu Jat community in Bhagana village of Hisar district in Haryana which has usurped their land and properties and imposed a strict boycott against them for daring to ask their rights.

Right hand of Satish Kajla (now Abul Kalam) was fractured when his camp at Jantar Mantar was attacked by policemen around midnight on 9 August 2015.

"We have been facing untouchability, atrocity, boycott and gang-rape. At the root of all these problems is the Hindu system. While living in this system, no friend from outside helps us saying it is our internal issue. We have thought that if we have to save our future, if not present, then we will have to go out of this system," said Satish Kajla sporting a white Muslim skull-cap. He is one of the Dalit victims who converted to Islam here.

“If you get justice tomorrow, will you remove this Muslim cap and go out of Islam?” he was asked. Pat came the reply, "Never. Never. Even if we get justice we will not return to the Hindu religion," Kajla said.

Facing persecution and boycott by upper caste Hindus in Hisar for over four years, they had hinted at conversion to Islam. In a written statement, the victim families had said some of the victims have already converted to Islam in protest against the atrocities of upper caste Hindus.

"Continuously facing untouchability, atrocities and injustice, 500 families of Bhagana will convert in front of the Parliament House in New Delhi and will demand arrest of culprits and guilty officers and restoration of their homes," Bhagana Sangharsh Samiti, a committee formed by the victim families to fight for justice, had said.

"Bhagana victims have been running from pillar to post for justice for the last four years. Despite dozens of protests, court arrests and continuous sit-ins at Jantar Mantar, the Dalits failed to get justice, security and respect. Saddened with the atrocities of upper caste Hindus, some victims have already converted to Islam as a mark of protest," said the Samiti.

According to the Samiti, Khap panchayats had boycotted 250 Dalit families and forced them to flee the village in 2011. The Jats illegally occupied 280 acres of land and stopped Dalits from using them. "When we went to lodge a complaint with the administration against the atrocities, the local police, under pressure from the upper-caste Jats, registered a case of sedition against the victims themselves and sent them to jail," said a Samiti leader. The Dalits were attacked and their young girls were gang-raped, it said.

"We had to leave our village on 21 May, 2012 as our life had become miserable. Barbers were not shaving our hair and we were facing problems while moving around. Our kids were kicked out of schools, we were pushed out of temples, denied using the pond and general stores. Khap panchayat warned that whoever maintains relationship with us, will pay a fine of Rs 1100," said Virendra Singh Bagoria of Bhagana Sangharsh Samiti. Bagoria also converted to Islam on 8 August.

"We put our case before the authorities. None heard us. We met politicians, local MLAs, Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi but none cared for us. New government came both in Haryana and at the Centre. We hoped they will listen to us. Rather than resolving our problems, this government slapped cases on us while we were protesting peacefully in Hisar," said Bagoria.

"After we left the village, the government said there is peace in the village. But in between, they have kidnapped four of our minor girls and raped them. A person from the backward community was gunned down in full public view. Two girls were also kidnapped and raped and they became pregnant. Even five days ago, a girl from the backward class was kidnapped and forcibly married. Notwithstanding all this, the government claims there is peace and communal harmony in the village," he said.

"Hindu leaders do not consider us as human. They do not want to give us justice. They don't want to give us a share in the resources and system of the country. Life was getting miserable and this has forced our heart to change our faith. We cannot live in this Hindu system and therefore we have embraced Islam," said Bagoria.

Sanjay Bura, a youth from the Jat community, also changed his religion. "I belong to the caste which unleashed atrocities on these Dalits. I stood in solidarity with them in their grief. I consider myself a Dalit. I have seen their pain not only in Bhagana but at other places also. I have also converted to Islam along with them," said Bura.

"The Varna system in Hindu religion allows untouchability and discrimination against humans. I am against this system. The new government (of BJP) is working on a special agenda and capturing constitutional institutions. They work according to the Manuwadi agenda to suppress dalits and minorities," he said.

"I support the ideas of unity and equality. Islam is a great example of quality in the world. I have faith in it," Bura said.
Many sounded very grieved with the situation as no political parties are listening to them.

"Constitution is nothing. Law is only in books. There is only rule of musclemen. If your stick is powerful, then everything is yours. Otherwise, you have nothing. I was definitely born as Hindu but I will not die as Hindu," said a protestor. They were attacked by VHP and Bajrang Dal on 8 August and again by police itself during the 9-10 August night but they are adamant: they will continue to demand their rights and will stick to Islam which offered them dignity. (Inputs from

MG News Desk

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-31 August 2015 on page no. 1

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