Special Reports

TN Dalit leader felicitated

New Delhi: T.M. Mani is a well-known Dalit leader of Tamil Nadu who has waged in a long war against casteism and caste atrocities and played a vital role in the emancipation of the Dalits of the state. He fought ferociously for 52 years against the inhuman caste system and finally found in Islam the sure method to get rid of caste and casteism. He has adopted the name of T.M. Umar Farook after accepting Islam. His struggles, sufferings and achievements are detailed in a Tamil  book which has been translated and published in English as End of Casteism which was formally released here at the Ghalib Academy on 18 April by Bhai Tej Singh, President of the Ambedkar Samaj Party and editor of Ahwal-e-Mission. Large number of Muslim, Dalit and Hindu activists and intellectuals participated in the programme.

Activist and publisher of the book Gulam Mohammed inaugurated the book release function. He informed the audience that Dr. Alagarasan of the University of Madras’s department of English has taken this book and other books of the author for a study project study. Miss Renuka is doing research on the works of T.M.Umar Farook. The University of Madras had even decided to translate the book into English and expressed its happiness when it came to know that Vergal Publications has already done so. 

  Dr. Zafarul-Islam Khan, former president of the Muslim  Majlis-e  Mushawarat and the editor of the Milli Gazette presided over the programme and translated the welcome address into Urdu for the benefit of those who understood Urdu only. In his speech, Dr. Khan highlighted the importance of Da’wah and the role of Darul Islam Foundation Trust whose publishing arm has published the English version of the End of Castesim”. He hailed the services of  Gulam Mohammed who is active in Tamil Nadu  as well as in the national arena for the last 30 years with writings, speeches and Da’wah work.He said that Islam is the only way to curb all social evils. He briefed the audience about the contents of the book End of Casteism.

The book was released by Bhai Tej Singh who presented the first copy to Advocate R.S. Adil (formerly Prajapaty).

Prof. Z.M. Khan, Secretary General of the Institute of Objective Studies, felicitated the author. He hilighted the successful struggle waged by the Dalits of Tamil Nadu for their basic rights under the leadership of T.M. Mani like the right to bury their dead bodies and using common space in villages. Prof. Khan urged Dalits to accept Islam to attain their full emancipation. He requested Muslims to take Islam to Dalits and liberate them from the indignities they still suffer in independent India. Prof. Khan asked Vergal Publications to translate the book into Urdu and Hindi at the earliest so that people in the north may benefit from it. He said that he  attended a  recent conference  in Japan on the theme of social justice and there he quoted profusely the book End of Casteism. Prof. Khan requested the author to narrate how he was received by the Muslim community after he accepted Islam.

Dr. Ausaf Ahamed, editor of Mutala’at and a former advisor to IDB quoted many passages from the book in his speech and congratulated T.M.Umar Farook for accepting Islam and urging his people also to follow him.

Advoate R.S. Adil, a practising lawyer of  Delhi High Court, who recieved the first copy of the book, is a Dalit convert to Islam. In his quest for equality and fraternity, he first joined Arya Samaj but was miserably disappointed. Then he converted to Buddhism but there  also he did not find solace. Finally he accepted Islam. In his speech, Advocate Adil quoted extensively from Dr. Ambedkar who repeatedly said that Dalit must change their religion in order to liberate themselves. Adv. Adil profusely quoted The Way of Salvation, a collection of speeches by Dr Amdedkar and Periyar Ramasamy, which said, “Friends! Our disease of being shudras is a very big and monstrous disease. This is like a cancer. There is only one medicine for it and that is Islam. There is no other medicine” (page 5).

He argued well in favour of Islam. He stressed on the unity of Dalits and Muslims which will help both of them to defeat a common enemy. He said that Islam is the only solution for the innumerable inequalities and indignities suffered by Dalits and other oppressed people. He quoted Ambedkar as saying that no conversation will liberate Dalit if there is no cultural transformation. He said, one  who  takes  to Islam undergoes cultural change also.

At the end, T.M. Umar Farook delivered his acceptance speech and answered the question raised by Prof. Z.M. Khan. He said he is received and respected  by all Muslims. Not only this, the Muslim community felt proud of his converstion. There were enough intermarriages and there are no problems in any sphere between Muslims and their convert brothers. He impressed upon the audience that not only he but all Dalit converts are regarded well in Tamil Nadu.

He said that he worked for 40 years organising people on the lines of Ambedkar. “I defied every caste rule. For having worked on the lines of Dr Ambedkar and demanding the rights of Dalits, which are mostly human rights, I was imprisoned many times. Finally even a life sentence was awarded,” he said adding that “We are insulted and all types of atrocities  are unleashed on us, not because we demanded a share from treasury, or because we demanded a partition but because we demanded that we should also be   treated  as  human beings. They denied it in the name of “god”. They produced innumerable literature justifying caste atrocities [varuna dharma]. Not only they created literature but also used all the modern media to propagate and justify all their caste atrocities. Their god, the god of Upper Castes, asked them to treat us as untouchables. To tackle these atrocities a concrete and permanent solution was offered 1400 years ago. Equality and fraternity among all human beings was the cornerstone of Islam. Yet even today we are suffering and suffocating. Why this solution did not reach us? We are eager to know the answer. Is the Muslim community responsible  for this? The answer is a definite yes. Allah and his Rasool made it a duty on every  Muslim to convey the message of Islam to all those who have no chance of knowing it. But we, Muslims, failed to live up to the expectations of our faith. We are answerable before Allah for this failure. Hence we made it a point to take this message to the  great leaders like Tej Singh and others all over India. People are citing  the struggles of reformers and other leaders of social liberation. Reformers came and went, but  we  remained as untouchables and we continued to be subjected to indignities and cruelties.”

Umar Farook went on to say, “In my considered opinion, all Muslims in India may be descendants of untouchables who in pursuit of self-respect and dignity embraced Islam. They wanted education which was vehemently denied by caste system while Islam  declared that getting education is a fundamental duty of evey human being. Hence they accepted Islam and became members of the Muslim community.

Umar Farook referred to what Tej Singh said that any conversion without cultural change will not bring any meaning to life. Farook said that the two photos in the front and back of this book mark the change both cultural and religious. “I would like to draw the attention of Bhai Tej Singh that after conversion not only Muslims but also those who are staunch followers of castesim started respecting us. It is to gain this respect  that we are fighting for generations together.

Umar Farook said that Brother Tej Singh has insisted on unity but unity for what - to win elections and make  demands  to the govt? Dalits are doing these things and getting benefits while remaining as Dalits and without any unity. But the untouchable need self-respect and dignity which we can get very easily by accepting Islam. “We should always strive to  get dignity. After me, thousands came to the fold of Islam. They do not like to tell their old names or mention their old caste or even tell their old stories. They are a liberated lot and want to bury the past once and for all. Ambedkar in 1932 had asked for re-settlement but he was subjected to all types of humiliations. Let us not suffer the same by asking for similar things. Let us accept Islam and liberate ourselves once and for all. I urge Muslims to come forward and convey the message of Islam which centres around equality or else we will not be able to face God in the Hereafter,” Umar Farook said.

End of Casteism is available from Pharos Media, see page 27 of this issue.

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 May 2010 on page no. 17

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