At least 59 Hindus converted to Islam in Badin after the landlord, whose agricultural land they have been cultivating for years, invited them to do so reportedly in exchange for protection and economic support.
The converts, including 23 women, all belong to the Bheel community and have been working the agricultural lands of the former Matli municipal committee chairperson Abdul Rauf Nizamani for years.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, Nizamani confirmed that the converting ceremony was held in Ismail Wadho village, located on the Matli-Tando Ghulam Ali Road some four kilometres away from Matli city. Around 12 families of the Bheel community converted to Islam at the ceremony held on Tuesday morning.
"They all happily and willingly converted to Islam," claimed Nizamani. "No one forced them to leave their former religion."
Contradicting himself, however, Nizamani added that he had asked the former Hindus to embrace Islam. "They had [almost] no religion. These families were between Hinduism and Islam," he claimed, adding that here Islam offers protection. Most of their relatives had already converted, he added.
According to Nizamani, everyone in the village was now a Muslim and he had done this - ask the villagers to embrace Islam - to make his god happy.
"No one forcibly asks these poor souls to convert but the people behind such acts slowly brainwash them into hating the Hindu religion," said Mukesh Meghwar, a Hindu activist from Badin.
Matli in Badin is one of the numerous cities in the province where Hindus, especially those belonging to the lower castes, have been converting to Islam.
Commenting on the pervasive issue of conversions and forced conversions in various districts of the province, particularly in lower Sindh, Meghwar said that the case of these 12 families was one of indirect forced conversion.
He was of the view that economic inequalities factored into such conversions as well. "Muslim landlords offer them [timely] economic opportunities," he elaborated. "Our culture is under threat. We are already a minority."
Meghwar added that such acts and inequalities compelled members of lower income minority groups to convert in hopes of better opportunities as members of the majority religion. "We will not be heard anywhere," he said, citing fears of erasure of his community in this manner.
Meanwhile, Nizamani told The Express Tribune that his family would support the new converts financially.
They would also be enrolled in an Islamic seminary located in the city. In a video shared by Nizamani, the converts were seen reciting Quranic verses guided by a cleric. Some appeared to be in new dresses while others had seemingly been brought to the ceremony straight from the agricultural fields.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 12th, 2021.
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