More than 800 members of the Hindu Valmiki community converted to Islam in the Rampur district of India’s Uttar Pradesh province on April 14 to save their homes from demoltion.
Members of the community staged a protest last week against a proposed demolition drive by authorities, threatening to convert en masse to Islam. The Valmiki families panicked when civic authorities allegedly painted red marks outside their homes, an indication that the buildings were earmarked for demolition.
“A municipal employee had come to our locality a few days ago and asked us to vacate our houses,” a resident of Valmiki Basti said.
“When we expressed our inability to do so, he advised us to convert to Islam in order to save our houses from being brought down. For us, it made sense because a few settlements belonging to the minority community in our vicinity have been spared the demolition,” the resident added.
According to Valmiki families, in place of their houses, a shopping mall will be built which is said to have the backing of UP minister and Rampur strongman Azam Khan.
“Those converting to Islam should clearly understand that this is not going to help them in any manner,” UP minister Azam Khan’s media in-charge Fasahat Ali Khan told The Times of India. “Encroachment of public land in any form by any community is totally unacceptable. In Rampur, the majority of those evicted from government lands are Muslims.”
Although the cleric who was supposed to assist with the conversion did not show up, members of the community sported skullcaps and declared that they were now Muslims.
“Though the additional district magistrate (city) visited our locality earlier and assured that nothing would happen to our houses, we can’t believe them. We need a written assurance. We have decided to become Muslims, come what may,” another resident Avinash Tapan said.
This story first appeared on The Times of India.