Chennai

‘Govt. must protect Dalits’ rights’

Ravi Kumar  

Even as 250 Dalit families in Nagapattinam district are threatening to convert to Islam after they were denied their right to perform mandagapadi, a ritual performed on day one of the seven-day festival conducted in the first week of Aadi, Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi general secretary Ravi Kumar said the onus was on the government to ensure that the rights of the Dalits to partake in temple festival were protected.

Speaking about Dalits threatening to convert to Islam, he toed the line earlier taken by the party chief Thol. Thirumvalavan that conversion to another religion merely creates ‘minorities within a minority’ and reduces the collective bargaining power of the Dalits in their fight against caste discrimination.

“While we don’t encourage conversion, denial of temple rights has been a continuing issue. The Dalit community has been pushed to issue this threat in the hope that the government and Hindu community will take notice and reform itself. We must ensure that there is reform within the Hindu community,” he said.

Two organisations – Hindu Makkal Katchi and Tamil Nadu Thowheed Jamat – are now involved in various capacities. While the TNTJ president Pakkir Mohammed Althafi and others met the Dalits on Wednesday, Hindu Makkal Katchi is trying to resolve the issue without any need for Dalits to convert.

The spokesperson of Islamic organisation Tamil Nadu Thowheed Jamat claims that it was the Dalits of Pazhag Kallimedu village, who had informed them that they are planning to convert to Islam. “Some of TNTJ members, including its president Pakkir Mohammed Althafi, met and explained to a group of around 50 people that they should not embrace Islam just because they are being discriminated in Hinduism. We encouraged them to fully understand the concepts and fundamentals of Islam. We gave them the Koran and urged them to read it. Six persons reportedly embraced Islam on the spot,” said Abdur Rahman, spokesperson, TNTJ.

Claiming that they were against forcing anyone to embrace Islam, the spokesperson said that they would not turn away those willing to do so. In contrast, Rama Ravikumar, general secretary, Hindu Makkal Katchi, said members of the Dalit community had assured them that they would not convert. “We are trying to speak to both the sides. Contrary to popular belief, there is no major friction between the Dalits and the non-Dalits. The Dalits have not been denied temple rights,” he claimed.

He said that the issue is only about who gets to perform the rituals in the festival. “I was disappointed to know the Collector has ordered that the temple festival will not be conducted. The Collector could have given us more time. We are very hopeful that a peaceful solution that protects the rights of Dalits and Hindu unity will be arrived at,” he said.



Hindu Makkal Katchi and Tamil Nadu Thowheed Jamat involved in counselling Dalits




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Printable version | Dec 6, 2021 8:30:21 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/%E2%80%98Govt.-must-protect-Dalits%E2%80%99-rights%E2%80%99/article14518096.ece

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