Dalit leader defends mass conversion at Meenakshipuram

Special Correspondent TIRUNELVELI 25 August 2018 00:46 IST
Updated: 25 August 2018 07:23 IST

Delves into the incident in Ph.D. thesis

Nearly 37 years after a mass conversion of Dalits to Islam at Meenakshipuram in Tirunelveli district rocked the nation, Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK) leader Thol Thirumavalavan has defended the incident in his Ph.D. viva voce.

The mass conversions ensured self-respect and economic independence for the Dalits, he contended, defending his doctoral thesis on ‘Mass religious conversion at Meenakshipuram: A victimological analysis’ in the viva voce at the Manonmaniam Sundaranar University here on Friday.

He argued that discrimination and oppression of Dalits were the primary reasons behind their embracing Islam in 1981. After a Dalit youth of Meenakshipuram fell in love with an ‘upper caste’ girl, eloped with her and married her in Kerala, the oppression [of Dalits] had worsened. When the newlywed couple returned to Meenakshipuram, the [Dalit] youth was thrashed by ‘upper caste’ men, which became the ‘triggering event’ to compel the Dalits to search for self-esteem and respect, he pointed out. “Along with the affected Dalit youth, 180 families of Meenakshipuram embraced Islam as they believed that at least the new religion would ensure much-needed self respect for them. Though this mass conversion had not ushered in fortunes for them, they could, after embracing Islam, at least start an eatery, a shop or a teashop right on the main road, or go to the Gulf in search of a job. Hence, it (the religious conversion) had given them economic independence and ensured self-respect,” he said, categorically denying the allegation that the conversions had the backing of a few Islamic nations.