Tamil Nadu

I don’t advocate conversion, says Thirumavalavan

VCK leader Thol. Thirumavalavan, who studied the mass conversion of Dalits to Islam in Meenakshipuram in Tirunelveli district for his PhD thesis, has contended that his objective was not to recommend religious conversion.

His thesis had evoked criticism from Puthiya Thamizhagam (PT), a party largely representing the interests of the Devendrakula Vellalar community in the south, which saw it as an endorsement of conversion.

Mr. Thirumavalavan said he studied the issue because he wanted to know why Dalits there embraced Islam though Dr. Ambedkar advocated conversion to Buddhism.

He also wanted to find out whether money from Gulf countries played any role, as was alleged during the conversion, and if there were other inducements.

“But you cannot deny the fact that the socio-economic status of the Dalits in Meenakshipuram has witnessed a tremendous improvement when compared to Dalits living elsewhere. The second and third generation feel as if they are born-Muslims and fully devoid of any humiliation and discrimination. The State has not witnessed any mass conversion after Meenakshipuram,” he told The Hindu.

“Prolonged social discrimination was the factor behind the conversion and the situation was precipitated by police atrocities after a double murder in the village,” explained the VCK leader, who had one-to-one meetings with the members of the first generation that converted to Islam.

“Even late Chief Minister M.G. Ramachandran wondered whether Gulf money was involved in the conversion and his cabinet colleague V.R. Nedunchezhian, on the floor of the Assembly, explained that social oppression was the factor behind the changes,” he said.

‘Nothing new’

When asked about PT leader K. Krishnasamy’s allegation that there was no mass conversion and that 75% of the families had reconverted to Hinduism, Mr. Thirumavalavan said: “Even when they were planning to convert, 20 out of the 200 families changed their mind and remained Hindus. Only 180 families embraced Islam. Both the Hindus and the converts continue to maintain a cordial relationship. Marriage between them is common and some people have reconverted to Hinduism.”

The VCK leader also claimed that conversion was nothing new to Meenakshipuram, and that even in the 1960s, a few families converted to Christianity. “Ramaiah is one among them. He became Rasaiah as a Christian and changed his name to Ibrahim after he converted to Islam. He is the muthavalli of the local mosque,” he said. Thangaraj, who was allegedly involved in the double murder case, actually married outside his community and returned to his village as Yusuf, after his conversion to Islam.

He also rejected the claim that Dalit women, after their conversion, lost their independence and were forced to wear the burqa and remain within the four walls of their house. “They just cover their head and continue to work as agricultural labourers. Fathima, who never attended school, is able to recite relevant passages from the Quran and told me that she was able to read and write now,” he said. The VCK leader said his guide, K. Chockalingam, was an internationally renowned criminologist and former V-C of Manonmaniam Sundaranar University, and his external examiner, Bajpayee, was registrar of the National Law University.

“The thesis is an open document and anyone can access it to see for themselves,” he said when asked about Dr. Krishnasamy’s demand for rejecting the work.

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Printable version | Oct 21, 2020 11:52:27 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/i-dont-advocate-conversion-says-thirumavalavan/article25091197.ece

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