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‘As Hindus or Christians, we continue to do menial jobs’

Rajendar singh, who got converted to Christianity in 2001 and reconverted to Hinduism in November, at his home in Aligarh. Photo: Mohammad Ali

Rajendar singh, who got converted to Christianity in 2001 and reconverted to Hinduism in November, at his home in Aligarh. Photo: Mohammad Ali  

Rajendar was a Christian for 13 years before being "reconverted"

The entire Asroi village knows Rajendar Singh and his extended family. A family of manual scavengers, they had shot to fame when they decided to convert to Christianity in 2001. Among those who converted were his family of five and those of his two cousins, the only extended family to convert in this village, about 40 km from Aligarh.

But his stint with fame, or “infamy” as Rajendar describes it, is not over. This November, his family was again converted to Hinduism by the volunteers of the Dharam Jagaran Samiti, the same RSS-affiliated group, which had announced a ‘ghar vapsi’ this Christmas to convert about 4,000 Christians and Muslims. (The plan has since been dropped).

Jat dominance

Rajendar, now in his early sixties, spent about 13 years as a Christian in a village which used to have just about 14 fellow believers. Now after their reconversion, the number has come down to just two in the Jat-dominated village. Two members of their extended family still follow the “alien” religion but don’t want to talk about it given the ongoing controversy about conversion.

Their conversion to Christianity led to the building of a church next to Rajendar’s house, making Asroi among the very few villages in the area with one.

How is his new identity as Dalit Hindu different from his life as a Christian? “When we decided to convert, I and my family used to clean people’s toilets. We still do the same work. What change are you talking about?” he asks.

However, his son Rampal says before they converted to Christianity, they used to do “degrading menial” jobs. Now they clean people’s houses and their plates during public functions and do other daily wage work.

Was the change due to their conversion to Christianity? Rampal’s reply was cut short by the arrival of a few Jat men. “Tell these media people how Christians gave you money and fooled you,” said Rajbeer, a visibly influential villager, to Rajendar.

“No, sir. They didn’t give us any money. They fooled us. We had to come back to our original faith anyway,” replied Rampal sheepishly. When the men left the spot, Rampal asked this correspondent to leave his family alone.

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Printable version | Feb 19, 2020 2:37:09 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/with-or-withoutghar-vapsi-our-lives-dont-change/article6700562.ece

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