The findings by Thol Tirumavalavan, president of the Viduthalai Chiruthaikal Katchi (VCK), a Dalit fringe outfit, that religious conversion to Islam offers the Dalits self-respect and economic independence has put the Hindu forces in the State on their guards. Experts in Population Studies rejected Tirumavalavan’s arguments while Hindu activists term it as an effort to encourage more Dalits in the State to get converted to Islam or Christianity.
Arjun Sampath, leader of Hindu Makkal Katchi, who had a providential escape from the knives of Islamic terrorists recently, had submitted a memorandum to Governor Banwarilal Purohit and Vice Chancellor of Manonmaniam Sundaranar University at Tirunelveli stating that the PhD thesis submitted by Tirumavalavan is a travesty of truth and facts.
Tirumavalavan claims he has brought to light the reasons behind the mass conversion of Dalits of Meenakshipuram in Tirunelveli to Islam in 1981. He argued during the viva voce of his Ph D thesis held recently that the Dalits were discriminated against and oppressed all over the State. When a Dalit youth of Meenakshipuram fell in love with a girl belonging to the upper caste, relations of the girl stood up against the romance. The youth eloped with the girl to neighbouring Kerala and got married with her.
When the couple returned to the village, the girl’s relations thrashed the youth and his family members. This forced the 180 Dalit families in the village embrace Islam to escape from the persecution “unleashed by caste Hindus”, says Thirumavalavan.
The VCK leader claimed that the Dalits who got converted to Islam in 1981 prospered economically and socially. “The religious conversion of 1981 has given the Dalits the economic independence and self-respect,” claims Tirumavalavan in the thesis titled “Mass Religious Conversion at Meenakshipuram: a victimological analysis.”
Leaders of Hindu outfits are suspicious of the objective of Tirumavalavan’s studies. “This is an open invitation and encouragement to the Dalits to get convert to Islam,” said Sampath.
Dr Jatinder K Bajaj, demography scientist at the Centre for Policy Studies, is of the view that the findings and conclusion of Tirumavalavan’s findings do not stand the test of scrutiny. “Individually one of two members of the community might have been benefited because of conversion. But majority of them continue to be poor and helpless. Why the leaders of Islam and Christian communities insist that the Dalits among them need reservation?” asked Dr Bajaj.
Sampath who is a frequent visitor to Meeakshipuram pointed out that there are two kinds of Islam in the village. “The Dalits who were converted to Islam are known as Navi Muslims and are yet to get acceptance in the Islamic community. Some of the families had to reconvert following their failure to get suitable matches for their daughters,” said Sampath.