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40 Dalits in TN village Embrace Islam, say They Wanted to Escape Casteist Violence

The caste-Hindus in Dombuchery village have repeatedly targeted the dalits in the village, forcing them to take this step, the converts alleged.

Image Courtesy: The Federal

A group of 40 dalits from Dombuchery village in Bodinayakanur town of southern Tamil Nadu have converted to Islam because they faced casteist discrimination, violence, and false cases for years. 

The 40 persons from ten families in Dombuchery, a village in Theni district, converted to Islam in December 2021, The Federal reported. Interestingly, Bodinayakanur, the town the village falls under, is the constituency of the former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu and senior leader of the AIADMK, O Panneerselvam.

The incident came to light even as the Tamil Nadu BJP unit and other Sangh Parivar outfits have been alleging forced religious conversions in the state and clamouring for an anti-conversion law. However, the converted persons told The Federal that the caste-Hindus in Dombuchery have repeatedly targeted the dalits in the village, forcing them to take this step. In particular, the Piramalai Kallars, a Most Backward Community (MBC), a Kallar sub-caste and part of the Mukkulathor caste, have allegedly been the major perpetrators.

Yaser Arafath, a villager whose name earlier was Veeramani, told the news publication that dalits were heckled by caste-Hindus in the village even if they walked by the streets or their kids were riding a bicycle. 

According to the villagers, Dombuchery has about 800 OBC families, 200 MBC families, and around 400 Dalit families.

Arafath claimed that every fight was followed by them becoming victims of assault as the police would allegedly file cases against the dalits. “I even lost count of the number of cases against me, it must be four, I think. Even now I have come from the police station signing the conditional bail,” he told The Federal.

According to Ismail, six cases have been registered against Manoj, who is the only lawyer from the Dalit community there. On the other hand, on Diwali, a case was registered against a woman working in an Anganwadi centre and she is the only government employee from the dalit community in Dombuchery, Ismail said.

Arafath further said that the police cases were impacting their livelihood as they would have to visit the police station to log their presence before 10.30 am for 15 days. After that time, it becomes too late to get work anywhere.

According to the Muslim converts, the caste-Hindus did not like that some of the Dalit youths from the village were educated and able to get jobs. Mohammed Ismail, formerly known as Kalaikannan, said, to get back at the dalits, the caste-Hindus would name the educated members of the communities every time they filed police complaints against the dalits in the village. 

Hence, the converts said they found no other way out of the discrimination and the violence but to embrace Islam. They said they could not bear the humiliation anymore for their Scheduled Caste identity.

“The only reason for discrimination and clashes is caste. It is only because I am in this religion, they say I belong to this caste. So, I left Hinduism and embraced Islam,” Ismail told The Federal

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