Lucknow: Four days after Uttar Pradesh Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) arrested two clerics from New Delhi for allegedly converting over a thousand people to Islam, the links of ‘religious conversion’ are being investigated following continuous raids by the ATS team on Muslim homes and of those converted across the state.
NewsClick spoke to three members of the families who were raided, who claimed they faced mental harassment by the ATS team despite the fact that they had converted to Islam of their own free will five-six years ago. . They said they had all approached Islamic Dawa Centre (IDC) in Jamia Nagar in New Delhi, a registered government organisation, for legal paperwork over the past year. A resident of Saharanpur, who was among those questioned by the ATS and local police, claimed he was not aware of how his name popped up in religious conversion documents.
Meanwhile, fear has gripped Hashim Khan, who embraced Islam in 2018, after the arrest of the clerics, Mohammad Umar Gautam and Mufti Qazi Jahangir Alam Qasmi by the UP ATS on charges of converting people into Islam allegedly through inducements, such as job promises, money and marriage. Khan said after the arrest of the two clerics, he was continuously getting calls from media houses and various organisations.
"Since the past few days, mainstream media is continuously running news that conversion is being done at the behest of the Islamic Dawa Centre in Jamia Nagar, New Delhi, which was ‘targeting’ vulnerable groups/weaker sections of the society, luring them with promises of jobs etc, but all this is baseless,” Khan told NewsClick.
He further said: “I converted to Islam in 2018 before meeting Umar Gautam in person. When I came to know about his organisation later, I went there to know the legal documentation process after conversion, where I met Mufti Jahangir Alam who provided the legal documents. But before that, an individual has to go through a long process for which no organisations help you out."
Explaining the process he went through, Khan, who is a private employee in the national capital, said: "I made an affidavit from the Patiala House Court itself, the gazette notification was also prepared by me, where I had submitted all my documents, including Aadhaar card. I paid Rs 1,700 for an affidavit from the court and the conversion certificate. Finally, I submitted a self-declaration form in video format, stating reasons for why I converted among other questions. This is the complete process for conversion,” questioning “how can someone “force” or put “pressure” to convert their religion during this complete process.”
Meanwhile, Praveen Kumar, a resident of Shitala Khera village in Saharanpur district, whose name appeared in religious conversion documents as "Abdul Samad", denied conversion claims. He alleged he was mentally harassed by ATS and local police ever since his name appeared in religious conversion documents.
"I was questioned by the ATS team who came from Lucknow and local police following the media trail with the similar question-answer patterns as to how and why I converted to Islam, from where did my name come up in conversion documents etc. My family members and I were mentally tortured during the whole investigation," said Kumar, adding that he had not converted to Islam and was not even aware from where the ATS receive those documents.
Kumar, who works as a cane development officer at a sugar mill, said he has written books on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and claimed to be an "ultra-nationalist".
"My two books -- ‘NaMo Gatha: Modi, Ek Vichaar’ and ‘Yogi Raj se Yogiraj Tak’, saved me today and the ATS team believed me when I said that I had not been converted," Kumar told NewsClick, adding that if he hadn't authored these books, he would have been jailed by now just because his name was in the list.
Abdullah, who is in the teaching profession after completing B. tech, said he got his name registered with IDC in February last year. "But I had converted in 2016 of my own choice under Article 25 of our Constitution. I went through all legal procedures before conversion, even faced the magistrate. When it was not an issue then, why is it being made such a big issue after seven years?" he said.
Similarly, Sufiyan had approached the IDC to get his name changed in February last year, but after his name appeared in the list compiled on the basis of documents found during investigation by ATS, he is frightened. "I had converted long back and approached IDC to get my conversion certificate done. It was my choice to embrace Islam," he told NewsClick.
On June 21, the UP ATS arrested two clerics from Jamia Nagar, New Delhi, accusing them of converting people by inducing fear. During their interrogation, the police found that Gautam had himself converted to Islam. “He had disclosed that they converted at least 1,000 people to Islam so far. The two men have also disclosed that IDC even received funds from international organisations with the purpose of converting people into Islam," UP ADG (Law and Order) Prashant Kumar claimed.
Kumar alleged that Umar Gautam and his colleague were running IDC for mass conversion and also received foreign funding, including from ISI. The duo and the organisation run by them, were booked under Sections 420, 120 B, 153A, 153B, 295 and 511 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Section 3/5 the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance 2020.
Commenting over allegations made by UP ADG (Law and Order), Umar Gautam’s daughter, told NewsClick: "The allegation made by ATS and UP ADG is completely baseless and disheartening. My father works in IDC and that is legal. Even the gazette notice and certificate were made under the Constitution of India and trules and regulations set up by the government of India. The role of IDC or my father being an employee is not to convert anybody to Islam but to guide people on legal documentation required after conversion". She said a video of her father was being circulated on social media platform which was recorded by the police after his "illegal detention”.
"In the video, it has been claimed that my father had converted at least 1,000 non-Muslims into Islam so far. It is fabricated. The reality is that all these people had converted long back during1999 to 2004. All of them have received affidavits from the government of India. They had approached IDC for legal documentation, and my father helped most of them with the formalities," she claimed.
The Masuri police station in Ghaziabad asked Umar Gautam to appear before the police and later released him after several rounds of interrogation. Again the police asked him to bring all the documents, such as IDs of family members, their account details, IDC account number etc. He went with his son but did not return home in the night, said his family.
"My brother, who went along with him, returned at night but we did not know the whereabouts of my father. We came to know through the media that he was taken to Lucknow by the ATS," the distraught daughter told Newsclick, adding that her father was "illegally detained" without any warrant and prior legal notice.
She went on to add: "The local police and ATS also visited my father's ancestral village Panthhua in Fatehpur district and questioned people about his role in conversion to Islam, but everyone denied. We have healthy relationship with our uncles and their children, who follow Hindu faith. My father never forced them to covert. Instead, he faced wrath after he converted due to stigma and taboo, since we belong to a reputed family. My father never was into conversion activities."