Mohammad Rashid, a resident of Kandhla in Uttar Pradesh’s Shamli district, was 13 years old when his father converted to Islam. The family comes from the Banjara community, which has always struggled to get a burial ground for the dead. For this he adopted the path of converting to Islam. However, the availability of land remained difficult. Now at least 18 Banjara Muslims have re-joined Hinduism after assurances of land for the dead. Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) plans to make the remaining 200 people ‘ghar wapsi’.
Rashid, who has turned 25, has now become Vikas Kumar. “The people of the local temple promised land to bury the dead body. I remember in my childhood I used to celebrate Holi and Diwali. Then my father Umar Ahmed converted to Islam. But now I will make my own decisions.
On August 4, Rashid and 13 family members converted to Hinduism in a ‘purification ceremony’ at the Surajkund temple. These include Rashid’s wife Manju Bano and their 4 children. Rashid’s brothers Adil and Deepak also converted along with his wife and children. With three sisters and parents, this number increased to 18.
Yashveer Maharaj, who did the purification, said that he was constantly contacting the family members and taking them into confidence about adopting Hinduism. However, Shamli DM Jasjit Kaur said that legal conversion is yet to happen. The DM said that they want to change the name from Muslim to Hindu. Technically these processes have not happened yet.
This family lives in Rai Jadgan locality of Kandhla. Most of the population here is illiterate and works as a laborer. The Banjara community in Uttar Pradesh enjoys the status of a Scheduled Tribe. Since the 17th century, the nomadic caste Banjara community belongs to both Hindu and Muslim religions. Among the Muslims, Turkiya and Mukeri, these are two streams.
RSS volunteer Rikki Rawat said that we have helped more people of Banjara community. Religion change A letter has been written to the administration to provide them land. On the other hand, BJP councilor Deepak Saini, taking a step forward, tells the plan of preparing the last rites of the dead by connecting the Banjaras with the mainstream in future.
At the same time, Manju Bano, the wife of Rashid, who has now become Manju Devi, expresses concern that they are converting to Hinduism, but there is a doubt on where the land will be available for burial.