More than 2,000 Dalits from Aligarh have threatened to give up Hinduism and convert to Islam, alleging constant persecution by members of the local Thakur community, identified as an “upper caste”.
On Sunday, they immersed pictures of Hindu deities in a rivulet close to their village, Keshopur Jhopri, as a symbolic farewell to the faith. The threat has of late found resonance among Dalits in other parts of Uttar Pradesh as well, with alleged harassment by the upper castes driving members of the community in Moradabad and Sambhal to warn of mass conversion too.
What sparked the Aligarh protest was a clash last week over the construction of a Bhairav Baba temple at the site of an abandoned well after their Thakur neighbours objected to it.
Local Dalit leader Bunty Singh said they had decided to convert to Islam on account of the continued “discrimination and harassment” they suffered at the hands of “upper caste” Hindus. “They don’t consider us a part of the Hindu community and use abusive language against us. It is better for Dalits to convert,” Bunty said.—INP