Panic had gripped the Valmiki families here after civic authorities allegedly painted red marks on their houses a few days ago. According to them, demolition of their houses would pave the way for building a shopping mall which is said to have the backing of UP minister and Rampur strongman Azam Khan.
Rampur district magistrate Chandra Prakash Tripathi refused to comment on the “conversion”. Azam Khan’s media in charge Fasahat Ali Khan told TOI, “Those converting to Islam should clearly understand that this is not going to help them in any manner. Encroachment of public land in any form by any community is totally unacceptable. In Rampur, the majority of those evicted from government lands are Muslims.”
There was high drama for most of the day as the Valmiki families went ahead with their self-announced conversion amid heavy police deployment in the area. Though a cleric from Amroha, who was set to assist in their conversion, didn’t turn up, the Valmikis sported skull caps and declared that they were henceforth to be considered Muslim.
No special ritual, ceremony, or even presence of a religious leader is required for conversion to Islam. All one needs to have to convert is ‘niyat’ (true belief in Islam), recite the ‘qalma’ and have faith that Mohammed was the last prophet of God. Even circumcision, after a certain age, is not necessary.
Bhim Anarya, a resident of Valmiki Basti, who also embraced Islam along with the others, said, “A municipal employee had come to our locality a few days ago and asked us to vacate our houses. When we expressed our inability to do so, he advised us to convert to Islam in order to save our houses from being brought down. For us, it made sense because a few settlements belonging to the minority community in our vicinity have been spared the demolition.”
Another resident, Avinash Tapan, said, “Though the additional district magistrate (city) visited our locality earlier and assured that nothing would happen to our houses, we can’t believe them. We need a written assurance. We have decided to become Muslims, come what may.”