With skull cap symbolism, Valmikis threat to convert, demand ownership of houses built on govt land

By Waris Ali, TwoCircles.net,

Lucknow: Even as the country was busy celebrating birth anniversary of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar on Tuesday, nearly five dozen Valmiki people made an effort to change their religion and become Muslim.

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The incident occurred in Rampur district, nearly 300 kms from here. The Valmiki people were up in arms against administration’s decision to demolish their houses for widening of roads. Their houses are however situated on government land.

With skull cap symbolism, Valmikis threat to convert, demand ownership of houses built on govt land

Firstly, the Valmiki community members took out a protest march on April 7 during which they raised anti-government slogans. Administration acted tough and lodged cases against few Valmiki youths. After that the whole issue took another turn when Valmikis started claiming that they will convert to Islam if their houses are demolished. The announcement had desired effect and soon social activists and political leader started visiting them. The administration, sensing that the issue may become sensitive, categorically announced in a written statement that there are no plans to demolish their houses.

But the Valmikis continued their protest and now they are demanding that the government land on which their houses are built be transferred to them. Coinciding with the occasion of Ambedkar Jayanti, the Valmikis wore skull caps and claimed that it is just symbolic and they will convert if their demands are not met.

Heavy police force was deployed with no Maulana being allowed to move around in their colony. Local Maulanas categorically denied that changing religion for greed is not allowed under any circumstances. The Valmikis still are non-committal about admitting themselves to Islam and have hyped it as a tool to threaten administration for getting ownership of their houses.

It still remains uncertain whether they converted to Islam or not but the issue has given fodder to other parties to raise it against minister Azam Khan, who also hails from Rampur. However, it has led to another mode of protest – converting from own religion – which administration will face in coming days in Uttar Pradesh which has already witnessed a series of claims and counter claims on Ghar Wapasi campaign of Hindutva brigade.

Series of events:

April 6: Administration puts red mark on some houses in Valmiki colony as encroachment for road widening.

April 7: Valmikis take out protest march, raise slogans against state government and Azam Khan

April 9: Samajwadi Party protest at Gandhi Samadhi against slogans of Valmiki. Case lodged against Valmiki persons for taking out procession without permission. (Case number 230/2015)

Total Houses: 45 on right side of road, 22 houses on left side of road. The road is near Raza College. Administration wanted only 22 houses to be demolished. It offered free houses in Kanshiram colony as compensation.

April 10: Valmikis start dharna in the colony.

April 14: Valimikis wear skull cap as a token of converting to Islam.