New Delhi: The alleged forcible conversion of about 300 Muslims in Agra generated political heat Wednesday but the Bajrang Dal insisted it had done no wrong.
Opposition leaders in and outside parliament demanded to know the central government’s response to what they said was a breach of the constitutional provision of secularism.
Speaking at a Congress meeting in Kerala, party vice president Rahul Gandhi accused the central government led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of triggering communal tensions.
“Their sole interest is come to power in the country. They are ready to use anything to come to power,” Gandhi said in Thiruvananthapuram.
“It doesn’t matter if people of different religion fight. It does matter to them if there is bloodshed,” he added.
In the Rajya Sabha, Bahujan Samaj Party leader Mayawati called the Agra conversions an attack on the country’s secular fabric.
Mayawati was backed by opposition parties who sought a statement from Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
On Wednesday, organisers of the Monday event again defended their action.
Ajju Chauhan, a Bajrang Dal leaders, said: “It is being wrongly propagated that the converts had been promised ration cards. They already have voting and ration cards. “They have on their own opted to convert to Hinduism,” he added.
Meanwhile, Muslim groups in Agra’s Mantola area staged a protest against the conversion. A police complaint has been filed against Nand Kishore, the state convener of Dharam Jagran Manch.
Unfazed by criticism, Hindutva groups Wednesday held several meetings in the Taj city. According to official sources, the situation in neighbouring Aligarh district was tense as a similar conversion programme has been announced for Thursday.
The nearly 300 members of some 60 Muslim families living in a slum on Agra’s outskirts reportedly embraced Hinduism Monday. The Bajrang Dal said it had organised the event.
Later, at least one Muslim claimed that he and the others were tricked into attending a fire ceremony by Bajrang Dal leaders, and that they were promised a better life if they gave up Islam and became Hindus.
Azam Khan, a senior leader from Uttar Pradesh’s ruling Samjawadi Party, accused the BJP of vitiating the atmosphere in the state.
“The BJP and the RSS have no issue. The Modi government has failed on various fronts. Neither could it create jobs not bring black money stashed abroad,” he said. “They just want to create tension.”
CPI leader D. Raja said: “Forcible conversions are a violation of our constitution. The government should take this into serious consideration.”
In the upper house, Mayawati said: “Our nation is run by a constitution which has secularism as a pillar.
“Whichever party is in the government is responsible to take care of the safety of the life and religious beliefs of people,” said the former Uttar Pradesh chief minister.
“They (Muslims) were lured. They (Bajrang Dal) took advantage of their poverty to convert them.”
Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said the government was committed to secular ideals.
“We are as dedicated to harmony and secularism as anyone else. Secularism is not anyone’s monopoly,” he said.
“As far as this incident is concerned, an FIR has been registered. Naming a particular organisation for political reasons is not right.”
CPI-M’s Sitaram Yechury said: “The RSS has said that after 90 years they have their government in (Delhi). They say they will covert the nation into a Hindu nation.”
In the Lok Sabha, as soon as the house met for question hour, Trinamool Congress’ Sultan Ahmed waved a newspaper and asked: “What is happening in Agra?”
Speaker Sumitra Mahajan refused to allow a discussion.