The Valmiki families in a Rampur colony Tuesday took their protest, and their suggestive measure of embracing Islam in order to save their houses from demolition, to the next step by donning skull caps. Since Muslim clerics, according to the families, have been barred by the police from entering the colony, they donned the skull caps as a sign of converting to the religion.
“No cleric was allowed to meet us so we could not complete the rituals. We have donned skull caps and will complete the rituals whenever any cleric comes to meet us. We wore skull caps as a token to show that we stood by our word of converting from our religion,” Dharam Valmiki, who is behind the Valmiki Basti Bachao Sangharsh Samiti, told The Indian Express.
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The move comes a day after the protesting families, nearly 80 in number, had called a meeting late Monday night to discuss the religious conversion issue despite the state government’s announcement that it does not have any plans to demolish the alleged unauthorised structures (the houses of the families).
Dharam Valmiki also claimed that the District Magistrate, C P Tripathi, held talks with the families Tuesday afternoon and asked them to call off the “conversion” bid.
“We gave him two hours but he did not revert and so we went ahead with our plan,” he said.
Incidentally, a cleric from Bareilly, Maulana Faizan Raza, had reached the colony Monday but upon meeting the clerics of Rampur, he returned without performing the rituals.
While the Valmikis have refused to call off the dharna, they have now raised their demand for “ownership title of the land” on which their houses are built. Amid all this, some members claimed they have also written to the President and the Chief Justice of India, asking for permission “to perform euthanasia (or commit suicide)” in case they are not given the ownership rights to their houses.
Meanwhile, Rampur administration remained on its toes for the entire day. Heavy police force was present for the Ambedkar Jayanti function in the city. Entry to the Valmiki colony was barred. BJP leader Sadhvi Prachi, too, was expected to reach Rampur but SP Sadhna Goswami informed in the evening that she had not arrived yet. A team of doctors went to the colony to check upon the members participating in the dharna. Doctors advised medicine and hospitalisation due to their deteriorating health but the members did not concede.
The district administration, in a press release, has stated that there are no plans to demolish the houses or to relocate the affected families. The DM also claimed that an enquiry has been instituted after it came to light that Sibtain Nabi, an employee of the Municipal Board, had allegedly instigated the Valmikis to embrace Islam as a measure to save their houses from demolition.