Over the past couple of weeks, hundreds of Muslims have converted to Hinduism in two adjoining districts of Haryana. Forty Muslim families with over 250 members from Bithmara village in Hisar district of Haryana converted to Hinduism last week to be able to perform the last rites according to Hindu customs. The families claim that it was a well thought-out decision as they belonged to a community which was mostly Hindu but was different only in observing the rituals for the dead.
The community also celebrates Hindu festivals besides having Hindu names. The families belong to the Mirasi Muslim community and work as traditional singers. They claim that even officially they are mentioned as Scheduled Caste Hindus. The question of completely converting to Hinduism came around when Phoolam Devi, a 80-year-old, passed away and the family decided to cremate her according to Hindu rituals.
Members of the community claim that their ancestors were Hindus who had converted to Islam during Mughal ruler Aurangzeb's time. The Bithmara village does not have a mosque and the people are not in the practice of visiting a mosque as they had been following Hindu customs.
In a similar incident, six Muslim families with 35 members had converted to Hinduism at the Danoda Kalan village in neighboring Jind district late April. In this case again, the villagers say that it was the decision prompted by the question of cremation.
Raj Kumar Ahlawat, who works as a Munshi in the local gaushala, cow shelter, said that the death of his father Nek Chand made them think about returning back to Hinduism. He along with his brothers decided to formally convert and their first big act was to cremate their father's body. Beside the Mirasi Muslims, the region has other Muslim communities like 'Teli' and 'Lohar' who continue to lead a lifestyle that includes both Hindu and Muslim practices.
The president of the Haryana Muslim Kalyan Committee, Harphool Khan Bhatti, said that he was aware of the conversions to Hinduism and the people had done so to take benefit of government reservations.
Religious conversions have been a big issue in a nation of 1.3 billion people where the world's powerful religions have been eyeing Indians for decades. With different religions professing diametrically opposing views on the issue of proselytizing, conversions, and now re-conversions, in India are becoming commonplace. Earlier this year, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, a Hindu social organization had said it had identified nearly 30 localities in Uttar Pradesh where conversions of Hindus to other religions were happening.