The Story Of Umesh Rai Who Became Mohammed Abdullah 15 Years Ago, But Has Done ‘Ghar Wapsi’ Now

by Swati Goel Sharma - Jan 4, 2022 07:00 PM +05:30 IST
The Story Of Umesh Rai Who Became Mohammed Abdullah 15 Years Ago, But Has Done ‘Ghar Wapsi’ NowThe reconversion ceremony.
Snapshot
  • His ‘ghar wapsi’ was done last month at his village in Bihar.

Several newspapers recently reported the curious story of a man from Bihar, who converted to Islam about 15 years ago but ‘reconverted’ to Hindu faith last month.

This correspondent contacted Avinash Singh̉ alias Badal, a Hindu activist who carried out the man’s ghar wapsi.

Avinash, who prefers the name Badal, is a resident of Samastipur district of Bihar. He runs a registered organisation named Hindu Putra. More than thousand youths in Bihar are associated with it, he says.

About a month ago, Badal received a call from a man named Satyam Patel, a resident of Bherokhara village in Tajpur block. The 27-year-old sought Badal’s help for bringing his uncle, Mohammed Abdullah, “back to Hindu religion”.

A picture of Badal Singh from his election campaign
A picture of Badal Singh from his election campaign

Satyam told Badal his uncle’s story: Abdullah was named Umesh Rai. As a youth in his 20s, he used to visit the 'Muslim colony' within Bherokhora village for work. Umesh, trained as a compounder, would give medical consultation and medicines.

Residents of the colony began persuading him to give up Hindu faith and accept Islam. They assured Umesh they would get him married to a Muslim woman. Umesh relented. The conversion required him to leave his 'Hindu colony' and shift to the Muslim colony.

For 15 years, Umesh lived separately from his clan, though the distance was less than two kilometres.

“Umesh’s nephew told me his uncle’s conversion came as a big embarrassment to his family. They were ostracised by neighbours. In Bihar, we call it ‘doodh-bhath band karna’, where shopkeepers are asked to stop selling such families milk and grocery,” Badal said.

Badal asked Satyam to convince his neighbours before the ghar wapsi ceremony. A few days later, he received a call from Satyam again, the latter assuring him that the colony residents had agreed to allow Umesh to live in their colony post ‘reconversion’.

“This is something I have learnt over the years. Rituals for ghar wapsi mean nothing if the convert doesn’t get acceptance from his society,” says Badal.

Badal asked the nephew for reason of Abdullah’s change of heart.

The nephew explained: Abdullah suspected that his wife was having an extra-marital affair with a man named Mohammed Riyaz, who lives in the same colony. After his suspicion was confirmed, he confronted Riyaz. The two men had a scuffle.

Abdullah appealed to residents to call a panchayat and settle the issue; he wanted his colony to punish Riyaz for having an affair with his wife and for hitting him. The neighbours did gather a panchayat. However, they sided with Riyaz. The panchayat declared that Riyaz was not to blame and there was no question of awarding any punishment to him.

An embarrassed and incensed Umesh turned to his family for support. He told them he could no longer bear to live in the Muslim colony after the debacle.

“Umesh’s nephew is an aware Hindu. He hangs out with Hindu activists. He sensed that this could be an opportunity to ‘wipe the taint off’ his family. People in Samastipur know about me and my organisation. So he contacted me,” says Badal.

Convinced of the story narrated by Satyam, Badal decided the day of ghar wapsi as 26 December and the venue, a Kali temple.

Badal and his team shaved Abdullah’s head leaving a small bunch of hair as shikha, made him enter the temple and consume panchgavya and panchamrit, and did his janeu sanskar.

A picture of Umesh Rai alias Abdullah during the ‘ghar wapsi’ ceremony
A picture of Umesh Rai alias Abdullah during the ‘ghar wapsi’ ceremony

This did not happen without opposition from locals, he says.

“Some objected to letting a man who ‘eats cow meat’ enter the temple. Some questioned janeu sanskar arguing that Umesh wasn’t born in a Brahmin family. I answered each accusation,” says Badal.

“I asked them — how can you all be so sure that all those who enter the temple are vegetarians? Is it written on their faces? About the janeu, I asked them — do you all follow proper Janeu dharma when you wear it? Don’t you pee in the streets without putting the janeu on ear? They had no answers to my questions.”

Badal says when we did shuddhikaran of Umesh, he did so under the impression that Umesh’s jaati — Kurmi — comes under Scheduled Castes.

“Only later did I learn that Kurmis are not SCs but OBCs. I don’t concern myself with castes much. I also believe every Hindu has the right to wear janeu,” he says, and adds, “Umesh has been told that if he is unable to follow janeu dharma, he can apologise to god and discard it.”

Badal, 36, is from a Bhumihar Brahmin family.

Badal and Umesh Rai talking to the media after the ‘ghar wapsi’ ceremony
Badal and Umesh Rai talking to the media after the ‘ghar wapsi’ ceremony

After the rituals, Badal took Umesh to the district court and made him give an affidavit to the magistrate that he was changing his religion by free will. Additionally, Badal made Umesh give a notarised letter of his name change to the office of sub-divisional officer. The paperwork cost less than Rs 200.

Umesh has shifted back to the Hindu colony and is living with his family.

Asked about his wife, Badal gave this correspondent the contact number of Satyam. Umesh has no mobile number at present, he said.

“We destroyed his SIM card after the ceremony as he was getting a lot of calls from his Muslim neighbours.”

Satyam began the conversation by thanking this correspondent for showing an interest in the case. “Ma’am, I have so much to tell. I can neither write those things on my Facebook wall nor can I record a video and circulate it,” he said.

Umesh is Satyam’s maternal uncle (mama). Umesh was three years old when his sister married Umesh’s father. “Mamaji’s father had died long back. He came as ‘dahej’ (dowry) to our family. It’s common in our side,” said Satyam.

Satyam is about seven years younger than Umesh.

When Umesh was 20, he began visiting the village and surrounding areas for work. Bherokhara is a large village with a population of around 50,000 people, about 30,000 of whom are Hindus and the rest Muslims.

“Those people brainwashed him. In no time, Umesh began drifting away from us. He would refuse to call my father as his father or me as his brother. He began saying that Muslims are his true family. I was about 13 or 14 then. I remember everything clearly,” says Satyam.

Umesh was married at that time to a woman from Kurmi jaati. The match had been arranged by Satyam’s father.

Umesh began living in a rented accommodation with his wife, about 2 kilometres away. The next year, the couple had a son.

One day, the family learnt that Umesh had had circumcision done. They rushed to his house, only to see him “on the verge of death”.

“My father and uncles forcibly brought him home. He was crying profusely with pain, but was still resisting them. We tied him to a cot to stop him from going back. Neighbours gathered in our house. It was a big drama,” says Satyam.

A week passed and Umesh’s condition improved. However, he insisted on going back and living as a Muslim. “My family eventually gave up. So he returned to his rented house, taking his wife and child along.”

Soon, the family learnt that Umesh had recited the kalma in a mosque and changed his name to Abdullah in front of Muslim residents.

“Weeks later, the family of my mami visited him and took her and the child away. There was no way they wouldhave let their daughter and grandson become Muslims,” says Satyam.

Satyam’s neighbours called a panchayat. They decided that if his family continued to let Abdullah inside their house and eat with them, they would stop inviting them for weddings and religious ceremonies.

Satyam’s father assured them he would break all ties with Abdullah.

“And all of a sudden, my mama was not part of my family anymore. We were told to not talk to him or meet him. It came as a big blow to me. I was young and quite attached to my mama,” says Satyam.

He decided to “dig deep” into his uncle’s life. Satyam, who had begun giving tuitions for a living, opened a centre near Abdullah’s house. The family did not suspect anything.

Satyam began visiting Abdullah. The same year, Abdullah got married to a woman named Farhana Parveen.

“The story of his marriage is interesting. They made him meet a woman, who was quite beautiful, and my uncle said yes. But after the nikah, he found that his wife was different than the woman promised to him. You know how it is, there is a curtain between the groom and bride. The second woman was quite dark-complexioned. My uncle objected, but his protests went unheard. Eventually he came around,” narrates Satyam.

“The woman is now as beautiful as the woman promised to him. My uncle beautified her with expensive creams,” he adds.

In no time, Satyam found himself in the same social circles his uncle was part of.

“What happened with my uncle, also happened with me. I also began drifting away from my family. I began to spend more and more time in my uncle’s colony than in my own colony. I even began to eat meat,” he says. “Not cow meat, please don’t misunderstand me. It was mostly chicken and sometimes mutton,” he quickly adds.

Satyam says Abdullah’s maulvi friend who converted him, invited him to convert as well. At one point, Satyam found himself attracted to the idea. However, recalling what happened after his uncle’s conversion, he fought off the thought.

“I have so much to say that one hour is not enough. Even one week is not enough. It might take you two months to listen to what all I have to share. Years of experience cannot be fitted into hours,” he says.

Satyam attempts to sum up: the locals persuaded him to convert to Islam. They told him about hellfire. They offered to get him married to any Muslim woman from the colony he wished. When they initiated him into meat, they did so with so much love that he gave in, says Satyam.

“I don’t know how I tell you this but they provided me a lot of girls.”

“Did you make physical relations with them?” I asked.

“Yes, with many. About 60 different girls in nine years. They were patient with me, as they probably thought that converting another man from the same family would be easier.”

Satyam, who is unmarried, says he spent nine years hanging out in Abdullah’s circles.

A few years ago, Satyam abruptly stopped it. “I literally had to pull myself out of that company. I asked myself — am I as gullible as my uncle? I ate pig meat for a week to transform myself.”

After the panchayat debacle, Satyam found an opportunity to “bring my uncle back”, he says.

While Umesh has returned to live with family, his wife and children haveleft him.

“Her family came and took her away. They took the children as well. She did not agree to becoming Hindu,” says Satyam.

Umesh has five children — four daughters and a son.

All the while Satyam talked to this correspondent, Umesh was sitting with him.

He however declined to talk, saying his nephew is a better narrator than him.

After some coaxing, he agreed to speak directly for a minute.

Asked if he was happy, he said he missed his children a lot. He said he feared for his life from the maulvi and his group.

Asked if he wanted to say anything more, he said his nephew had narrated his story with perfect accuracy and there was nothing to add.

Swati Goel Sharma is a senior editor at Swarajya. She tweets at @swati_gs.

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