‘Life After Conversion To Hinduism Not Easy For Poor, Need Strong Community Support’: Hindu Man Who Was About To Become Muslim Again

Krishna Dange

Jun 14, 2024, 12:14 PM | Updated Jun 17, 2024, 09:00 PM IST

Representative image of a Yajna (Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
Representative image of a Yajna (Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
  • Maharashtra couple was on the verge of reconverting to their previous faith- Islam, after daughter's illness and lack of community support.
  • Shivram and Sita Arya, residents of Maharashtra’s Ahilya Nagar, had a fresh start last year when the couple along with their seven children relinquished their previous faith — Islam, to accept Hinduism. The working-class family then felt elated as activists from several Hindutva outfits clicked pictures and applauded them for their decision.

    However, things went south for Shivram and Sita after a tumour was diagnosed in their seven-year-old daughter Ashwini's brain.

    “I ran from pillar to post seeking financial assistance for my daughter but no one was paying heed to my appeals. I felt that people from my new faith had deserted me in my hour of need. We have already been boycotted by my relatives who are Muslims after conversion to Hinduism, so I couldn’t ask them for help. 

    “This is when I thought that it is better to return back to being Muslim and announced that me and my family will reconvert on the coming Bakri-Eid on 16 June,” said Shivram, a part-time car driver, who has now been assured of financial support for his daughter’s treatment from the state government.

    Shivram, formerly Jamir Shaikh, along with his wife Sita, formerly Anjum, had accepted Hinduism as their faith in a widely publicised event held in Chhatrapati Sambhaji Nagar last year. Dhirendra Shastri, also known as Bageshwar Baba, a popular Hindu preacher from Madhya Pradesh, who had presided over the ceremony, had then given the family their new Hindu names.

    “To me, it was just a formal recognition of my inclination towards Hinduism. Even though I was born Muslim, I always felt attracted towards the Hindu philosophy. I enjoyed listening to the devotional songs on Hindu deities like Vitthal, Ram and Krishna. I even used to fast on certain auspicious Hindu occasions. However, there were limitations on me from doing it openly,” said Shivram.

    The family’s decision to change faith did not go down well with their relatives and acquaintances.

    “At first, all relatives of mine as well as that of my wife boycotted us, expressing their displeasure over our decision to become Hindu. Then, a few acquaintances from my previous faith started alleging publicly that I had received at least a crore from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for giving up Islam and becoming a Hindu.

    "If I had indeed received such an amount merely to change my faith, why would I have sought financial assistance for my daughter’s treatment now?” an agitated Shivram said.

    After doctors in Pune suggested a surgery which is expected to cost around Rs 4.5 lakh, Shivram applied for assistance under the state government's Mahatma Phule Jan Arogya Yojana. However, since some identity documents of the couple as well as those of the ailing child bear their older names, government officials expressed their inability to help him.

    “It is only after this and the dismal response from the public to my appeals for help, that I thought perhaps I had made a mistake by becoming a Hindu.

    "However, after announcing my intention to become Muslim again and the subsequent publicity given to it by television channels, I was promptly contacted by the personal secretaries of the state's Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and the Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis. They have now assured me all help needed for my daughter's medical treatment,” Shivram added.

    Considering the challenges Shivram and his family have faced after conversion, he feels mere encouragement and praise to those wanting to become Hindu is not enough. 

    “It is not an easy decision to go against one’s relations and community and change religion, especially if you are poor. In one go you are stripped of all bonds that can be of your help in the times of crisis. If someone converts to Christianity, the church and its followers do everything to help the converts settle in life. 

    “There are several missions run by the Church offering education, shelter and healthcare like the ones here in Ahilya Nagar. I feel Hindus can collectively take lessons from this. It will make life easier for poor families like that of mine who have recently converted to Hinduism along with that of others,” Shivram said.

    When asked if he had faced any dilemma about his caste identity after converting, Shivram said that no Hindu had questioned him about it so far.

    “But if I am given the option to choose a caste, maybe I would like to become either a Maratha or a Vanjari,” Shivram added.

    Staff Writer at Swarajya

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