More than 800 Valmikis had threatened to “convert to Islam” if the Mulayam Singh government went ahead with its planned demolition of their basti,
where houses had been marked with red paint. They chose Ambedkar’s 124th
birth anniversary to go ahead with the threat.
The Valmikis believe that their houses were being demolished to make way for a shopping mall.
The mall project apparently has the blessings of the Mulayam government and Azam Khan. According to Khan’s spokesperson, Fasahat Ali Khan, people converting to Islam mustn’t think that it will help their cause as a majority of those evicted from government lands are Muslims.
Even though there was no cleric to convert them, the Valmikis wore skull caps and started calling themselves Muslims.
Bhim Anarya, a resident, said, “A municipal employee had come to our locality a few days ago and asked us to vacate our houses. When we expressed our inability to do so, he advised us to convert to Islam in order to save our houses from being brought down.”
“For us, it made sense because a few settlements belonging to the minority community in our vicinity have been spared the demolition,” Anarya said.