Kept out of local temples, 250 Hindu Dalit families from two Tamil Nadu villages, Pazhangkallimedu and Nagapalli, have declared that they will convert to Islam.
They have expressed disappointment on being denied permission to attend a temple festival in Tamil Nadu’s Karur region.
Several Dalit families have also returned their Voter IDs and Aadhar cards in protest.
Reports suggest that volunteers of the Tamil Nadu Towheed Jamaat (TNTJ) have also distributed copies of the Quran in the village.
Six Dalit Hindus from the village have already embraced Islam and in addition, another 50 families have expressed interest in converting to Islam.
Meanwhile, leaders of outfits such as the Hindu Munnani and the Hindu Makkal Katchi have been urging them to reconsider their move and are mediating between Dalit families and caste Hindus.
The coastal village of Pazhangkallimedu has about 400 families, 180 of them Dalits.
The village youth said the decision comes after the administration and the police failed to ensure worship rights for them in Bhadra Kaliamman temple.
“We want to perform Mandagapadi, or lead the rituals, on one of the five days of the annual temple festival. But we are denied that right. My parents and grandparents were slaves. I wish my generation does not have to face untouchability and insults. Conversion may be the only option for us,” Senthil Kumar, a leader of the Dalit party, VCK, told a newspaper.
Arjun Sampath of the Hindu Makkal Katchi said it was a government-run temple and the government has to take a decision. “Most caste Hindu groups have no problem allowing Dalits to take part in the rituals,” he said.