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1981 Meenakshipuram conversion

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Title: 1981 Meenakshipuram conversion  
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Subject: Conversion to Islam, Did you know nominations/1981 Meenakshipuram conversion, History of Tamil Nadu (1947–present), 1981 in India, Recent additions/2015/January
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

1981 Meenakshipuram conversion

The 1981 Meenakshipuram conversion was a mass religious conversion that took place in the Indian village of Meenakshipuram, in which hundreds of Hindu Dalits converted to Islam over caste discrimination. This incident sparked debate over conversion in the country and the government decided to introduce anti-conversion legislation.[1]


Meenakshipuram is a village in the Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu, India. The dalits in the village were segregated by the caste Hindus, who referred to them as untouchables on the basis of Indian caste system. They were discriminated against by not being allowed access to public properties such as temples and wells which were used by the caste Hindus.[2] The district had a long history of caste-related violence. To avoid discrimination and political suppression, the dalits decided to embrace Islam.[3] On 19 February 1981, around 800 dalits (300 families) were converted to Islam by Ishaatul Islam Sabha of South India in a ceremony.[4]


After the incident, the Tamil Nadu government set up an inquiry commission to investigate the conversion. The commission in its report suggested an anti-conversion bill to be passed by the state government, but government put it on hold.[5] Hindu organizations claimed that the conversion took place by force using foreign funding. However, the converted dalits denied the allegations.[6] A Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Welfare report concluded that it was not forced conversion. Some Hindu polities such as Arya Samaj, Vishva Hindu Parishad, Bharatiya Janata Party and its leaders like A. B. Vajpayee visited the village and asked them to reconvert but were unable to convince them. In later years, the Hindu factions claimed a few of them were converted back.[7]


  1. ^ "'"Sudden spurt in conversions of Harijans to Islam forces govt to study the 'issue. India Today. 11 November 2013. Retrieved 25 December 2014. 
  2. ^ Akshayakumar Ramanlal Desai (1 January 1991). Violation of Democratic Rights in India. Popular Prakashan. pp. 12–13.  
  3. ^ Manjari Katju (1 January 2003). Vishva Hindu Parishad and Indian Politics. Orient Blackswan. pp. 32–.  
  4. ^ "Flashback: How 800 Dalit Hindus in Meenakshipuram were converted to Islam 33 years ago". India TV. 12 December 2014. Retrieved 24 December 2014. 
  5. ^ "Jayalalithaa's anti-conversion law causes political polarisation in Tamil Nadu". India Today. 18 November 2002. Retrieved 24 December 2014. 
  6. ^ "Ayodhya, the Battle for India's Soul: Chapter Three". WSJ. 5 December 2012. Retrieved 24 December 2014. 
  7. ^ "The shocker". Frontline. 2014. Retrieved 25 December 2014. 
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