The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Saddam runs for cover from Sangh

New Delhi, Nov. 1: Saddam Hussein is on the run. Not from George W. Bush or the might of the US, but from the Vishwa Hindu Parishad. Local VHP goons, he alleges, are threatening to finish him.

He sneaks into his house only after sundown for fear that he may be killed.

“My friends are helping me secretly. The Gurgaon administration is harassing me. My telephone is disconnected. My friends have provided me with a mobile to keep in contact as my life is in danger,” says Hussein.

Amid fanfare and creating a flutter in the Sangh, Veer Shankar Lal Kharalia, a Dalit, had converted to Islam at Gurgaon, about 40 km from here, on October 27. His purpose was to “avenge” the lynching of five Harijan youths at Jhajjar by a mob allegedly instigated by the VHP and Bajrang Dal.

Five days ago, he had roared from a podium in Gurgaon, changed his name and challenged the VHP, the RSS and the Bajrang Dal to reconvert him.

Sounding as fiery and defiant as his namesake in Baghdad, he had said: “I challenge them to reconvert me. Even if my life is in danger, I don’t care.”

He had said he chose the name of the Iraqi President because it was a symbol of grit and courage. But today, Hussein sounded worried. “From the very next day, I started getting threats from local goons belonging to the VHP and Bajrang Dal. They threatened to burn my house and beat up my young brother,” he says.

Hussein has a 70-year-old mother and a younger brother. His three older brothers and two sisters stay elsewhere.

“My family was worried about my conversion. They were also mentally tortured. Parivar organisations are holding meetings, discussing ways and means to stop conversions and reconvert those who left to the Hindu faith,” he says.

On Sunday, he was among several Dalits who converted at a religious mela organised by the Confederation of SC/ST Organisations chairman, Udit Raj. Among the 100-odd who converted to Buddhism, Islam and Christianity, several backtracked following threats from Sangh activists and the local administration.

Hussein, an office-bearer of the Bharatiya Balmiki Samaj, says the irony is that “before October 27, the day he embraced Islam, we (Dalits) were insecure. Now the insecurity is even more (after death threats).”

Some neo converts, including Hussein, were brought to Delhi by Udit Raj to speak before the national media. The reason was that the local media allegedly did not highlight their plight.

At the same ceremony, Chand Bhan Mehra and his wife Jayan Mehra had converted to Christianity.

Jayan, an officer with Gramin Bank, said she and her husband switched to Christianity because they were already influenced by it.

“In Hindu system, we do not get equal treatment. I have great regard for Buddhism. But I was also greatly influenced by Mother Teresa. After the lynching incident, I decided it was time to quit Hindu religion. If the VHP and Bajrang Dal want to save Hinduism, they should reform it instead of targeting Dalits,” she says.

Satya Prakash Jarawata, who converted to Buddhism, says “some CID looking persons” belonging to the district administration threatened his wife and told her to reconvert.

Udit Raj said his fight was not against Hinduism but the system and those who perpetuated it. He said that not a single priest had been arrested for practising untouchability.

Nor had a single arrest been made after the Jhajjar killings despite Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayavati and former Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan visiting the spot, he said.

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