Waquar Hasan | Caravan Daily
CHENNAI – Dalit Activist Ravichandaran who manages the YouTube channel Dalit Camera has converted himself to Islam in his search for “self-respect and equality”. He found these in the Muslim community, joined its ranks and changed his name to Mohammed Raees. The conversion happened in Tamil Nadu’s Ooty on January. 30
Talking to Caravan Daily about the response of his Dalit community to his action, Ravichandaran said that, as of now, they were neither supporting him nor opposing him. “They are not opposing my action because they don’t oppose what is purely an attempt to gain self-respect.”
He said the Dalit community is anti-Muslim in general and he was himself anti-Muslim. He used to believe that Muslims were a dirty people and they were encouraging terrorists. After engagement with some members of the Student Islamic Organization at the International Foreign Language University (EFLU), his views about Muslims changed.
“My life has been 24X7 about caste for the last 15 years. It took a long time for me to reach this point. I was very anti-Muslim. I used to carry in my mind some stereotypes about Muslims, or what people used to say about them. I could change my idea after a long relationship of 4-5 years with my SIO friends,” said Raees.
Live-streaming his conversion on the Dalit Camera’s Facebook page on January 30, Raees stated: “(I’m) embracing Islam for self-respect and dignity. I am marking the death to fascism and Hinduism that I carried for 38 years. All these years, I found myself only being ill-treated and discriminated against. After 10 years of research, I found toilets in masjids … and I found the door to self-respect and to a dignified life. Aslaam Alaikum”.
Embracibg Islam for self-respect and dignity.Marking the death to fascism and Hinduism that I carried for 38 years and found only ill-treated and discriminated After 10 years of research found toilets the pace of wudu in all masjid is the door to self-respect and for a dignified life.Aslaam alaikum
Posted by Dalit Camera: Through Un-Touchable Eyes on Thursday, January 30, 2020
Raees, who has done his post-graduation from the Indian Institute of Advanced Studies, Shimla, is from the Chakkiliyan community in Tamil Nadu’s Ooty high ranges. Talking about his Dalit community, he said his community is facing discrimination in social life and its members are treated as second class citizens.
“We live in a hilly area. There, the upper castes live in the hills area and the lower castes live down below the hills. My community is a scavenging community. Scavengers are government staffs but they are not considered on par with other government staff. There is no rule for them. The rules are for the fancies of the upper caste Hindus. Our people are not allowed to enter or sit in offices. They are only allowed to stand in front of the office,” said Raees.
“This is one department that does not have rules. The scavengers don’t have work timings. They don’t have holidays. They don’t have policies. Now put in contractual work, they are completely given over to the contractors. The situation is worse now. Even the minimal level of self-respect is missing for them in their workplace,” he stated.
Ravichandaran said that his research has found that the scavengers, who are from Chakkilliyan, Valmiki and other communities, are considered as migrants across India as they spoke different dialects. “In Bengal, it is said the scavengers are from Bihar. In Kerala, they say these people came from Tamil Nadu. In most states, they are considered as outsiders.”
He said two things in Islam are very important for him. One is the toilet in the mosque and the second is the burial ground. He said he did not find a toilet in any temple or church; but he found toilet in the mosque. Dalits are allowed to enter mosques, not temples.
Ravichandaran has been running the Dalit Camera since 2008, which covers the atrocities against the Dalits.
DALIT MOVEMENT AS FAN CLUB
He said that with the experience in the coverage of Dalit atrocities through the Dalit Camera, he came to the conclusion that the Dalit movement in India is a “fan club” which is not providing ideological solution to the real problems of the Dalits.