LK Advani
LK Advani

How 1500 Dalits converting to Islam in a TN village set the stage for Ram Rath Yatra

Even though it was an event in Tamil Nadu that added to the strength of the demand for the Ram temple, the state has remained rather disconnected from the demand politically and socially.

In this series, we travel back to the turbulent 1990s to see what impact the Ram Janmabhoomi movement had on south India. We found that Karnataka was as enthusiastic then as it is now about militant Hindutva. But the other states in the region weren't entirely immune to the flames of hate.

Four decades ago, an incident in a small village in Tamil Nadu’s Tirunelveli set in motion a range of events that would have a lasting impact on the history and political developments in the country. In February 1981, Meenakshipuram, the village in question, witnessed nearly 1,500 Dalits (around 200 families) convert to Islam, exhausted by the caste oppression from dominant castes. Shortly after the conversions, the village was renamed Rahmat Nagar. 

The conversions shook not only the state, which was then ruled by the AIADMK, but the entire nation and became an issue of contention in the Parliament. Atal Bihari Vajpayee visited the village along with other important personas from organisations like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), the almost one-year-old Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and the Arya Samaj. 

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