A week after the Uttar Pradesh Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) unearthed a mass conversion racket, efforts are now being made to trace the victims, reported The Times of India.
As per reports, the ATS has launched a manhunt to trace students of the Noida Deaf Society (NDS) who were coerced to convert to Islam in the past 3-4 years. Citing sources, TOI reported, “The most important factors in this conversion row are allurement and inducements. In most cases, it seems to be the lure of money or a job. But one thing is certain —the conversions were based on inducements and they were not voluntary.”
In videos that had earlier surfaced on social media, accused Maulana Mohammad Umar Gautam was heard naming a few individuals who had fallen prey to his coercion tactics. The ATS is now probing the larger conspiracy in the case and the funding trail of the institution Islamic Dawah Centre, which was run by the accused. The ATS source emphasised, “This racket seems to be backed by a larger conspiracy. The conversions have been happening over a period of time and they are not new. But since the accused targeted gullible deaf and mute people, this is a well-planned conspiracy.”
According to another ATS officer, accused Umar Gautam had also visited foreign nations such as the UK, the US, and other Arab nations. The official said that all such trips are now under the scrutiny of the law enforcement authorities. While speaking on the matter, ADG (law and order) Prashant Kumar informed that evidence was being collected to prove the accusations of forced conversions. Reportedly, two teachers at the Noida Deaf Society (NDS) are also under scrutiny.
One of the teachers at the Tyoti Badhir Badhir Vidyalaya Bithoor Kalan, a partner of NDS in Kanpur, was ousted after he showed a ‘religious video’ behind closed doors in the classroom. According to NDS founder Puma Poke, one of the key challenges is to obtain information about past students. Poke added that since the students were no longer part of the system, it was difficult to gather information about them or find out about their current profession.
She said, “Think logically. We have a hiring process here. Anyone who meets the criteria of being a good trainer for deaf and mute people is hired. It is like any other company.” Meanwhile, the ATS officers are checking deaf and mute schools in Delhi-NCR to further the probe in the conversion racket. “Many students who had converted earlier are active in influencing others into changing their religion. They have been interacting with them over the phone and through video calls,” an official conceded.
UP police unearths forced conversion racket: What we know so far
On June 21, it was reported that the Uttar Pradesh ATS had arrested two men identified as Umar Gautam and Mufti Qazi Jehangir for their involvement in illegal religious conversions. According to police, women, and physically challenged children were their primary targets. The duo was arrested from the Jamia Nagar area in Delhi. Prashant Kumar, Uttar Pradesh ADG (Law and Order), said that the arrested were running a conversion racket that was being funded by Pakistan’s spy agency ISI.
He added, “The accused were using enticement, provocation, and deceit to convert people apart from creating distrust and promoting enmity among different communities.” Umar Gautam who is a convert himself revealed that they converted around 250-300 people every year. During the interrogation, Umar also informed that he targeted people from the economically weaker section of the society including women, children, and the disabled. Gautam confessed to having converted around 1,500 children at school for the deaf and mute in Noida after the school management was enticed with promises of employment and money.
A day later on June 22, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath had instructed the agencies to invoke National Security Act (NSA) against the accused. He had also instructed to book the accused under Gangster Act. The State government had directed the authorities to start the process of confiscating the properties of those who were accused of the conversion racket. Earlier on June 2, sevadaars of Dasna Mandir, Ghaziabad, caught two men identified as Vipul Vijayvargi and Kashif on suspicion of carrying out the assassination attempt on Mahant Yati Narsinghanand.
One resident of Sector 12 in Vijaynagar, Salimmuddin, was identified as the Guru of Vipul Vijayvargi. The probe by the Uttar Pradesh ATS into the conversion racket revealed that Salimuddin had ties with accused Maulana Umar Gautam. Following the revelation, Vishwa Hindu Parishad issued a press release demanding the enactment of central law to stop illegal conversions. Mufti Qazi Jahangir Qasmi and Mohammad Umar Gautam and their organisation were booked under Sections 420, 120 B, 153A, 153B, 295, and 511 of the Indian Penal Code and Section 3/5 the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance-2020.
The duo was sent to 7-day judicial custody remand on June 23. Two old videos of Umar Gautam had also surfaced before the UP Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS), in which he openly boasted about converting several people to Islam. Several Islamists took to Twitter on June 24 to defend the accused cleric and claim that proselytisation is legal under Article 25 (Right to Religion) of the Indian Constitution.
Meanwhile, several families of the victims came forward to narrate how they fell prey to the mass religious conversion racket. The father of a victim named Manu Yadav had alleged that he received a threat call on his son’s mobile number from Pakistan asking him not to cause hindrance in the conversion of his son. A lady teacher named Kalpana Singh from Nurul Huda English Medium in Fatehpur, Uttar Pradesh had revealed how Umar Gautam had visited the school she taught in with 20-25 other Maulanas in the year 2020, to brainwash them to adopt Islam.
She claimed that the clerics lured students and the staff for conversion by promising financial support. Umar Gautam and his accomplice assured them that they would pull them out of poverty if they converted to Islam. The female teacher also disclosed how Umar Gautam pressurised the school management to teach young students Urdu and Arabic in class.
On June 25, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights took cognisance of the Opindia report on Kalpna Singh. It wrote to the District Magistrate (DM) and the Superintendent of Police (SP) of Fatehpur district, saying that the statutory body had taken suo motu notice of matter under Section 13(1)(j) in the Commissions for Protection of Child Rights Act, 2005. Meanwhile, the ATS also found damming evidence about the penetration oof the conversion racket in a whopping 24 States.