By Hasan Akram
New Delhi: The Uttar Pradesh Police have arrested Umar Gautam, a converted Muslim previously known as Pratap Singh Gautam and Mufti Jahangir Qasmi under the state’s draconian anti-conversion law. The police have accused them of having forcibly converted 1,000 Hindus to Islam but interestingly not a single one of them have alleged forceful conversion. None of the alleged converts have filed any complaint or spoken to the media about being forced to accept Islam.
Supreme Court lawyer Khalid Akhtar says the police do not need any victim’s complaint to arrest someone under Uttar Pradesh’s anti-conversion law because the burden of proof has been put on the accused. Thus, the accused are required to prove they are innocent.
”The law is a tool to indiscriminately arrest and punish anybody with reverse onus of proof. It instils fear to freely follow once conscience guaranteed under article 25,” Akhtar added.
Several problems have emerged with respect to the police investigation against Umar Gautam and Jahangir Qasmi. According to a Times of India report, a team of UP Police on 23 June went to Shitla Kheda village in the state’s Saharanpur district to find one ”Abdul Samad” as the name was on the list of 1,000 people who have allegedly been forcibly converted. But the team found one staunch Hindu nationalist who has written books on PM Modi and UP CM Yogi and had not converted to Islam. The man identified as Praveen Kumar was even aware of his name being on the list of alleged converts.
Prashant Kumar, additional director general of the UP Police, said that they unearthed the “conversion racket” while investigating a case filed at Ghaziabad’s Masuri police station.
The case was filed on June 4 against Mohd Ramzan alias Vipul Vijayvargiya and his brother-in-law Mohd Kashif who had allegedly tried going into Ghaziabad’s Dasna temple by hiding their identities, Kumar alleged, with the aim of assassinating its priest, Yati Narsighanand Saraswati.
The investigation into Ramzan and Kashif, Kumar claimed, led the ATS to Umar Gautam who they allegedly found was involved in the “forced conversion” of about 1,000 Hindus.
However, scores of converted Muslims and Hindus have rubbished the police version and raised their strong concerns against the criminalisation of Maulana Umar Gautam by the Indian media.
Saurabh Dutt Sharma, currently known as Mohammad Sufiyan, told this correspondent that he was in touch with Umar Gautam since 2013 but he never pressurised him to change his religious identity. ”He is wrongly being criminalised by the media, which is not good for our country. This tends to damage social harmony in the country,” he added.
Another converted Muslim named Vinesh says he met Maulana Gautam after he found that Islam was the true religion. ”He did not ask me to convert immediately. Rather he gave some books and asked to study more. He asked me to come back when I am completely satisfied about Islam,” he said.
Saurabh Dutt Sharma says ''#UmarGautam sb is wrongly being criminalised by media. I was in touch with him for eight years. He never pressurised me to change my religion"
Dinesh says ''Baseless allegations are being labelled against him. Hope he gets help and be released soon'' pic.twitter.com/pVA5A5fDej
— Hasan Akram (@hasanakram01) June 27, 2021
Like Sharma and Dinesh, several other non-Muslims and converted Muslims have spoken about their experience with Maulana Gautam. Their video bytes have been published by Muslim Mirror, Millat Times and Maktoob Media etc.
Sharma stated that Maulana Gautam and his organisation, Islamic Dawah Centre, was involved in spreading the true messages of Islam and helping people remove their misconceptions about the religion. The IDC also helped converted Muslims get legal conversion certificates issued.
He added that the conversion certificates were issued under the relevant provisions of the constitution that allows people to choose or quit any religion.
In a five-year-old video, Mr. Gautam can be heard saying that his organisation is not interested in converting people just to increase the count. Their aim is to remove people’s misunderstanding and provide proper information. ”Then, the decision is in their hand,” he says.
In this five-year-old video, Maulana #UmarGautam says, ''We are no more interested that people should come here and embrace Islam just to increase the count…We have to remove their misunderstanding and provide proper information. Then the decision is in their hand.'' pic.twitter.com/hA6ESlO1OK
— Hasan Akram (@hasanakram01) June 27, 2021
It is noteworthy that Umar Gautam embraced Islam in 1984 and he has been involved in a mission to provide proper information about Islam. But not a single person has claimed that he forced anyone to accept Islam in 35 years of his life as a Muslim.