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Politicisation of Religion: Conversions to Islam in Tamil Nadu

George Mathew
Economic and Political Weekly
Vol. 17, No. 25 (Jun. 19, 1982), pp. 1027-1034
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4371044
Page Count: 8
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Politicisation of Religion: Conversions to Islam in Tamil Nadu
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Abstract

Tamil Nadu was the centre of an important sociological debate following the conversions of an entire Harijan village to Islam in February 1981. Subsequently there were conversions in several other villages of the state. This invoked reactions from all sections of society and from June till October 1981 the mass media, political parties, religious organisations, and, not the least, the state and Central government devoted considerable attention to these conversion. This paper attempts to trace the history of religious conversions in India in brief and then to look analytically at the Tamil Nadu. This discussion is in three sections. Section I presents a brief historical background to the phenomenon of conversion in India, specifically to Islam and Christianity, in medieval times and in the period prior to independence. Section II presents an account of the Meenakshipuram conversions and attempts to situate the event against the background of socio-economic characteristics of Hinduism specific in the region where the conversions took place. Section III attempt to analyse the larger reaction to the event and considers some of the problems arising out of 'secularism in practice'; that is, the problems facing an avowedly secular state like India that is predominantly Hindu in its attitude to religious monorities and, more specifically, to proseletysing activities. The paper is being published in two instalments.

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