In an odd case of religious conversion going awry, two fishermen who converted to Islam from Christianity were banished in Tamil Nadu. They were banished from the fish auctioning market following their conversion, which has resulted in communal issues between fishermen. Earlier media reported about a similar incident where it demonized Hindu fishermen who stopped communicating with converted Christian families as the latter abused Hindu Dharma.
A report by Dinamalar, a Tamil daily, says that Franco (28) and Sebastian (27) of Kombuthurai in Thoothukudi district were banished by a khaap panchayat from attending a public fish auction. The decision was made after the duo converted to Islam, and it was mentioned as the reason behind banishing them. More than 200 fishermen live in the village, and they follow Catholic Christianity.
Following the banishment, the duo approached authorities who held peace talks to assuage the situation, but it appears that there was no positive outcome. Authorities have assured that another peace talk will be held on October 3 to find a solution. However, the majority of the fishermen of Kombuthurai village seem to have taken an exception to this and boycotted fishing in protest.
In July 2023, the media was abuzz with news of Hindu fishermen of Poompuhar, which served as an important port during the Early Chola rule, stopping communication with converted Christians. BBC Tamil did a detailed report on how Hindus allegedly banished the converts and asked them to worship Hindu deities if they wanted to merge with the mainstream.
The issue began in 2014 when some Hindu fishermen were lured by evangelists into accepting Christianity. 300 Hindu families reportedly converted and became Christians. As it was an all-Hindu village, elders decided to allegedly boycott those who converted but readily accepted those who returned to Hindu Dharma. Converts were reportedly fined, any form of business with them was stopped, and all kinds of communications were cut off. As per the BBC report, families started returning to the Hindu fold one by one following the restrictions.
However, 22 families continued to remain converts. They level various allegations against Hindus, like stopping them from taking part in births, marriages, and deaths of their relatives, and their business faced obstacles. Following this, 15 more converted families returned to the Hindu fold. Yet the seven remaining converted families continue to follow Christianity. They lodged complaints with the district administration, and peace talks were held.
When BBC talked to the Hindu side, they said, “We are merely keeping away from them (converts) as they are doing something we don’t like. Their allegations are false”. The village head, who is a Hindu, said, “They want to convert everyone, which we don’t accept. They are doing their job, and we are doing ours. We do not talk to them as they force us to accept Christianity and abuse our deities. They converted ten years ago and are still living in our village. How could they claim that we are threatening them?”
“They want to mingle with us as their children have grown up, and they want to marry them off. But why should we accept them when they don’t listen to what we say? Seven thousand people live here. If we make adjustments for them, we will have to answer everyone. They should be the ones to live following village restrictions. We cannot live for them.”
The district collector who was part of the peace talks said, “We can do something if a shopkeeper refuses to sell goods to certain people. What can we do when they don’t talk?”. It is clear from BBC’s report that Hindu villages stopped communication with the converts only after they started abusing Hindu Dharma and luring them to Christianity. Yet they were demonized by the media which twisted it as practicing untouchability. What will they say in the first case where Christian converts banished Muslim converts? Alas, none except one even reported it.