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From Masjid To Mandir: A Unique Journey Of A Set of Pilgrims To Ayodhya

Author: Jaideep Mazumdar
Publication: Swarajyamag.com
Date: March 3, 2024
URL:   https://swarajyamag.com/west-bengal/from-masjid-to-mandir-a-unique-journey-of-a-set-of-pilgrims-to-ayodhya

Wednesday (28 February) saw a unique set of devotees journeying to Ayodhya to have a darshan of Ram Lalla at the newly consecrated Ram Mandir there.

All these pilgrims were recent converts from Islam to Sanatan Dharma, their ghar wapsis organised by SinghaBahini, an organisation dedicated to the Hindu cause in Bengal.

These dozen-odd pilgrims were among the group of 300-odd devotees whose journey from Kolkata to Ayodhya was sponsored by SinghaBahini founder Devdutta Maji.

Not just converts from Islam, the group also included a few 'love jihad' victims who had been rescued by Maji (read about him here).

The group, which returned to Kolkata Friday (1 March), said they were overwhelmed by the pilgrimage and had never experienced anything as soul-cleansing as the darshan of Ram Lalla.

Here are the profiles of some of the converts from Islam who journeyed to Ayodhya and back:

1) Rajesh Dutta (26) was Jakiruddin in his earlier avatar as a Muslim. Hailing from Hailakandi in Assam, he came with his parents, siblings and aunts to Kolkata in 2018.

Rajesh’s mother had, ever since she was a child, been drawn to Hinduism and had wanted to convert.

But circumstances Hailakandi is a stronghold of deeply conservative and even radical Muslims — precluded that. However, she held on to her dream even after marriage and becoming a mother of five.

She managed to gradually convince her husband and his sisters of the preeminence of Sanatan Dharma and influenced them to convert. However, since it was not possible to embrace Hinduism while staying in Hailakandi, they got in touch with Maji who brought them over to Kolkata.

After converting to Sanatan Dharma, the family took on Hindu names and were provided shelter and other material and financial help by SinghaBahini.

Rajesh met a Hindu girl, Tumpa, while staying at Maji’s house. Tumpa was herself a 'love jihad' victim who had been rescued by Maji in 2018. The two fell in love and married in 2019.

Rajesh now works in a meat shop in the mornings and ferries passengers on his motorcycle (given by Maji) through ride-hailing apps the rest of the day. Tumpa is the proud mother of a three-year-old boy.

2) Rupa Das was Shabnam Khatoon, a resident of Jalangi in Bengal’s Murshidabad district, when she met SinghaBahini activist Gopal Chandra Das about seven years ago. The two fell in love and eloped to Kolkata where they were provided shelter and protection by Devdutta Maji.
She embraced Sanatan Dharma and became Rupa before marrying Gopal.

Rupa requested Maji to help her mother, Nusrat, who was in prison on charges of murder. Nusrat had been arrested as an accomplice of her husband Anas Sheikh (Rupa’s father) who was a history-sheeter and had spent time behind bars for smuggling and other crimes.

Maji contacted Nusrat through some intermediaries and she agreed to become a state witness. Maji assured her of protection and also rescued Rupa’s younger sisters Salma and Bilkis who were 14 and 15 years of age then.

Nusrat, along with her younger daughters, also embraced Sanatan Dharma. While Nusrat became Padma, Salma and Bilkis became Hira and Mukta respectively and are now married to Hindus.

Gopal and Rupa stay in Basirhat in North 24 Parganas and raise goats, besides running a small poultry farm. They have a young son Debadeep.

3) Brishti Haldar was born into a Muslim family as Salma Khatoon at Baruipur in South 24 Parganas. Her family had close links to the Trinamool Congress.

She was good in studies and fell in love with a Hindu boy, who was a couple of years senior to her in high school.

On learning of the affair, Salma’s father arranged her marriage to a middle-aged cleric and, at the same time, began harassing the boy’s family.

The boy’s family, as well as Salma got in touch with SinghaBahini and sought help. Maji rescued them, brought them over to Kolkata and gave them shelter.

Salma soon embraced Sanatan Dharma and is now a devout Hindu who knows the Hanuman Chalisa and the Ram Charit Manas, among other Hindu religious texts and shloks, by heart.

Her husband (name has been withheld on request) is training at a floriculture farm and is planning to open his own farm soon.

4) Nusrat was another young woman who had to be rescued from the wrath of her parents because she fell in love with a Hindu boy when she was 19 (in 1998). Unable to bear pressure from her family, she sought help from some friends who put her in touch with Maji.

Maji rescued her and provided her shelter in his house. She eventually married her sweetheart, Biswajit Sardar, after converting to Hinduism and taking on her new name Pooja.

She has a 1.5 year old daughter and lives with her husband at Diamond Harbour.

5) Shagufta, a young woman of 30, who works in the IT sector and stays with her Muslim parents in New Town, an extension of Kolkata, became Mandira about three years ago after getting thoroughly disenchanted with Islam.

She had fallen in love with a Hindu boy in her locality and when her parents got to know of her affair, they started torturing the boy and his family.

Her neighbours and relatives also joined in the torture and forbade her from even speaking to the boy because he was a kafir and Islam forbade an affair with a kafir.

Shagufta’s disenchantment with Islam set in that time. She started reading Hindu religious books and got drawn to Sanatan Dharma.

Soon, she got in touch with SinghaBahini and converted to Hinduism. She is a silent worker for SinghaBahini and helps the organisation rescue girls in distress. Her close friend Rani (name changed on request) who was also a Muslim has converted to Hinduism due to her (Mandira’s) influence.

6) Tuktuki Mondal and her minor daughter were in the group that went to Ayodhya. A resident of Magrahat in South 24 Parganas district, Tuktuki became news when she was abducted by a Muslim boy, Babusona Gazi, when she was just 13 years old. That was in 2014.

Gazi’s father and uncles were Trinamool Congress functionaries and influential in their area. The police allegedly did not help Tuktuki’s parents rescue their daughter even though she was a minor.

The parents got in touch with Maji who traced and rescued her in 2015. But Babusona, who had the backing of the police, abducted her once again. She gave birth to a daughter and used to be tortured by Babusona.

Maji rescued her a second time and she is now a full-time worker with SinghaBahini. Her daughter studies in Class 2.

All of them are ecstatic after their visit to Ayodhya. “I could have never imagined going to the birthplace of Shree Ram had it not been for Devdutta dada. I feel blessed, it was a deeply soul-lifting experience,” Rajesh Dutta told Swarajya.

Rupa Das said she would have never realised what she was missing till she became a Hindu. “Becoming a Hindu cleansed my soul and mind and filled me with positivity. When I shed Islam and became a Hindu, I became a new and much better person. Going to Ayodhya was the culmination of my soul cleansing exercise,” she said.

Brishti told Swarajya that the darshan of Ram Lalla in Ayodhya was a celestial experience for her. “I thank the Almighty for showing me the way and guiding me into Hinduism. And also for making this pilgrimage to Ayodhya possible” she said.

After visiting Ayodhya, Pooja now wants to reach out to others to speak about Sanatan Dharma. “A pilgrimage to Ayodhya is a must for everyone who seeks spirituality and a good life. Ram Lalla has shown me the light and uplifted me,” she told Swarajya.

The entire group of 300-odd pilgrims sang devotional songs and celebrated their journey to Ayodhya. “I went through a lot in life. I used to be angry and bitter. But after the darshan of Ram Lalla, I have let go of it all and am now filled with positive energy. I see good everywhere,” said Tuktuki Mondal.

For Tuktuki and the others, the journey and the darshan have surely been a soul-lifting experience. All thanks to SinghaBahini and its founder Devdutta Maji.

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