Cleric who was nabbed on religious conversion charges was born as a Hindu, embraced Islam under influence of Muslim friends

News Desk: Maulana Umar Gautam, who was arrested along with his accomplice for allegedly being part of a nationwide religious conversion racket, was born in a Thakur family of Fatehpur in 1964 and embraced Islam under the influence of his Muslim friends while pursuing higher studies (BSc and MSc Agriculture) in Nainital in 1984, said police.

Umar Gautam, 57,and Jahangir Alam, 52, both residents of Jamia Nagar in New Delhi, were arrested by the UP Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) on Monday for their alleged involvement in large-scale illegal conversions of people to Islam in UP and other parts of the country.

The ATS claimed that the racket was allegedly funded by international organizations, including Pakistan’s intelligence agency ISI, for the conversion of specially-abled children and other vulnerable groups of society. The accused were involved in conversion of over 1,000 people in the last 18 months, claimed police.

Officials said Umar Gautam’s original name was Shyam Prakash Singh Gautam, son of Dhanraj Singh Gautam. He was the fourth among six siblings — Udai Raj Singh Gautam, Udai Pratap Singh Gautam, Udai Nath Singh Gautam, Shyam Prakash Singh Gautam, Shri Nath Singh Gautam and Dhruv Singh Gautam.

“Family members had no relations with Shyam Prakash after he embraced Islam nearly 37 years ago,” said his second eldest brother Udai Pratap Singh Gautam, who stays in Fatehpur. He said their father had disowned Shyam Prakash after coming to know that he had accepted Islam and changed his name.

Udai Pratap said his family had no idea about Shyam Prakash’s working as he remained completely disconnected with them for years. Shyam Prakash, his wife and two children stayed in New Delhi. He said Shyam Prakash even made his wife Rajesh Kumari embrace Islam and changed her name to Razia.

A senior ATS official said Umar Gautam alias Shyam Prakash looked for vulnerable people for conversion and influenced them by narrating his own story of being a Thakur who embraced Islam.

He said Gautam used to highlight “caste discrimination” among Hindus to influence vulnerable people and instilled hatred among them towards other religions. Udai Pratap said the group even lured people into conversion with a promise of jobs and other avenues. “Shyam Prakash was suspected to be lured into conversion with a promise of job,” he added.