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Sunday, 20 October, 2002, 14:58 GMT 15:58 UK
Low caste Hindus 'prefer Islam'
At least 400 members of the low caste (Dalit) community in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, say they are planning to convert to Islam, because of what they describe as persistent unfair treatment by their higher caste Hindu neighbours.

In the latest incident, the Dalit leaders are angry that higher caste Hindus in their village, near Kanchipuram have refused to allow a religious procession to pass through the streets where they live.

There is a ban on forced religious conversions in Tamil Nadu, which human rights groups say is open to interpretation by the authorities.

The Dalit community says they are not being coerced into converting to Islam, but they want to because in Islam everyone is treated equally.

The Dalits, also known as the untouchables, are at the bottom of the Hindu caste system.

(From the Newsroom of BBC World Service)

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