MEERUT: Ten Balmiki families of Jamaalpur village in Meerut said that if they were not allowed to worship at the Balmiki Ashram in Baghpat, they would embrace Islam. They have even issued a deadline – January 26 – for this. Meanwhile, the VHP is attempting to resolve their grouse.The Balmikis, 60 in all, were turned away from the ashram on October 8, when they went there to celebrate Balmiki Jayanti. They said although the ashram belonged to their community, some upper caste priests had taken over its administration.

On Sunday, an agitated group of Balmikis approached the media with their complaints. “For quite some time, we have not been allowed to worship at the Balmiki ashram at Balaini in Baghpat,” said Shyam Singh, one of the Balmikis.

Sudarshan Chakra, a local VHP leader said, “We have just come to know of this incident. We back the Balmikis fully and will talk to the priests at the Bailaini Balmiki ashram. A case will be registered against the priests, if a need arises.”

The ashram is special for the community as legend has it that it belonged to Maharishi Balmiki, author of the Ramayana. It is believed that Ram’s sons Luv and Kush were born there, and Sita became sati there.

After the Balmikis were turned away from the ashram on October 8, they had approached the SP of Baghpat district, but received not help.

Villagers also met district magistrate Pankaj Yadav and submitted a memorandum, claiming that if they were not allowed to worship at their temple, they would convert en masse to Islam. The district magistrate said action was being taken on the complaint.