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India: Over 300 Dalits convert to Buddhism in Gujarat

Friday 14 October 2016, by siawi3

Source: http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-news-india/over-300-dalits-convert-to-buddhism-in-gujarat/

Sixty-five people from the community converted to Buddhism at a separate event organised in Kalol in Gandhinagar district, while 11 more converted in Wadhwan in Surendranagar district.

By: PTI | Ahmedabad |

Published:October 12, 2016 5:44 pm

Members of India’s low-caste Dalit community block a road to demand police protection to return their villages after attending a rally in Una, Gujarat state, India, Monday, Aug. 15, 2016. The Dalits have been protesting since four men belonging to their community were beaten while trying to skin a dead cow in July near this western Indian town. Videos of the four being stripped and beaten with sticks by men claiming to be cow protectors in Gujarat state had gone viral and sparked protests by Dalit groups across India. The Dalits, belong to the lowest rung of Hinduism’s caste hierarchy. (AP Photo/Ajit Solanki) Collectors of Surendranagar and Ahmedabad, where the conversion took place, said they have no knowledge of the events.(AP Photo)

Over 200 people from the Dalit community from Gujarat converted to Buddhism in three separate events organised by Buddhist organisations here on the occasion of Vijaya Dashmi, organisers said Wednesday.

Another 90 from the state converted to Buddhism in Nagpur, taking the total to over 300 Dalits. According to organisers, though conversions are carried out every year on Vijaya Dashmi, this year the numbers were high on account of the Una Dalit flogging incident.

“As many as 140 Dalits converted to Buddhism at an event organised by Gujarat Buddhist Society in Dani Limda locality of Ahmedabad yesterday to mark Vijaya Dashmi,” Ramesh Banker, a member of Gujarat Buddhist Academy, which organised the event here, said.

Sixty-five people from the community converted to Buddhism at a separate event organised in Kalol in Gandhinagar district, while 11 more converted in Wadhwan in Surendranagar district. Some of them also embraced Buddhism at an event organised at Kalol. A total of 65 persons converted at this event, P G Jyotikar of Buddhist Society of India, said.

He said while conversion is an ongoing event, the Dalits prefer to embrace Buddhism on Vijaya Dashmi because on this day in 1956, Babasaheb B R Ambedkar took to Buddhism alongwith other Dalits at an event in Nagpur.

“Most Dalits prefer this day for conversion, as Ambedkar himself converted to Buddhism on this day in 1956. The reaction to the Una Dalit atrocity incident was evident in response we received from the converts,” Jyotikar said.

While a total 216 Dalits converted to Buddhism at events organised in the state, around 90 more from the state converted to the religion at Nagpur, where Dalits from all over the country gather for conversion, Banker claimed.

“With this, more than 300 Dalits in the state converted to Buddhism,” he claimed.

Collectors of Surendranagar and Ahmedabad, where the event took place, said they have no knowledge of the events.

“It has not come to our notice,” Surendranagar Collector Uday Agrawal said.

Those who embraced the new religion said they converted to Buddhism because it is a “more humane religion” than Hinduism.

“Buddhism is a humanist religion that offers equality to fellow Buddhists without any stratification of caste that we see in Hinduism, and therefore, we converted to Buddhism. Equality provides more opportunity to an individual to grow,” said Arvindsinh Chauhan.

Darshana Chauhan, who also converted to Buddhism at the Ahmedabad function, said incidents like the one seen at Una where Dalits were brutally thrashed allegedly for skinning a dead cow, is “not uncommon” in the country.

“Atrocity on Dalits takes place everywhere in the country because of inequality in Hinduism. We converted to Buddhism because in this religion everybody is considered equal,” she said.

On July 11, seven Dalits of Mota Samadhiyala village of Una taluka in Gir-Somnath district were thrashed allegedly by cow vigilantes when they were found skinning a dead cow. Later, four of these Dalit youths were taken to Una town, where they were tied up with a vehicle and allegedly thrashed by the gau rakshaks.

The matter came to light after a video of the flogging, recorded allegedly by the cow vigilantes, went viral on social media platforms. As the issue created huge uproar, then Gujarat chief minister Anandiben Patel handed over the probe to CID-Crime on July 18 following which over 40 people were arrested.