Chandigarh, May 12 (IANS) — Karamvir, the Haryana president of the All India Confederation of Scheduled Castes, Tribes and Backward Classes, said: “Within the last two years, at least 50,000 Dalits have converted to Buddhism.
“Our target is to convert one million within this year,” Karamvir told IANS.
Karamvir said Dalits were sick and tired of the caste-ridden Hindu society.
“There is no caste system in Buddhism. It denies the existence of god and no concept of ‘karma’ as in Hinduism. We have been exploited for long by upper caste Hindus and despite assurances by politicians of all kinds, this continues even after 55 years of independence.”
He said the movement to convert Dalits began in 2000 when a large number of them from Haryana participated in a conversion ceremony in New Delhi.
“The trend is continuing in full swing. In June 2002 over 20,000 people converted to Buddhism in Kurukshetra district. Every month we have programmes in various blocks of the state, and Dalits desert Hinduism to seek refuge in Buddhism,” said Karamvir.
He himself does not write his surname in order not to reveal his former Hindu caste identity.
He said other than social oppression by upper castes, the main reason for Dalits in Haryana to convert was the state government’s policy of not increasing job reservation to 20 percent.
“Of the 20 million people in Haryana, Dalits constitute 47 percent. We do not own businesses or land but depend only on jobs. Is 20 percent job reservation too much?” he asked.
He said during elections all political parties woo Dalits for votes but once in power they forget them.
Criticising the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), Karmavir said according to them the value of a Dalit’s life was less than that of a cow.
He alleged that in October last year five poor Dalits were killed by police in Jhajjar district, 260 km from here, because they refused pay a bribe.
“The Dalits were in the business of removing dead animals and were carrying away dead cows. Police along with VHP and RSS leaders spread the rumour that they were slaughtering cows, and Hindu villagers lynched them.
“The VHP and RSS even brought processions and instigated villagers against Dalits,” alleged Karamvir.
He said in the coming months conversion camps would be held in various districts of Haryana where thousands would embrace Buddhism.
‘Bodhvihars’, or Buddhist monasteries, have been set up in the districts of Kurukshetra and Yamunanagar as well as Chandigarh.
Karamvir said Buddhist missionaries from South Asian countries had donated Rs.300 million to renovate an old monastery at Khudalisahar in Chandigarh.
However, he clarified, Buddhists from abroad did not offer money or sops to Dalits to convert.
“We do not allure anyone to convert. Dalits have lost faith in Hinduism. We are protesting the majority community in India in a peaceful manner,” he said.
© Copyright 2003 IANS India Private Limited, New Delhi. Posted on Religioscope with permission