About 5,000 Dalits, or members of socially underprivileged classes, converted from Hinduism to Buddhism in the cultural capital of Gujarat, Vadodara, on Sunday, October 5, defying the state’s anti-conversion law.
Vadodara, Oct 5 (IANS) — “You can’t term this illegal. We sought permission from the district collector but he told us to approach the police. When we contacted the police, they passed the buck back to the collector,” said Bhante Sanghpriya, general secretary of the Vishwa Baudh Sangh (VBS), a Buddhist organisation.
“We tried our best to get the government’s permission, but it was not interested in our programme,” he said.
According to the Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act, people wanting to convert from one faith to another have to take permission from the district collector.
When contacted, both Vadodara police and the district collectorate pleaded ignorance about the conversions.
Sources in the Vadodara collectorate told IANS they were told to act on the anti-conversion law only when Christians or Muslims were involved in converting Hindus.
“Buddhism is considered a part of Hinduism. So it was like switching from one sect to another in the same religion,” said a government official on condition of anonymity.
Bhante too conceded that Hindu hardliners did not have much of a problem with Buddhism or Jainism.
“We have conducted such programmes for converting to Buddhism in various parts of Gujarat. About 30,000 Dalits who felt persecuted by caste Hindus have embraced Buddhism in the past three months,” he said.
© Copyright 2003 IANS India Private Limited, New Delhi. Posted on Religioscope with permission.
Indo-Asian News Service (IANS), formerly India Abroad News Service, was conceived in 1986 to enhance the flow of news and information between India and North America. IANS today is India’s first multinational and multilingual wire service.