Two years after 5,000 Dalits converted to Buddhism in Junagadh in Gujarat, 90 Dalits embraced Buddhism at a programme organised by the Gujarat Buddhist Academy in Dholka town of Ahmedabad district on Thursday. The Dalits, who come from Ahmedabad’s Jivraj Park area, include 27-year-old Bhamini Delwadia, an MBA, who belongs to the Scheduled Caste (SC).
Bhamini was joined by 89 other Dalits, including four of her family members, at the newly-built Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Hall in Sonar Kui locality of Dholka, 30 km from Ahmedabad City.
The 90 Dalits, most of them between 20-35 years, took “diksha” from Bhikshu Pragnya Ratna, a Dhamma pracharak from The Great Ashoka Buddha Vihar in Porbandar, and general secretary of Gujarat region of Akhil Bharatiya Bhikshu Mahasangh. Bhikshu Pragnya Ratna was also joined by Bhikshu Padmasambhav from Surat and Bhikshu Pragnavansh from Madhya Pradesh as Buddhist religious leaders at the function attended by around 500 persons.
The conversion took place at a significantly simple function during which the 90 persons, including nine women, were given “diksha”, following which all present at the programme were showered with rose petals amid Buddhist prayers. Following the conversion, they gave a short speech in which they cited “inequality and unscientific and superstitious rituals” in Hinduism and their liking for Dr Ambedkar’s ideals as the reasons for conversion.
“I believe in equality for all and do not find it in Hinduism. And I believe in the ideals of Dr Ambedkar, who himself converted to Buddhism while shedding Hinduism. So, following in his footsteps, we have adopted Buddhism today,” says Bhamini. Bhamini’s IIM post-graduate husband Kunal and his parents — Abhilash and Hiraben — and brother Rahul also converted to Buddhism during the function.
Hemlata Sonara (20) from Dholka is among the nine women who converted to Buddhism. She is pursuing her Masters in Arts from HK Arts College in Ahmedabad. “Hinduism is full of superstitions. And the principles of independence and equality for all are lacking in it. Plus, I am attracted towards Buddhism since it is a religion entirely based on the scientific approach. Also, it gives a great emphasis on women’s education,” Hemlata says.
Jatin Makwana (28), another convert, says, “I have learnt a lot from Buddhism. It’s a religion full of equality which is in stark contrast to Hinduism. Being a Dalit, wherever you go, people ask for your caste and then discriminate against you. In Buddhism, there is no such hierarchy, all are equals.”
“So, it is better to follow a religion which practises equality than the one in which one gets humiliated on caste lines,” adds Jatin, who works as a lab assistant at a pathology laboratory in Dholka.
Nikita Parmar (26) from Rasikpura village of Ahmedabad is a housewife. She embraced Buddhism, along with her husband Arvind. Nikita converted because she did not like “blindly following Hindu rituals”. She said, “Also, these rituals have given birth to a lot of superstitions which are disgusting. I don’t want to be a part of that religion.”
Secretary of Gujarat Buddhist Academy Ramesh Banker said, “We organised this programme as these 90 persons wanted to embrace Buddhism. Hinduism is full of superstitions where there is a system of caste-based hierarchy in which some people are considered untouchables. The programme was held in a peaceful manner.”