More than 200 Dalits converted to Buddhism at three programmes in Gujarat on Tuesday. Many of them claimed that the Una flogging incident was behind their decision to convert.
“We were thinking of converting to Buddhism for the past six months. The Una incident cleared our doubts,” said Sangeeta Parmar (26) from New Naroda area of Ahmedabad, who was one of those who converted.
The programmes were organised in Kalol of Gandhinagar district, Danilimda area of Ahmedabad city and Wadhwan town of Surendranagar district. The Kalol event was organised by Buddhist Society of India while the Danilimda event was held under the aegis of Gujarat Buddhist Academy. In Wadhwan, the programme was organised at a private Bauddh Vihar.
The converts cited various issues such as superstition, inequality and caste-based discrimination in Hinduism, as well as the influence of Dr B R Ambedkar, but most of them cited the Una episode — in which seven Dalits were flogged by alleged gau rakshaks for skinning a dead cow in July.
Parmar converted to Buddhism in Kalol along with her husband Shashikant, a central government employee.
“Six months ago, a friend was looking for a flat in our area. But he was told that the buildings were not for people of our caste. This incident, followed by the Una episode, led us to convert,” Shashikant said.
Dipanshu Parikh, a 23-year-old science undergraduate from Ahmedabad, was one of the 140 Dalits who converted at Danilimda. He had a similar story to tell.
“We were planning to sell our house in Chandkheda area and buy one in Jivraj Park. We inquired about a house, but the builder told us that his scheme was not for Scheduled Castes. If we are not considered as one of them, why should we follow that religion?” he said.