Updated: April 29, 2018 4:56:06 am
Alleging discrimination due to their caste, the group of Dalits, who were allegedly assaulted by gau rakshaks (cow vigilantes) in Mota Samadhiyala village of Una taluka in Gir Somnath district in 2016, have decided to ‘convert’ to Buddhism during an event in their village on Sunday. Several other Dalit residents of the same village, besides 400 others, are also likely to embrace the new religion.
Balu Sarvaiya, the face of the victims of the July 2016 atrocities in which seven Dalits were allegedly attacked by a group of gau rakshaks for skinning a cow carcass, said they were being discriminated against by the society because they belonged to a particular community. Therefore, Sarvaiya said, the group has decided to embrace a new religion. “We are Hindus but atyachar karvavavla (the purveyors of atrocities) are out to prove that since we are Dalits, we are not Hindus. We cannot take this anymore. We want to reform our community and therefore, as directed by Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar, will convert to Buddhism. But by doing so, we are not discriminating against any religion or community. Buddhism does not discriminate against anybody,” Balu told The Indian Express.
The event, which is being organised by a committee led by Sarvaiya, will take place at Mota Samadhiyala village, now part of Gir Gadhda taluka of Gir Somnath district. It has been named ‘Dhammdiksha Mahotsava’ or the festival to get converted into a new religion. “It is the moral duty of every body belonging to the deprived communities to walk along the path shown by great Babasaheb Ambedkar. Balu Sarvaiya and the remaining victims of the Una atrocities along with several others will convert to Buddhism in the presence of Bhante Pragnaratnaji on April 29 (Buddh Purnima). We humbly appeal to the people to take part in this historic event and make it a success,” a public invite circulated by the organising committee read.
A group of cow vigilantes had allegedly assaulted Sarviya, his wife Kunvar, sons Vashram and Ramesh, nephews Ashok and Bechar as well as relative Devshi Babariya on July 11, 2016. The gau rakshaks first attacked Vashram, Ramesh, Ashok and Bechar while they were skinning a carcass of a cow in Mota Samadhiyala village, accusing them of slaughtering the animal. When Sarviya and others tried to intervene, they too were thrashed. The assailants then allegedly kidnapped Vashram, Ramesh, Ashok and Bechar in a car, took them to Una town and flogged them publicly before abandoning them near Una police station.
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Videos of the brutal attacks led to a national outcry with the Gujarat CID (crime) team arresting more than 40 persons, including four police officers, in connection with the case. A court in Una town is at present hearing the case.
“We expect around 2,000 people to attend the event. More than 550 persons have filled up the forms, seeking permission from the district magistrate to convert into Buddhism. We shall submit these forms to the district magistrate later,” Vashram Sarvaiya said.
Vashram added that of the around 30 Dalit families in Mota Samadhiyala, 14 are planning to convert their religion at the event on Sunday. “We are being treated like Muslims though, being Dalits, we are Hindus. Therefore, we have no option but to embrace another religion which does not discriminate against fellow followers of the faith,” he said.
Gir Somnath district collector Ajay Prakash said he was aware of the event but added that nobody had submitted any application to his office, seeking permission for religious conversion, as required by the state laws. Gir Somnath Superindendent of Police Hitesh Joysar said adequate number of police personnel will be deployed in Mota Samadhiyala and other places to prevent any untoward incident.
The local administration has, however, granted permission to the Dalits to organise the event. Incidentally, around 10,000 Dalits had participated in a similar event organised in a village in neighbouring Junagadh district in 2014.
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