180 Dalit Families converted To Buddhism after caste violence In Saharanpur District Of Uttar Pradesh on May 18, 2017
“The BJP, RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) and Bajrang Dal are always seeking support based on Hindu identity. When people reject Hinduism by embracing Buddhism, they also refuse to be a part of their socio-political ambitions,” said Nawab Satpal Tanwar, a leader of Bhim Army.
There are differences among Ambedkarites on how to take the movement further. Bhim Army and its president, Chandrashekhar, take great pride in reinforcing their caste identity.
But “Dr Ambedkar`s message was annihilation of the caste, not its celebration. Such political associations with caste weaken the neo-Buddhist movement instead of strengthening it,” said Shiv Shankar Das, a former researcher with the Centre for Political Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University.
Ambedkar`s interest in Buddhism went back to 1908, when he first read about Buddha`s life and reached its zenith in 1935 when he declared, “Although I have been born a Hindu, I will not die a Hindu.” His essay, “The Annihilation of Caste”, stated that the greatest barrier to the advancement of the untouchables was Hinduism itself. His stance was seen as a response to Gandhi who stressed the removal of untouchability, not caste system itself.
But does conversion change how Dalits are treated by casteist elements?
This major conversion happened in BJP ruled Yogi’s UP and is sending waves across the country. But it is not going to bring in any change in the anti-dalit mindset of the dominant castes. There’s no fraternal feeling in Hinduism, which will treat this exit to be that of servants running away from the house and not as a loss of our own kith & kin.
We should convert this anger into a mass protest that would throw this casteist system away and replace it with people’s power and democracy. Dalits realising this and joining hands with other working masses to abolish this unfair and unjust caste system is the only way out.