Why do Dalits see Buddhism as an option?

Atrocities against Dalits by caste people is not a new concept. In the recent past, there have been multiple instances, where Dalits being fed up with caste-based discrimination ended up getting converted to Buddhism. Over 60 Dalit families, in Karnataka’s Kundagoli village in Kalburagi district renounced Hinduism and converted to Buddhism in March this year.

The major step by the villagers was taken after some upper caste villagers attacked and defiled some Dalits at Jewargi Taluka Devi festival on February 9. “There are a lot of caste-related issues here. We were looked down upon as dogs by others. Thus we decided to take up Buddhism and we are very happy to have done that,” said Vittal, a Dalit villager, who was a victim of maltreatment by caste people.

This is just one incident, and who can forget incidents such as Dalits being thrashed in Una. In July last year, seven Dalits of Mota Samadhiyala village were allegedly paraded and flogged for skinning a dead cow, an incident that caused nation-wide outrage after its video went viral.

Also Read: Una Dalit assault: Victims to embrace Buddhism

Later, four of these Dalit youths were taken to Una town, where they were tied up with a vehicle and allegedly thrashed by the cow vigilantes. “We have decided to convert to Buddhism as we have faced a lot of discrimination due to our traditional profession for skinning dead animals,” said Vashram Sarvaiya, the eldest of three brothers who were beaten up by a group of cow vigilantes.

Why Dalits convert to Buddhism:

The architect of Indian Constitution, Dr BR Ambedkar had chosen Buddhism as his faith and renounced Hinduism. On October 13, 1935, Babasaheb told a gathering of 10,000 people in Yeola that “I will not die a Hindu”. He had hoped that Hinduism gets rid of the concept of untouchability and caste-based discrimination. He had also initiated reforms including temple entry movements.

Speaking at the All-Bombay District Mahar Conference in Dadar (May 30-31, 1936), Ambedkar explained and The Indian Express quotes ‘that he saw conversion as a political and spiritual act for Dalits. He identified sympathy, equality and liberty as the three factors required for the uplift of an individual in a religion, and said these were non-existent in Hinduism.’

However, Buddhism is not the only option, Dalits opt for. In 1981, 150 Dalit families of a Tamil Nadu’s village, Meenakshipuram, converted to Islam citing oppression by caste Hindus.

With ANI and The Indian Express inputs