On 14 October 2018, more than two thousand Dalits and people from Backward Class embraced Buddhism in Chhapra, Bihar. This event is significant for many reasons for Chhapra, the headquarters of Saran district. The city has now become a stronghold of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) after the political exile of Lalu Prasad. In addition, many cases of Dalit persecution have been reported in Saran district in recent years. In April this year, people with feudalistic designs vandalized the statue of Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar at Dumersan Chowk, Mashrakh block. A similar incident took place near the Marhaura block office a month earlier, in March.
Not surprisingly, at a time when the feudal forces hold hegemonic dominance, this conversion to Buddhism by a large number of Dalits and the Backward Classes is being seen as a symbol of resistance. The Deshana and Dhamma Diksha ceremonies were held on the premises of the district school, in the centre of the city, under the aegis of Bharatiya Baudh Mahasabha, Ambedkar Ravidas Mahasangh, Bharatiya Baudh Jagaran Manch and Dr B.R. Ambedkar Pariganit Kalyan Sangh. During the programme, the converts took an oath to follow in the footsteps of Babasaheb and Mahatma Buddha. The Dhamma Guru Bhikkhuni (nun) Vijaya Maitriya of Nagpur gave Dhamma Diksha. On the occasion, the bhikkhuni said that the prevalent social inequality, caste system, hypocrisy, sacrificial practices, superstition and social evils could be banished only by following the path shown by Mahatma Buddha.
Turning to Buddha and Ambedkar
Among the converts, many attended the ceremony with their families. One of them is Ramlal Ram, general-secretary of Ambedkar Ravidas Mahasangh and resident of Qutubpur, Sadar block. He said that he converted along with his whole family due to the prevalence of caste system, discrimination, superstition and feudalism in society. He added that inequality in society had risen further in recent times. He said discrimination against the Scheduled Castes at the hands of people from the general category had increased.
Amar Nath Ram, a resident of Gheghta in Sadar block, also embraced Buddhism along with his whole family. He stressed that equality in society could be achieved only by following in the footsteps of Babasaheb B.R. Ambedkar. He has vowed to follow the 22-point Samayak Sandesh preached by Mahatma Buddha. Similarly, Ramnath Manjhi, a resident of Doriganj Chirand, said that he had converted due to the social inequalities, false beliefs, double standards and evils in society. He said that there had been a considerable increase in the hostilities against the Scheduled Castes in the recent past. He intends to spread the message of equality by practising the maxims enunciated by Babasaheb and Mahatma Buddha.
Conversion triggers panic in the RSS
The embracing of Buddhism by a large number of Dalits and Backward Classes has triggered panic in the RSS camp. In light of the growing influence of Buddhism in Chhapra, RSS has accelerated its grass-roots activities. However, in this regard, no political leader has given any official statement. While talking to FORWARD Press on this issue, Chhapra MP Rajiv Pratap Rudy denied having any knowledge of such conversion of Dalits and Backwards to Buddhism. On the other hand, BJP MP from Maharajganj constituency, Janardan Singh Sigriwal, declined to comment on the issue.
Translation: Devina Auchoybur; copy-editing: Zeeshan Ali /Lokesh
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