RSS fumes over Dalit conversion to Buddhism in Modi’s Gujarat

On the eve of Buddha Purnima, more than 300 Dalits have decided to “change” their religion in a mass ceremony in the infamous Una, where Dalits were attacked by gau rakshaks in 2016

NH photo by Vipin
NH photo by Vipin

Raman Swamy

Nothing makes RSS bosses feel annoyed more than the news of yet another group of Dalits converting to Buddhism. On the eve of Buddha Purnima next month, more than 300 Dalits have decided to “change” their religion in a mass ceremony in, of all places, the infamous Una, where four Dalit youths were attacked in Mota Samadhiyala village in July 2016.

What makes it humiliating for the RSS is that Una is in Gujarat; Narendra Modi’s beloved home state. This should not be happening there.

But there is no way to stop it.  Several Dalit families of Mota Samadhiyala village in Una taluka have made up their minds.  They have filled out the application forms.  The holy rituals will be conducted by Buddhist monks from Porbandar in the presence local politicians, activists and journalists.

What has caught the Sangh Parivar by surprise is the reason being given for the mass conversion—to protest Modi government’s discrimination against Dalits.  Among those who will convert are a few of the Dalit youth who were flogged and paraded half-naked through Una town in July 2016 by the thugs who call themselves the ‘Gau Rakshak Dal’ but actually belong to the BJP, VHP,  Bajrang Dal and a score of RSS-affliated organisations.

The young men were being punished for transporting dead cattle for the purposes of skinning. It’s what they do for a living.

Dalit youth all over the country—significantly in BJP ruled states in particular—are up in arms because of the alarming rise in incidents of brutal oppression and murderous atrocities against Dalits by outfits owing allegiance to the RSS

Unlike what Prime Minister Modi and hundreds of RSS pracharaks think, Dalits do not do what they do because it makes them feel spiritual and ennobled.  They are compelled by the iniquitous circumstances of their birth as untouchables to dispose of animal carcasses and human excreta to earn a few rupees to feed their own families.

But even the most famous pracharak of all, the former chief minister of Gujarat and the present Prime Minister of India, is unshakable in his belief that Dalits have been doing those filthy things for the sheer divinity of it.  In his book Karmayog, which greatly enhanced his stature within the Hindutva fraternity,  he has even backed up his views with historical evidence and irrefutable logic—why else would Dalits continue to do it generation after generation since the time the sacred Manusmriti laws of the caste system were laid down.

What gets the RSS’s goat is the way the Ambedkarites are stirring up trouble everywhere and needlessly reopening debates which were settled more than two thousand years ago.  As a BJP spokesman said in an accusatory tone during a panel discussion this week:  “The Congress is playing politics. What does Rahul Gandhi know about Dalits?”

The overused diversionary tactic fails to cut any ice.  Dalit youth all over the country—significantly in BJP ruled states in particular—are up in arms because of the alarming rise in incidents of brutal oppression and murderous atrocities against Dalits by outfits owing allegiance to the RSS.  The Congress has very little to do with it and the president did nothing more than read out a passage from Modi’s Karmayog book.

That apart, what the Sangh Parivar should be more concerned about is the possibility of Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati carrying out a threat she made a year ago—that she was seriously thinking of converting to Buddhism herself, along with her followers.

Warning of cataclysmic consequences unless the RSS and BJP stopped what she called was a deliberate strategy to commit atrocities on backward castes,  Mayawati invoked the teachings of Bhimrao Ambedkar and his growing appeal among Dalit youth.

Ambedkar, she said, had made an announcement in 1935 that he was born a Hindu but he would not die a Hindu. He gave Hindu religious and political leaders 21 years to to reform. But when he saw there was no change in their attitude, he converted to Buddhism in 1956 in Nagpur.

The BSP leader said:  “We had hoped the contractors and custodians of the Hindu religion would change after Babasaheb’s conversion and finally give respect to the Dalit and backward caste communities. But even today they continue to exploit the backward communities and the Dalits.

“I want to warn the BJP and the RSS that if they don’t change their disrespectful, casteist and communal behaviour towards the Dalits and backward caste people and their leaders, I too will convert to Buddhism with my crores of my followers,” said Mayawati.

In what must have sounded ominous to the ears of the RSS-BJP bosses, she referred to the Lok Sabha elections in 2019 and said:  “I will take a decision on conversion to Buddhism at an appropriate time, just like Ambedkar.”

Whether that threat is genuine or purely political rhetoric, time alone will tell.  What is real is the event in Una where 300 Dalits, maybe more, clad in white saris and kurtas, will change their religion instantly and forevermore.

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