As many as 155 Dalits converted to Buddhism on the 60th death anniversary of Dr BR Ambedkar, observed as ‘Mahaparinirvan Divas’ even as Banaskantha District Collector said the administration had not given permission for the conversion programme.
Dalits, mostly from Banaskantha and a few from Kutch district, converted to Buddhism at Ramapir temple here at the program organised by Banaskantha District Dalit Sangathan.
“The decision to embrace Buddhism was taken after Una Dalit atrocity case. Members of our community wanted to protest against growing inequality and atrocities against Dalits in Gujarat,” said the organiser Dalpatbhai Bhatiya.
The incident at Una in Gujarat, where cow vigilantes beat up some Dalit youths alleging that they had killed a cow, had rocked the state earlier this year.
“After the Una incident we had intimated district administration about the decision of 191 Dalits to convert to Buddhism this day. Of them, 155 converted on Tuesday at a function presided over by a Buddhist monk from Porbandar,” Bhatiya said.
Such event will be organised every year on Mahaparinirvan Divas, he claimed.
“If (despite) being Hindus we are not allowed to enter the temple, play garba during Navratri or draw water from the common well because we are Dalits, then there is no point being a Hindu. This is why we decided to convert to Buddhism,” said Amrut Valmiki, who converted along with his three children.
Banaskantha collector Jenu Devan said the administration had refused permission for conversion programme.
“We had earlier rejected the application seeking permission for conversion. We had not given them permission for today’s event and we will conduct an inquiry,” Devan said.
In October, on Vijaya Dashami, more than 300 Dalits converted to Buddhism at various places in Gujarat and also at Nagpur. Una incident was cited as the main reason for high number of participants.