Una Dalits victims to convert to Buddhism to highlight caste discrimination
The families of the four of the Dalit men assaulted by self-styled cow vigilantes in Gujarat’s Una town two years ago will convert to Buddhism on Sunday to send the message “ loud and clear” that the discrimination against their community must end.
Ramesh Sarviya and his brothers Vasram and Ashok and cousin Bechar were tied to a car, flogged and paraded half-naked for 15km only to be thrashed outside the Una police station on July 11, 2016, for allegedly skinning dead cattle.
The incident sparked outrage across the country and evoked a strong political response.
“The flogging incident raised the issue of the day-to-day ordeal of a Dalit in India on an international platform. Now, we would embrace Buddhism, as per the path shown by our leader Bhimrao Ambedkar, to send the message of discrimination loud and clear,” says Vasram.
Vasram says his “damaged” eardrum gives him an unbearable headache due to the beating and his two brothers still complain of joint and muscle pain.
Ramesh and Ashok alleged on Wednesday that they were threatened by two men on a motorcycle armed with iron rods to withdraw the case against those accused of assaulting them. They lodged a complaint at the Una police station.
Sonal, who married Ramesh Sarviya a year after the incident, stands with the family’s decision to embrace Buddhism and say they still have to face discrimination.
“We have to carry our utensils to fields with us as the owner would not like to give us food on his plates and bowls,” Sonal says.
The Sarviyas say that the conversion will not change anything for them.
“But at least we would not be worshipping the same Gods whose followers beat us and do not wish to see our progress,” Vashram says.
The Sarviyas are expected to be joined by 27 other Dalit families from their Mota Samadhiya village to abandon Hinduism on Buddha Purnima, that marks the Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and death.
The Sarviya and Kevalsinh Rathod, a social activist and friend of the family, have been distributing conversion related leaflets in around 10 villages in Una taluka and some other parts of the Saurashtra peninsula in western Gujarat.
So far, 300 forms seeking family members’ details and consent granting conversion have been filled, they say.
“We have invited Porbandar Buddha Vihar monks to preside over the ceremony. The administration has also been informed about the conversion plan,” Rathod says.
“Even politicians, including SC MLAs from both the Congress and BJP have been invited. Mayawatiji (Bahujan Samajwadi Party chief) would not be able to attend owing to her busy schedule,” he adds.
The families of the three boys from Thangadh in Surendranagar district, who were killed in police firing in 2008 are also, likely to be present at the event.
Dalits make 200 million of India’s 1.3 billion population and are at the bottom of the caste hierarchy.