Ghaziabad district official rush to Karhera after 236 Dalits ‘convert’ to Buddhism
A controversy has broken out over 236 Dalits from a colony in Ghaziabad’s Karhera allegedly converting to Buddhism to protest the Hathras gang-rape and murder case, following which district administration officials rushed to take stock of the situation on Wednesday.
Those who allegedly “converted” were said to be residents of Valmiki Basti, near the Hindon airbase. They claimed they converted on October 14 to seek justice for the 19-year-old Dalit woman in Hathras who was allegedly gang-raped and later died of her injuries last month.
District officials, however, said there had been no conversion and that when they visited the locality, people raised issues such as jobs, power supply and housing.
Pawan Valmiki, 27, who says he has changed his surname to “Boudh” after the “conversion”, said more people would convert in case their 16-point agenda of demands, which they claimed they had submitted to the delegation, were not met within a week.
“Justice for our sister (Hathras victim) who was murdered is a major concern for us. About 236 people converted to Buddhism on the evening of October 14. In coming time, more people will get converted in case the victim of Hathras case doesn’t get justice,” said Pawan, adding other demands were indeed related to other issues.
“We don’t have a community centre here for functions. We have also not received benefits of PM Awas Yojna and Ujjwala Schemes. People from Dalit community are basically sidelined. The MLA, district magistrate and senior superintendent of police heard us and promised that the issues will be resolved,” he said, adding that he founded the ‘Navyuvak Sangharsh Sewa Samiti’ to demand their rights.
The Hathras case, which sparked widespread outrage after the police forcibly cremated the victim’s body, is being investigated by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
Vir Singh, another resident, said that people of his caste felt pressured and that they were appalled by the events that took place at Hathras. “If we do not get justice this time, we will search for some other way. It is likely that more people will convert. We want justice and our youth need jobs,” he said.
“There is lot of resentment in our community. So, slowly, we all will get converted to Buddhism,” said Rajjo, another resident.
District magistrate Ajay Shankar Pandey said prohibitory orders were in place at Karhera since the pandemic struck, making it impossible that 236 people to gather for a “conversion” ceremony. However, an additional district magistrate was inquiring into it, he added.
“We spoke to the residents there, including Pawan Valmiki. They raised issues such as the lack of jobs, electricity, housing, among others. He claimed that some locals had threatened them. The senior superintendent of police will take appropriate action. Pawan told us that the decision (to convert) was taken in the heat of the moment. But he did not raise the Hathras case with us,” said Pandey. “They did not hand over any letter about a 16-point agenda.”
Sahibabad MLA Sunil Sharma, who also accompanied the district administration, said there was a political conspiracy behind the entire issue.
“We have come to know of involvement of people from a political party. During the meeting, people raised their local issues like housing, ration cards, etc. There is no conversion,” he said.
Community meets Kejriwal
Pawan Valmiki on Wednesday met with Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal in the Capital. Pawan said he is the founder-president ‘Navyuvak Sangharsh Sewa Samiti’ formed to fight for Dalit rights. He had earlier worked as a housekeeping staff at a highrise in Mohan Nagar but lost his job during the lockdown.
“My father is bed ridden due to ailment for about 5-6 years and I lost the job. I have to feed my family which also include a son and a daughter. Our electricity bills are mounting and can be disconnected any day,” he said. “Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal sent a car for us and five of us went to meet him at his official residence. He shared his concerns over the Hathras incident but also said that we should not have converted. He also assured us that he will come at Karhera in couple of days to meet us.”.
Later, AAP Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh tweeted pictures of the meeting and wrote, “There is no justice for Dalits under the rule of Yogi Adityanath. They are being raped and murdered. Angry after the Hathras scandal, several from the Valmiki community left Hinduism. They shared their pain with Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal.”