Bhima Koregaon violence: Suicide victim’s kin embrace Buddhism, allege discrimination
The family of Pooja Sakat, the 19-year-old Dalit girl who was an important witness of the violence which ensued on January 1 at Bhima Koregaon, has embraced Buddhism, according to Suresh Sakat, the deceased’s father. Her family members said that they were facing discrimination in the village and therefore, decided to embrace Buddhism.
Pooja Sakat’s body was found floating in a well near her family’s temporary house in Vada, near Bhima Koregoan on April 21. Pooja allegedly committed suicide and her family had allegedly been threatened by the suspects involved in torching her house on January 2 .
Violence had erupted when Dalit groups were celebrating the bicentenary of the Bhima Koregaon battle in which the forces of the British East India Company defeated the Peshwa’s army.
Suresh Sakat, who has been given police security, claimed that the family took ‘diksha’ (conversion to Buddhism) after the adherents of their previous faith failed to provide justice to them ever since the family became a target of the rightwing forces in the aftermath of Bhima Koregaon violence.
“I went to Chaityabhoomi, got my hair cut and renounced Hinduism. Similarly, my entire family has also accepted Buddhism and we will officially declare it on October 12 during the Dhamma Chakra month. It has been our experience that ever since we came under attack from Hindutva forces after the Koregaon Bhima violence. We are facing social boycott, abuse and non cooperation from the villagers and the government. Our previous religion did not give us justice and so, we converted to Buddhism and will follow the path of peace and penance shown by Gautam Buddha,” he said.
He explained that the decision was taken as a protest against caste-based discrimination against Dalits. The Sakat family belongs to the Matang caste and have been practicing Hinduism for decades.
Rahul Dambale, who has supported the family in their fight for justice, said, “The family took a cue from Rohit Vemulla’s family converting to Buddhism, Dalits victims of Saharanpur’s caste-based violence converting to Buddhism and also Una Dalits conversion to Buddhism. The Dalits in Maharashtra are also going as per the national trend of converting to Buddhism. The existing religious system which was being followed, provided no hope. Despair coupled with discrimination and unequal treatment meted out to Dalits is leading to the conversion,” he said.
Suresh demanded that the accused who had burnt his house and those behind the death of his daughter Pooja, be arrested at the earliest. The Sakat family and other Dalit victims led by Dambale will be protesting outside the district guardian minister Girish Bapat’s office on Wednesday.
Damble said, “The protest outside the minister’s office is being done because the state government, district administration, police and elected representatives have failed in providing relief and justice to the community affected by the violence. It has been more than five months and victims are still awaiting compensation from the state government,” he alleged.
The Shikrapur police have booked nine persons and arrested two of them on charges of abetting suicide of Pooja Sakat. The Sakat family has alleged that Pooja was eliminated by their opponents as she was the prime witness in the Koregaon Bhima violence case and had seen her house being burnt by the miscreants.
Pooja’s relative molested
Pooja Sakat’s sister-in-law has alleged that she was molested by an unknown person on Tuesday night. According to the FIR filed by the complainant, she was molested at around 8.45 pm in the parking of her building by an unidentified man. The man had covered his face with a white scarf and was wearing a white shirt and black trousers, she stated in her complaint. Suresh Sakat has demanded a detailed probe into the case and said that rural police were lackadaisal in their approach.