1,500 Dalits from across Gujarat embrace Buddhism ‘for equality’

Buddhist monks at an event organised by Gujarat chapter of Buddha’s Light International Association, an international Buddhist organisation, in Ahmedabad, on Sunday. (Express Photo: Javed Raja)

Around 1,500 Dalits from different parts of Gujarat resolved to follow Buddhism at a function organised at the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel National Memorial in Shahibaug area of Ahmedabad on Sunday.

The function, organised by the Gujarat chapter of Buddha’s Light International Association (BLIA), an international Buddhist organisation, was presided over by Hsin Bau, the religious head of BLIA, and Buddhist monk from Taiwan. A number of Buddhist monks from India and abroad took part. People took the pledge to follow Buddhism after getting themselves registered with BLIA for the function.

Those who were present on the occasion included former BLIA president of Gujarat chapter and current Congress MLA from Dasada constituency Naushad Solanki and former BJP MP Ratilal Varma.

Current president of Gujarat chapter of BLIA Tushar Shripal said nearly 1,400 persons got themselves registered for the programme. Solanki, an Elder Adviser of BLIA in Gujarat, said that there were many people among the 1,400-odd people who took the pledge to follow Buddhism for the first time.

Manjula Makwana, a resident of Surendranagar in Saurashtra, who embraced Buddhism along with her husband, Ghanshyam Makwana, and three children at the function, said, “Equality is the only reason for us to embrace Buddhism. As Hindus we did not find equality... We are witnessing lot of discrimination and atrocities against people of Scheduled Caste (Dalits). Surendranagar is notorious for it.”

Nisarg Parmar, an engineer from Naroda area of Ahmedabad who is pursuing his Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA), was another Dalit who pledged to follow Buddhism a the function. As many as around 25 persons from Nisarg’s extended family took the pledge to follow Buddhism at the function.

Speaking to The Indian Express on reasons behind his pledge, Parmar said, “We used to follow Hinduism. But we do not like the discrimination and caste hierarchy in it. Buddhism is preaching equality. So, today we have taken the pledge to follow Buddhism... I want India to be the best in the world. But I think one of the biggest hurdles in its progress is this caste system that discriminates people and treats them unequally,” he added.

Recently, on Vijayadashami or Dussehra, around 500 Dalits from different parts of Gujarat embraced Buddhism at three separate functions in Ahmedabad city, Mehsana and Idar of Sabarkantha district.