Low caste Hindus in India converting to Buddhism en masse: Report

Low caste Hindus in India converting to Buddhism en masse: Report

NEW DELHI - According to *The Atlantic* <link> *, *low-caste Hindus, or untouchables, as they are known in India, are converting to Buddhism en masse as the policies and practices of the right-wing government in New Delhi push them to the fringes of Hindutva society.

The American magazine has reported on a recent conversion event which took place in the state of Maharashtra, famously known for the bustling metropolis of Mumbai, where some 500 low-caste Hindus took to an open field in a village and converted to Buddhism.

“I shall have no faith in Rama and Krishna who are believed to be incarnations of God nor shall I worship them. … I do not and shall not believe that Lord Buddha was the incarnation of Vishnu. … I shall hereafter lead my life according to the principles and teachings of the Buddha,” they were quoted as chanting during the ceremony.

The converts were Dalits, and belong to the lowest of Hindu castes in India. The form of Buddhism they had converted to is called Ambedkarite Buddhism, a movement founded more than 50 years ago by a social reformer who wanted radical change in the Hindu caste system. The message is powerful for the ‘untouchables’ of Indian society and continues to appeal to a large number of people to this day, according to the US-based publication.

Dalits constitute almost 20 per cent of the population in India, and a majority of them are not pleased with the Modi government. Recently, hundreds of thousands of Dalits took to the streets across the Hindu-majority country in protest against the discriminatory policies adopted against them by the state.

However, low-caste Hindus have always been a persecuted group in the Indian society, and figures released by a government agency reveal that crimes against ‘untouchables’ have skyrocketed by an astounding 66 per cent in the last decade. The National Crime Record Bureau data also disclosed that rape of Dalit women in India doubled between 2007-2017.

The report in* The Atlantic* noted that the protests, which are growing steadily larger every day, will have a major impact on the general elections scheduled for the next year. Strikes and social media furor over the mistreatment of low-caste Hindus is also rising across India, it added.

One of the descendants of the founder of Ambedkarite Buddhism, Rajratna Ambedkar, told the American magazine that mass Buddhist conversions are taking place across India almost every day.