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Dalits in Gujarat's Una to Convert to Buddhism, Cite Discrimination by Other Castes

Members of the Dalit Shoshan Mukti Manch (DSMM) hold placards and shout slogans during a protest in New Delhi. (Representative image/PTI)

Members of the Dalit Shoshan Mukti Manch (DSMM) hold placards and shout slogans during a protest in New Delhi. (Representative image/PTI)

Those converting include a family which was flogged in full public view in July 2016 by members of other castes.

Meghdoot Sharon
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Ahmedabad: Dalits of Una region, including the family that was flogged in full public view in July 2016, are converting to Buddhism as a mark of protest against discrimination and atrocities by members of other castes.

The conversions will likely be held on April 14, the birth anniversary of Dalit icon Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar.

Vasrambhai Sarvaiya, one of the five Dalit youths who were flogged publically at Mota Samadhiyala village of Una Taluka, told News18: "Quite clearly, Dalits are still being discriminated against even after so much uproar and protest by the community. We have zeroed in on two dates: January 26 and April 14."

He added hundreds of Dalits from neighbouring villages will join the family in converting to Buddhism.

Mavjibhai Sarvaiya, State General Secretary of the Rashtriya Dalit Maha Sangh, told News18: "Atrocities and discrimination against Dalits is not new to Gujarat and Saurashtra. A year ago, Dalits of Bhavnagar had planned to convert in huge numbers to Islam. Now, Dalits staying close to Una are planning to convert to Buddhism. This is because they are not getting justice in courts and are being ill-treated by members of other castes."

Gujarat witnessed widespread Dalit protests in July 2016 when a clip of a group of Dalit men being flogged went viral. The incident took place at Moti Samadhiyala village in Saurashtra on July 11, 2016.

After the incident, hundreds of Dalits of Ghogha Taluka in Bhavnagar district of Saurashtra met and decided to convert to Islam. Under the banner of The Rashtriya Dalit Maha Sangh, the Dalits rallied together and sent a memorandum to the district collector expressing their desire to convert to Islam.

Dalits of Ghogha Taluka said that they have no rights in Hinduism and are regularly discriminated against by members of other higher communities and castes.

In terms of numbers, Dalits account for about seven per cent of Gujarat's population. However, the Dalit flogging incident in Una brought out the community on to the streets in protest. It also brought young Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani into public limelight.

Mevani later went on to win from Vadgam constituency in the recently concluded Gujarat Assembly election.

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