New Delhi, Oct 18 (UNI) As a strategy to secure ''emancipation from social and economic oppression'' and to earn due political clout, Dalit leaders of northern states have launched a campaign for religious conversion of the downtrodden so that a sizeable portion of them could be enumerated as Buddhists in next census beginning in 2010.
The Dalit leaders, mainly belonging to the All India SC/ST/OBC Confederation of Employees, contended their experience showed that majority of Hindus having staunch faith in 'Varna Ashram', have not accepted them as part of their society even after a period of 75 years when Mahatama Gandhi went on fast claiming that Dalits are a part of the Hindu Samaj.
Instead, oppression and social discrimination against the Dalits, particularly, in Haryana havee, now, accentuated to such an extent that Dalits are socially ostracised and forced to leave their home and hearth with the Authorities and politicians remaining mute spectators, said Mr Karamvir, Chairman of the Employees' Confederation, in a statement here today.
The vow to get dalits registered as Buddhists in the next census was taken at the 51st anniversay of Dr B.R Ambedkar embracing Buddhism, celebrated in Chandigarh last week. A large number of Dalits from Punjab, Haryana and Delhi attended the celebrations, he said.
''The realisation has gone down with dalits that "Ambedkarism is complete only with Buddhism'', he said, adding Why Dalits should subscribe to a religion whose despicable casteism had denied them even 'a right of being man' and still practising inequality and social discrimination against the people of lower strata of society", he added.
Dr Ambedkar, born in a Hindu dalit family, embraced Buddhism in 1956. And before that he studied Sikhism and visited Golden Temple, Amritsar too with an explicit intention to convert to Sikhism.
Dr Y S Alone, a professor of Art History at Jawahar Lal University (JNU), said several senior level dalit bureaucrats, including IAS officers, had joined the campaign and'' moving towards Buddhism, giving a fillip to the movement''.
A senior IAS officer, belonging to a Sikh family in Punjab, who has now embraced Buddhism said "religious conversion is a part of dalits' attempt to escape social and economic discrimination when the authorities' are apathetic towards their wretched fate and politicians are using them as mere 'vote-bank'".
Another senior officer who also belonged to a Sikh family hailing from Punjab, who had recently embraced Buddhism said " the feudal elements, practising Brahimnical ethos and culture are, now, controlling Sikh religious and social institutions and are treating Dalits in same manner as the upper caste Hindus do .... and such practice suffocate the Sikh Dalits too".
Another JNU professor, Dr Y Chinna Rao, who is compiling a chronicle on the Golden Jubliee celebrations of embracing Buddhism all over the country and abrad last year, said there was shift among the downtrodden towards Buddhism with the Hindutva being aggressively used as political strategy to win power leaving the downtrodden high and dry.