Udupi (AsiaNews) – In a state ceremony (Dhamma Dheekshe) at least 2 thousand Dalits converted to Buddhism in Karnataka, on May 24 last. The monks Manorakhit Bhanteji, Lobsana and Tenguru officiated at the function organized by the Karnataka Baudha Maha Sabha and Karnataka Dalit Sangharsh Samiti (Ambedkar Vada). The "Dhamma Dheekshe" was part of celebrations for "Vesak" the 2,600th anniversary of Buddha's enlightenment.
In India Dalits are "untouchables", but since 1950 pursuant to paragraph No. 3 of theConstitution (Scheduled Castes) Order only Hindus and Buddhists have the status and rights provided to the Dalits. In contrast, the Dalits converted to Christianity or Islam lose all rights, including that of political representation. For this reason, the majority of Dalits choose to convert to Buddhism.
However, according Sri Vishweshateertha Swamiji, head of the Brahmin Buddhist monastery Pejavar, this conversion will not give any advantage to the outcast. " The Monk explains: "With the exception of the Dalits, there are few Buddhists in India. The question of untouchability is independent of religion. "
The Indian activist Vincent Manoharan, president of the National Federation of Dalit Land Rights Movement (Nfdlrm) does not agree with Swamiji: "Buddhism and other religions do not sanctify the caste system as happens in Hinduism. For Dalits, that's enough to leave Hinduism. "
The Nfdlrm has been fighting for years to abolish at least the section of the Scheduled Castes Order against Dalit Christians and Muslims. Manoharan explains: "Dalits are discriminated against, as enacted by a 1950 Act. But the Christians outcastes are marginalized even by non-Dalit Christians, who alienate them for social reasons”. And he concludes: "The Dalits are segregated, humiliated and persecuted in every aspect of their lives: social, economic, political and religious. As long as this law exists, the Christian outcastes suffer triple discrimination: from Christians of other castes, from non Dalits of other religions and the government. "