Year after the Una incident, where four Dalits were flogged on the allegation of slaughtering a cow, Gujarat saw nearly a three-fold rise in the number of Dalits converting to Buddhism. As per the data of the Buddhist Society of India, about 1,500-1,600 Dalits have embraced Buddhism post the incident.
According to P G Jyotikar, chairman of the Buddhist Society of India, ‘it is an expression of anger’. “Dalits have converted all across Gujarat, including Junagadh, Surendranagar, Palanpur, Bhiloda of Sabarkantha, Ahmedabad, Kalol of Gandhinagar, and Kodinar in Saurashtra,” Jyotikar told Indian Express.
The 56-year-old Suresh Maheriya blamed ‘the mindset of discrimination,’ which forced him and his family to take this step.
“I had mentally turned Buddhist years ago. But the formal conversion happened last October when my entire family converted at a shibir (camp) in Nagpur. We find peace in Buddhism, where everyone is alike. It gives you an inner satisfaction that you are no longer looked down upon,” Mehriya was quoted as saying. As many as 400 families from central Gujarat will travel to Nagpur to leave Hinduism, he added.
An assault on four Dalit men in Una caused a statewide protest last year. The ruling BJP has faced criticism from the opposition who claimed that this was the real ‘Gujarat model.’ They also blamed BJP for torturing minority communities.