Your Ad Here

Saturday, May 31, 2008

‘Indian Untouchables’(Daliths) accept Buddhism

‘Indian Untouchables’(Daliths) accept Buddhism

The Nation

On October 16, 1956, the world and India in particular, witnessed at Nagpur, a religious and social revolution taking place, when on a Poya day at a mass gathering, over 500,000 ‘secluded caste’ Indians (i.e. low caste people shunned by Hindu Society) embraced Theravada Buddhism. They were led by Dr. Babasaheb Ramj Ambedkar, an architect of the Indian Constitution in 1947 and a much respected Minister of Law in the Nehru government. Dr. Ambedkar PhD, was born in 1891 and was a member of the Mahar Community, one of the Hindu untouchable castes in India.

India’s population today has over a billion people. Although the Buddha was born in present day Nepal and preached his Dharma in India, the Buddhist population in India until 1956 was only about 6.5 million. The state of Maharashtra had 6.39% Buddhists, Nagaland 5% Buddhists, Himachal Pradesh 1.5% Buddhists and Sikkim 28% Buddhists.

In this background, recently over 500,000 ‘Dalith’ people who have for generations been subjected to Hindu persecutions, embraced Buddhism. About one million Dalith women have been raped since Independence. (Quote The Island Newspaper of 7 No: 01). Raja Sekhar Vundura writes, “Atrocities are part of their daily life. For Daliths’ persecution is as old as Shambuka, denial as old as Asura, revolution as old as the Buddha, valour as old as Eklavaya and untouchability as old as touch.”

It was only religious leaders like Sakyamuni Gotama Buddha who opposed this Vedic culture. Education was denied to the masses. The spirit of inquiry was suppressed. Education did not reach the grassroots level in India, because the machinery of education remained in the hands of a fistful of Hindu priests, in contrast to Sri Lanka, where a more liberal Buddhist outlook was always present.

Today, there is a movement for mass spiritual upliftment in Maharastra State. Many Indians believe, it is time political power is used to give human beings a better deal. With an equitable distribution of land and implementation of crop diversification schemes; an equitable distribution of much needed water to irrigate their fields, and with more schools, education for all children, the Daliths are raising their heads in society today.

An organised mass conversion to Buddhism on the same grounds took place in mid 2007, headed by Republican Party of India. What they now need is more Buddhist literature in their language and missionary activity. Buddhist monks hailed the event as a significant step towards re-establishing Buddhism in India, which now has over 100 million Theravada Buddhists.

No comments:

About Buddhism