The proselytisation of Dalits to Buddhism, Islam and Christianity does not seem to have gone down well with members of the Scheduled Castes, even though the popular view among them is for reforms in the Hindu religion which has �pigeon holed� them into the below-the-par category at the very bottom of the caste order.
Significantly, the conversions were claimed to be a protest against the October 15 lynching of five Dalits in Dulina in Jhajjar district by a crowd of Dasehra revellers.
The conversions were undertaken at a public meeting and at a ceremony organised by the All-India Confederation of Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe Organisations and the Lord Buddha Club headed by Mr Udit Raj. These were solomenised by religious leaders of Buddhism, Islam and Christianity.
While the confederation of the SC/ST organisations was floated in October, 1997,the Lord Buddha Club was constituted in August,1996.Incidentally, Mr Udit Raj technically still holds the post of Additional Commissioner, Income Tax. According to him, he goes on a long leave while indulging in these controversial socio-politico activities which have come under criticism, both from his peers and independent observers.
In short impromptu interviews a large number of Dalits claimed that conversion was no way to fight the obvious anomalies loaded against the Scheduled Castes in Hindu society, which was generally liberal. One will have to remain in the framework and fight against the fundamental elements from within. Mr Govardhan Sangvayya, a banker, summed up the general mood among the Dalits, saying that: �conversion was an escapist tendency. In any case it will not bring glory to the converts.�
Mr Mahender Singh Ranga, another known face among the Scheduled Castes here, lamented that conversions would further divide the Dalits and weaken their movement for bringing a just order to the Hindu religion. The Constitution, with equality, liberty and fraternity as its signature tune, is strong enough a weapon to take on any kind of injustice in the system, he added.
The general feeling outside the SCs demographic spectrum is that the Dulina incident is without doubt condemnable, but vested interests are using it as a fig leaf to goad the �undiscernable� Dalits for conversion. �Two wrongs do not make a right and such developments would push the society into further negative spiral� was the view expressed by many.
However, Kallu Ram says that the push has now become a shove. Hence, extreme measures like conversions were the only way to get out of the dark tunnel and caution the chauvanists amongst the Hindus in the process.
Government circles are reluctant to comment on the incident for reasons best known to them. On the surface the development is a backlash of the Dulina incident, alleged to be a sequel of negative and marauding sentiment in a section in the district administration and the police machinery. Although the government circles are keeping tight-lipped over the development, it is apparent there is hurt and hunger in the voice of some top officers that TNS talked to as the Dulina incident had collectively defiled their image.
However, reacting to the conversion incident the Deputy Commissioner, Gurgaon, Mr Anurag Rastogi, said religion was a matter of personal faith in a secular state. Unless someone comes and makes a specific charge of coercion the administration has no role to play.