Shyam Singh, a member of the Dalit Valmiki community in Moga village of Meerut, converted to Islam two weeks ago. A landless labourer didn’t convert only because the community was denied access to a prominent Valmiki temple, located in nearby Baghpat district, to perform the traditional puja but he changed his faith because of the “non-stop pressures and provocation” he and his fellow community members had to face from the local law and order officials after he persisted with his demand to have the right to perform puja at the temple. The temple is controlled by the dominant Yadav community, and the priests had problems with the Valmikis performing puja. After their efforts to get equal rights failed, they announced that they would convert to Islam. Last week, the Meerut administration booked Shyam and his family for “disturbing peace and communal harmony” by persisting with their demand to perform puja at the temple and the announcement about converting to Islam. In November last year, Shyam and his community members were told by the priest that they didn’t have any rights to perform puja. Since November last year, Shyam has petitioned the District Magistrates of Baghpat and Meerut, and the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. He also wrote letter to the Prime Minister’s Office, but no one really responded to his appeal. He thought, there is no point in believing in a religion which has no dignity for him.
Hindu community must condemn the heinous act of the Jadavs of Meerut in this context. Dalits must be allowed into our sacred places of worship otherwise battle for Hindu supremacy will lead to docks. It is a challenge to the Hindutva ideologues and the caste system of India. This is the reason, why large sections of Hindu community in Indian Sub-continent are converting to Islam. The RSS, Bajrang Dal and VHP must look into a matter otherwise the day is not far that Islam will be majority religion in India. If a community is internally weak, then it will definitely collapse one day. While, Shyam has converted to Islam, his fellow Valmikis — numbering over 100 — are scared and don’t want to raise the issue. They are planning to migrate to other parts so they can escape official harassment.
Moreover, the question arises here is, if Shyam wanted to really perform puja, he wouldn’t have defenselessly changed his faith. It means, it is a matter of self-respect for him rather than the faith per se. By converting, he is not judgemental to his faith. Obviously, the new religion will not allow him to hold on to his old faith. Conversion is like cheating to oneself even though, it is for self-respect.
Babasaheb Ambedkar was the first person to show the world that Buddha was a social revolutionary, more than a meditative non-violence saint. Dr. Ambedkar did not choose Islam, Christianity or Hinduism because these religions had gods, son of God, or Messenger of God. Ambedkar converted Dalits into Buddhists because Buddhism believes in equality which Hindu caste system does not. Somewhere, I personally feel Ambedkar should have remained in Hindu dharma and tried to reform it? Even after his conversion, 35 per cent of Dalits still not converted to any religion. And those recently converted, they are choosing between Christianity and Islam, to which Babasaheb never agreed. A large section of Dalits do not even follow Ambedkar or his preachings. Dr. Ambedkar carried on a relentless fight against social evils and superstitions. On October 14, 1956 at Nagpur, he embraced Buddhism. He led a huge gathering in a ceremony converting over half a million people to Buddhism. He knew that Buddhism was a true part of Indian history and that to revive it was to continue India’s best tradition.
After meetings with the Sri Lankan Buddhist monk Hammalawa Saddhatissa, Ambedkar organised a formal public ceremony for himself and his supporters in Nagpur. Accepting the Three Refuges and Five Precepts from a Buddhist monk in the traditional manner, Ambedkar completed his own conversion. He then proceeded to convert a large number (some 500,000) of his supporters who were gathered around him. He prescribed the 22 Vows for these converts, after the Three Jewels and Five Precepts. He then traveled to Kathmandu in Nepal to attend the Fourth World Buddhist Conference. The architect of Constitution of India love Islam as well as Christianity, but he was against the caste system in Hindutva. Christianity and Islam were his object of admiration all the time. However, he knew that without both the help of Christianity and Islam, he could never defeat Hinduism.
Entering the 68th Year of Independence, we Indians are still unable to adapt the Article 1 of our constitution which says “Bharat as a Union of states” and the principles of preamble (Equality, fraternity etc). Racist, harsh and discriminatory attitude towards the dressing, physical features, complexion is rampant in our society. Is this the future “that our forefathers thought of”? We are progressing superficially but nothing has changed much, Dalit are discriminated even today in some of the parts of the country. They are not allowed to enter in kitchen or temples. There is no social acceptance for down trodden people. On the other side in urban areas, Dalit youth needs reservations and they are fighting for it but they do not accept merits. They are seeking advantage in studies as well as jobs; however refuse to come in main stream through competition. We call ourself citizens of independent nation; however lack the mental growth and human progress. I am upset with political leaders who are making their bread on ‘Dalit’ politics. They are just bothered about themselves and not about their community. They are doing politics in community’s name. If leaders like Mayawati, Ramvilas Paswan and Ramdas Athawale are following footsteps of Babasaheb Ambedkar then today this community would have been liberated and prospered in many ways.