Any mention of the Hindu chauvanist party, the BJP, ought to set off alarm bells for Buddhists. Whatever the BJP might say about conversions, to the Dalai Lama or anyone else, must be taken with a saltcellar of salt since they are committed to preventing any Hindu, untouchable, or tribal conversions to Buddhism or any other faith.
Their rallying cry is Hindutva, literally "Hinduness," or cultural Hindu nationalism, and they have shown no scruples in imposing and enforcing their ideology, often with violence, which makes a mockery of their hypocritical allegations of forcible conversions. The BJP knows force and how to apply it for its own fundamentalist purposes.
The Dalai Lama leads and represents Tibetans who are in India as refugees and need to be careful not to get involved in controversies with the powers that be. He has frequently maintained that people should remain within the religion of their birth. As a matter of fact, in 2001 he explicitly stated that: ?Whether Hindu or Muslim or Christian, whoever tries to convert, it's wrong, not good."
The occasion for this statement was a meeting with top Hindu priests and members of the World Hindu Council, which wants to make India a purely Hindu country. In case the message was missed, the Dalai Lama rephrased his point, saying, ?I always believe it's safer and better and reasonable to keep one's own tradition or belief. To change it is not proper, it's much safer to follow one's own religion."
While the BJP?s Dattatreya may have paid lip service to the notion that all individuals have the right to choose their religion, it?s a sure bet that he doesn?t mean that Hindus, especially Dalits, tribals or members of Scheduled Castes, should be allowed to become Buddhists, Muslims, or Christians. That would be a threat to Hindutva and the BJP?s fascist goal of ?One Nation, One People, One Culture.?
All minorities in India, Buddhists, Sikhs, Muslims, and Christians are the targets. The Buddhists and Sikhs are to be overcome by Hindu co-option (as with the claim that they have no separate identity and are merely part of Hinduism), while the Muslims and Christians will be treated with violence.
The Dalits who try to renounce Hinduism and embrace Buddhism will be faced with both co-option and force by those who seek to create a Hindu Rashtra, a Hindu state ethnically cleansed of its non-Aryan populations, but retaining its caste system with Brahmins at the head, and Untouchables at the very bottom.
Perhaps it might be useful to recall that India is a secular country, where the freedom to profess, practice and propagate one's religion is provided in Articles 25 and 30 and to reiterate Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that ?Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.?