300,000 Dalits convert to Buddhism

TIMES NEWS NETWORK, Nov 10, 2006

NEW DELHI, India -- Around 300,000 Dalits are estimated to have converted to Buddhism as part of 50th year celebrations of Ambedkar's deeksha, in what has again underscored a fact that Indian Buddhism has a distinct Dalit hue to it.

Reports from organisations involved in deeksha programmes around the country have come up with figures which point to a resurgent conversion activity.

Twenty lakh people are estimated to have congregated at Nagpur, Deekshabhoomi which is at the forefront of Dhammakranti, while another six lakh people attended the second biggest ceremony at Chandrapur on October 15-16.

Maharashtra, owing to Ambedkar's linkages, as also the original Dalit movement, was ahead of all other states in these conversions. Andhra Pradesh, Punjab, MP, UP and Chhattisgarh, too, conducted conversions on a largescale.

According to Y Chinna Rao, who teaches at the Centre for Dalit and Minorities Studies in Jamia Millia Islamia and has compiled a report on the nationwide activities, "The conversion ceremonies were the largest ever to be seen till now after independence. It could give a massive boost to similar activities in future."

The programmes, which started in the run-up to Dussehra through Ambedkar's birth anniversary in October, saw massive activity in Andhra Pradesh.
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