Harassed 300 Dalits Embrace Buddhism

By Karal Marx L, The New Indian Express, 7 January 2014

VILLUPURAM, India -- Tired of being discriminated against by Caste Hindus for the past two years, around 300 Hindu Dalits of the Seshasamuthiram Colony embraced Buddhism on Monday.

The Dalits were banned from entering the temple and were also not allowed to use the local crematorium. They alleged that the district administration had failed to respond to as many as 28 petitions filed by them in the last two years. Around 79 Dalit families live in a colony in the hamlet which houses over 3,000 Caste Hindus.

“As we are in the minority, Caste Hindus banned our entry inside their temples,” a Dalit said.

So, the Dalits, most of whom are farm labourers, had built a Mariamman temple around a decade ago through donations. They also conducted periodic poojas in the month of Aadi. They also carried out idol processions on bullock carts. In 2012 too, Dalit devotees had built a wooden car to carry the Mariamman idols. “The caste Hindus, however, did not allow the procession to pass through the lone road leading to their temple,” Dalit residents alleged. In September of the same year, the Dalits got a court stay against a Sankarapuram RDO order which prohibited the procession from entering the road leading to caste Hindu areas. The caste Hindus still did not allow the procession to pass through the common state highway. This led to protests by Dalits who demanded the right to conduct the Mariamman procession. “But everything went vain,” said Anjalai (33), a resident at Seshasamuthiram Dalit Colony.

“Subramaniyan, DMDK Panchayat chairman, indirectly supports caste Hindus to safeguard his vote bank,”  Thamayanthi (35), another resident of the colony, said.

Tired of the discrimination and the local administration’s inaction, around 300 Dalits thronged the Villupuram collectorate to submit a petition seeking community certificates as Dalit Buddhists. The petition also stated that the hesitation of the administration in ending the discrimination is the sole reason for their conversion.