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Valmiki families in Ghaziabad village ‘convert’ to Buddhism

Karhera village in Ghaziabad, where the conversions reportedly took place.  

Members of the Valmiki community in Karhera village of Ghaziabad claim that they have “converted” to Buddhism as a mark of protest against atrocities being committed against the Dalits, particularly the Hathras case where a Dalit girl was allegedly gang-raped and murdered by four upper caste men.

The local authorities, however, deny any such conversion ceremony was held. An FIR has been registered in Sahibabad police station against unknown persons under Sections 153A and 505 of IPC for promoting enmity between communities.

‘Finding faults’

In a ceremony conducted under the banner of the Buddhist Society of India, 236 members of the community converted to Buddhism on October 14, said Rajratna Ambedkar, the great-grandnephew of B.R. Ambedkar. “Local administration is finding faults with the certificates issued and one MLA is even attributing ulterior motives to the conversion,” said Mr. Ambedkar.

He was referring to the Loni MLA Nand Kishore Gurjar’s letter to the Home Minister alleging that the Mumbai-based Society had links with Pakistan’s ISI and underworld don Dawood Ibrahim. “We would take legal action against him. Buddhism is an Indian religion and we don’t believe in forcefully converting anybody,” said Mr. Ambedkar.

On the Ghaziabad administration’s charge that the certificates didn’t have serial numbers and blank certificates were distributed, Mr. Ambedkar said they would soon file affidavits in court. “Because of the COVID 19 protocol, around 50 members were given certificates during the ceremony while those of the rest were given to the family members.”

In an inquiry ordered by District Magistrate Ajay Shankar Pandey, ADM (City) Shailendra Kumar Singh found that no evidence was provided for the ‘conversion’. In most of the certificates, correct names and addresses were not indicated. The date and registration numbers were also missing. Some certificates were blank on which names and addresses could be written. The report further said that in the memorandum submitted by the local people, only local problems had been mentioned and that there was no reference of conversion. “The issues raised in the memorandum are being addressed,” said Mr. Singh in the report.

Karhera is an urban village in Ghaziabad. Inderdas Maharaj, whose grandson Pawan Valmiki allegedly invited the Buddhist Society of India, said there were about 70-80 Valmiki families in the village dominated by the upper caste families. “We are living here for generations and never faced any social tension. I conduct ‘satsang’ in the Valmiki temple in the locality and get respect from all. After the Hathras episode, my grandson Pawan made me realise that we are feeling suffocated in this ‘house’, it’s time to shift to another ‘house,” said the 73-year-old.

“The administration has raised some questions. We will answer them but I feel it is a matter of faith. When we were in this faith, we were never asked to show any papers,” he said.

After the incident, he said, the administration had “come into action.” “Earlier, even the ward member would not show up but now officials of all the departments are coming,” he laughed.

Showing his certificate, Aman said they were asked to write down problems. “Now the administration is saying that our concern was not the atrocity faced by our sister in Hathras and that we were protesting against the civic issues,” he said.

Keshav Kumar, Circle Officer, Sahibabad, said the FIR was registered on the complaint of a local named Montu Chandel Valmiki.

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Printable version | Dec 3, 2020 11:58:35 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/valmiki-families-in-ghaziabad-village-convert-to-buddhism/article32933792.ece

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