Dalits embrace Buddhism in protest against Saharanpur attacks

Dalits embrace Buddhism in protest against Saharanpur attacks
Scores of dalits, including children, in Uttar Pradesh's Muzaffarnagar district embraced Buddhism in protest against attacks on their brethren by the dominant thakur community members in the neighboring Saharanpur district.

According to the sources, the dalits of Nyamu village in the district converted to Buddhism at a ceremony at Sant Ravidas temple in the village in the presence of some buddhist monks on Wednesday.

The matter came to light, when the converted dalits went round the village after the ceremony later in the evening. Reports said that slogans were raised against the UP government and the police during the procession.

Sources said that the dalits had warned the district authorities that they would convert if alleged persecution of their brethren in Saharanpur was not stopped forthwith. They had also demanded immediate release of Chandrashekhar, the Bheem Army founder and the main accused in the Saharanpur violence, and his supporters.

The conversion triggered alarm bells in the administration and senior officials rushed to the village to ascertain the veracity of the reports. ''We have received information about conversion....we are trying to ascertain the facts,'' said a senior district official in Muzaffarnagar on Thursday.

Sources said that dalit leaders have also planned to hold a 'mahapanchayat' to discuss the issue and chalk out their future course of action. Attempt to hold a panchayat of the dalits at Ratheri village in Muzaffarnagar on Wednesday was foiled by the cops, who had detained several dalit leaders while on way to attend the panchayat.

Dalit community members have alleged that the police have been conducting late night raids on their houses and arresting the youths on trumped up charges. Dalits also took the streets to in Saharanpur in protest against what they alleged indiscriminate arrest of the community members.

Chandrashekhar was arrested from Himachal Pradesh by the Special Task Force (STF) of UP police a few days back. Three persons were killed and over two dozen others injured when members of thakur and dalit communities clashed following a dispute over taking out a procession at Shabbirpur village in the district last month.

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