Monday, October 28, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Dalits embrace Islam, Buddhism
Ravi S. Singh
Tribune News Service

Gurgaon, October 27
The Dulina incident continued to cast its shadow on society as several Dalits today embraced Islam, Buddhism and Christianity at a public function organised by the All-India Confederation of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Organisations and the Lord Buddha Club.

Top religious leaders of the respective faiths conducted the ceremony for the conversion of the Dalits. The central figure on the occasion, however, was the Chairman of the confederation, Mr Udit Raj. Noted Bollywood film director Mahesh Bhatt was also present.

The function was organised to express condolences over the killing of five Dalits at Dulina village in Jhajjar district on October 15.

At least 12 Dalits got their heads tonsured and took “diksha” amidst the chanting of hymns by a Buddhist monk.

When a Dalit, Mr Shankar Lal Kairalia, declared his adoption of Islam after being initiated into the religion by the President of the All-India United Muslim Morcha, Maulana Rafi Khaza Azad, more than 12 among the audiences raised up their hands, saying that they had also converted to Islam. Mr Khairalia was rechristened Saddam Hussain. Leaders of Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind were also present on the occasion.

A couple also converted to Christianity and was initiated into the faith in the presence of the President of the All-India Christian Council, Dr Joseph D’Souza.

Addressing the gathering, Mr Udit Raj, who is also the All-India chief of the Lord Buddha Club, said the event was organised to register the protest of Dalits against the Dulina incident as well as the subsequent comments of leaders of the Sangh Parivar, especially those of Mr Giriraj Kishore. Mr Kishore is reported to have stated that cows were important in Hindu religion.

According to Mr Udit Raj, the comments of Mr Kishore suggested that cows were given importance rather than the lives of Dalits. Mr Raj said as the present Hindu system, which was in essence a Brahmanical order, tried to perpetuate cruelty and indignities upon the Dalits, the latter were breaking away from it by converting to other religious faiths. This could be the best way to pay homage to those killed and a method to teach the Hindu society a lesson, he said.

Mr Raj also came down heavily on VHP leader Praveen Togadia for his alleged pejorative comment against Congress President Sonia Gandhi. He used the same expletive and called names to Mr Togadia as were used by the VHP leader against Ms Gandhi.

He lamented that persons guilty of the Dulina killings had yet not been brought to justice and this showed that the INLD government was anti-Dalit.

The Dalits who converted also held placards admonishing the VHP leaders for not taking care of cows, denoted as “mother” by the Hindus. They also garlanded a cow on the occasion with the placards. The writings on the placards were tongue-in-cheek appeals to Hindu leaders, especially from the VHP and the Sangh Parivar, to take care of cow, not to wear leather shoes made from its skin and give it a proper burial after its death.

Addressing the gathering, Dr D’Souza alleged that it was falsely alleged by vested interests that Christians had lured and forced other for conversion. On behalf of the All-India Christian Council, he announced an ex gratia sum of Rs 10,000 to each of the bereaved families with regard to the Dulina incident. He promised that the council would continue to give further help to the family members of the Dalits killed. He also criticised the outfits of the Sangh Parivar.

The Muslim leaders also spoke on the occasion.

Reacting strongly to the Dulina incident, Mahesh Bhatt said it reflected the total degeneration of society. He said while so much emphasis was being laid on the death caused by negligent driving of Salman Khan, nobody seemed to be bothered about the Dulina incident.

The organisers of the event announced that a similar public function for mass conversion would be organised in Fatehabad on November 4.

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