New Delhi, April 29: To protest against discrimination and caste-based violence, hundreds of Dalits including families of the Dalit men assaulted by self-styled cow vigilantes, on Sunday converted to Buddhism in a mass ceremony organised in Una district of Gujarat.

A news agency ANI reported, residents claimed that they have taken this step as they were not allowed to enter temples. They said that even after 70 years of independence, Dalits are not accepted in the society. Buddhist monks were invited to preside over today’s event. However, not many politicians have been invited.

In 2016, seven Dalits of Mota Samadhiyala village were paraded and flogged in public for skinning a dead cow. Later, the Dalits were taken to Una in Gujarat where they were tied to a vehicle and beaten up by cow vigilantes. Then, the police had arrested 20 people in the case.  The incident had led to widespread outrage in the state and the country after it went viral on the social media.

The ruling BJP had come under severe criticism of opposition parties who claimed that this was the real ‘Gujarat model’ under which minority communities were persecuted and tortured. The anger among Dalits has become a headache for the party which is eyeing to woo the voters ahead of assembly elections in the state later this year.

Many political leaders condemned this conversion and criticised the government for avoiding Dalits. Gujarat state had witnessed nearly a three-fold rise in the number of Dalit conversions to Buddhism after the Una incident. According to the data of the Buddhist Society of India, founded by Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar, around 1,500-1,600 Dalits have embraced Buddhism in the state since the Una incident. Before Una incident, Gujarat would see 400-500 conversions a year.