New Delhi, June 4: After protesting for 113 days, around 100 Dalits converted to Buddhism in Jind district of Haryana, a news agency ANI reported. The Dalit members said that state government didn’t fulfil their demands of an ordinance in SC/ST Protection Act, CBI investigation in Jhansa gang-rape case, among others.

Around 100 Dalits converted to Buddhism at a programme organised at Ladakh Bhavan on June 2. Deeksha (initiation) was given by a Buddhist religious head.

Dalit leader, Dinesh Khapad, said that Haryana chief minister had agreed to fulfil our demands on March 7. “We gave an ultimatum on May 20 that we will convert if CM doesn’t fulfill our demands in a week. So we started a march towards Delhi on May 27 and converted to Buddhism at Ladakh Bhavan there on June 2”, said Khapad to ANI.

According to reports, Haryana ministers have said that people are free to change their religion. However, the opposition said that Dalits are unhappy with BJP’s anti-Dalit’s policy which is why they adopting Buddhism.

Dalits ranked lowest on the Hindu caste hierarchy, first started converting to Buddhism as a political gesture in 1956. This was the year B.R. Ambedkar, a Dalit icon, embraced Buddhism contending that this was the only way to escape caste oppression.

The community has continued to use initiation into Buddhism as a gesture of protest. Every time the Dalit movement peaked, the number of conversions rose. After 1956, the number of neo-Buddhists — or fresh converts to Buddhism — grew again in the 1980s and 1990s because of the rise of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), a major Dalit-centric political party.

Today, around 87 per cent of Buddhists in India are neo-converts; the rest belong to traditional Buddhist communities, mostly in the north-east of India and other Himalayan regions.