UP Government pressure on Ghaziabad dalit converts

Valmikis stand firm despite FIR & intimidation


October 24, 2020

/ By and / New Delhi

UP Government pressure on Ghaziabad dalit converts

Members of Valmiki community converted to Buddhism in presence of Rajratna Ambedkar on October 14 (MIG Photos/Aman Kanojiya)

Caught by surprise over the mass conversion of dalits to Buddhism, Uttar Pradesh government is using carrot and stick approach towards the Valmikis, who stand firm in their decision.

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“Just within a week of our conversion to Buddhism, suddenly the local MLA, police and even municipal bodies have rushed to listen to our problems. We have seen authorities suddenly providing us with electricity connections, ration cards and other amenities. We have also been promised proper sanitation facilities and a community hall in our village, especially for the Valmikis here. Though our central demand remains justice for the Hathras rape victim, a 19-year-old dalit girl, we feel that this is the power of a protest done well,” says Aman Chachar, resident of the Karhera village, about 50 km east of New Delhi, in Uttar Pradesh.

Karhera village has been in national headlines over the past few days as 236 dalits, belonging to the Valmiki community, converted to Buddhism in presence of Rajratna Ambedkar, president of the Buddhist Society of India and great-grandnephew of B R Ambedkar. The mass conversion took place in protest against the Hathras gangrape and murder. Chachar was one of the converts.

Retired politicians and many other eminent personalities visited the Valmiki colony and shared experiences of discrimination as a Dalit in India (MIG Photos/Aman Kanojiya)

Even as the government and administration were busy disbursing facilities to the residents of Karhera, police also registered a first information report (FIR) at Sahibabad police station on Thursday against unidentified people for ‘spreading false rumours about religious conversions’. The case was filed on a complaint lodged by Montu Chandel, a self-proclaimed social worker. “People were given money and were promised houses and other amenities in exchange for conversion. It was forced upon them The villagers have converted only because they were inveigled to do so in a ploy to tarnish the government’s reputation,” Chandel told Media India Group.

However, the members of the community deny the allegations and say they converted in presence of members of the Buddhist Society of India and have also been given a certificate. “I was there when the conversion took place. More than 200 people of our community have willingly converted to Buddhism. We have evidence in photographs, videos and eyewitnesses. How can anyone claim that the conversion is a false rumour,” Pawan, another recent convert and resident of Karhera village told Media India Group.

Pawan says that the Valmikis will continue their fight till justice is served to the Hathras victim (MIG Photos/Aman Kanojiya)

“On the one hand, the local politicians and authorities have asked us why we converted and noted our problems; on the other hand, state government calls it a plot to vitiate the atmosphere and even Ghaziabad district administration denies that any such incident took place at all. These two totally contradict each other,” says 65-year-old Inder Ram Maharaj, another convert.

The residents also say that a number of policemen have been deployed in their area who keep a strict watch on every passer-by. Some allege that they have been threatened by the police and are being forced to deny that the conversions even took place.

“I was taken to a police post the night after the authorities got to know about our conversion. They made me sit there and asked me to confess on video that no conversions took place at all and it was only a gathering to greet Rajratna Ambedkar. They assured me of no further interrogation if I agreed to do as they said but I refused as I was an eye witness and one of the organisers of the ceremony,” Pawan adds.

While the women were busy doing their household chores at doorsteps and children played and ran in the open courtyard, the village elders discussed their problems, current status of affairs and the media reports of alleged false rumours. Retired politicians and many other eminent personalities sat with the members of the community and shared experiences of discrimination as a Dalit in India. “I am proud of the youngsters of this community who led people to a better way of life, the one which is free of any caste discrimination. Though a few media reports may show us as corrupt and the government may dismiss our issues, we will stand together till justice is served to the Hathras victim and many others who have faced similar atrocities,” says Pawan.



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