NEW DELHI, India, NOV. 22, 2001 (Zenit.org).- On Nov. 4, Udit Raj and thousands of other social outcasts demonstrated that they had had enough.
Raj, 42, a state employee in the Tax Office, presided over a ceremony of mass conversion of thousands of dalits, who rejected the Hindu religion and converted to Buddhism.
The word dalit, which literally means “trampled on,” refers to the lower castes, whose members are regarded as “untouchables.”
According to the rigid Hindu caste system, dalits have the moral duty to carry out menial and degrading tasks for the upper castes, and must live apart from the rest of society.
Raj, a dalit and president of the Confederation of Caste and Tribe Organizations of India, explained in statements published today in the Italian newspaper Avvenire that, in “the name of varna, namely, the caste system, the dalits have been condemned to live as contemptuous individuals, suffering this social hatred for thousands of years.”
“A religion based on the caste system theoretically and openly justifies inequality and discrimination that lasts a lifetime,” Raj explained.
“This is a stratagem and a system geared to the manipulation and enslavement of the majority for the benefit of the higher castes,” he said. “The dalits and the nation will continue to suffer while they support Hinduism.”
Raj admitted that the conversion ceremony was more an act of protest.
“This is a social, and at the same time, spiritual protest,” he said. “It is a complete distancing from Hinduism. This is why I have given up my Hindu name, Ram, choosing Udit instead, which means ´the one who has revolted.´ I will no longer go to Hindu temples.”
India is 81% Hindu. Raj said he and his friends have chosen Buddhism “because it is a native religion. There is no place for discrimination in Buddhism.”