The Valmiki locality at Karera village in Ghaziabad | Photo: Soniya Agarwal | ThePrint
The Valmiki locality at Karera village in Ghaziabad | Photo: Soniya Agarwal | ThePrint
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Ghaziabad: On 14 October, as many as 236 members of the Valmiki community in Karera village of Ghaziabad read out 22 pledges and changed their religion to Buddhism, all under the tutelage of Rajratna Ambedkar.

The day was significant, and symbolic. On that very date, 64 years ago, Rajratna’s great grand-uncle B.R. Ambedkar converted to Buddhism along with 3,65,000 of his followers.

The running theme in both events — an “escape from caste oppression”.

The Valmikis, who are Dalits, allege discrimination on the part of the ‘upper-caste’ Chauhans, who are the majority in the village. Karera, according to its residents, has a population of about 9,000, of whom 5,000 are Chauhans, while 2,000 are Valmikis. The rest are outsiders who have settled here.

The Valmikis who converted told ThePrint that the alleged gangrape incident in Hathras and the Uttar Pradesh administration’s handling of the case was the final straw.

They said they lost all faith in the Yogi Adityanath administration after how the police carried out the cremation of the victim’s body in the dead of the night.

“The Hindus don’t accept us as their own, the Muslims will never accept us,” said Pawan Valmiki, the 27-year-old who helped facilitate the mass conversion. “After the Hathras incident, we have come to realise that the state won’t accept or help us either. What options are we left with?”

Rajjo Valmiki, a 65-year-old ragpicker, was angered by the brutality meted out to the Hathras woman. “Nirbhaya was given the best treatment in the hospitals of Delhi and her caste was never brought up in the media,” a visibly agitated Rajjo told ThePrint. “Our daughter was treated badly, the police and the doctors did not show any sympathy towards her body. Why is the media harassing her family? We have been made to believe that we are ‘others’, you keep bringing up our lower caste status in everything.”

Tailoring assistant Veer Singh, 64, said caste discrimination in the village had become subtler over the years but the Chauhans “don’t miss an opportunity” to openly take jibes at them since the Hathras incident.

He recalled an incident from the night of 30 September, when the UP Police cremated the Hathras woman’s body. “An upper caste man who was walking by said that night: ‘Fasi lagwa di hamare beton ko? Mil gayi shanti? (Our sons are going to be hanged. Are you happy now?)’”

The event where the Valmikis converted to Buddhism. It was overseen by Rajratna Ambedkar (in white suit) | By special arrangement
The event where the Valmikis converted to Buddhism. It was overseen by Rajratna Ambedkar (in white suit) | By special arrangement

Pawan, Veer Singh and Rajjo are among the 236 who have formally embraced Buddhism. They hope other Buddhists will help them get justice when there is violence or discrimination against them.

“The state machinery lacks representation from Scheduled Castes and hence their apathy is natural. The Valmikis haven’t been able to come out of their previously set identity of being a sweeper or leather maker,” Rajratna Ambedkar, who runs the Buddhists Society of India, told ThePrint. “Converting to Buddhism is a means to help them come out of the vicious circle of poverty and the inferiority complex they live in,” said Ambedkar, who facilitated the conversion.

ThePrint called the Ghaziabad District Magistrate Ajay Shanker Pandey on Saturday and Sunday but his phone remained switched off. According to Pawan Valmiki, the conversion event had taken place with the administration’s approval.

However, Vijendar Singh Chauhan, the Nagar Nigam councillor who has been in charge of the village for the last 20 years, said no such event had taken place. 

Lay of the land

Karera is a small village in Ghaziabad close to the Hindon Air Base operated by the Indian Air Force under its Western Air Command.

The caste divide here is visible at the very first glimpse.

Localities where the so-called upper caste members live are segregated and are characterised by large houses, cleans alleys and a shiny temple.

The Chauhan locality in the village | Photo: Soniya Agarwal | ThePrint
The Chauhan locality in the village | Photo: Soniya Agarwal | ThePrint

The land allotted to the Valmikis is characterised by shoddy two-room houses, open drains and a temple that has seen better days.

The Chauhans do not visit the so-called lower caste area and the Valmikis are not permitted to enter the temple in the so-called upper caste area.

This divide percolates right down to the children as well.

Fourteen-year-old Ishika Verma says that she does not venture into the area where the Valmiki community stays. The shy teenager says that her mother started teaching her embroidery during the lockdown so that she doesn’t venture out too much.

“My parents have asked me and my brother to not go to that side of the mohalla because it is not safe. We usually don’t interact with the children of the Valmiki community here or in school,” she added.


Also read: ‘Name & shame’ posters, Kafeel Khan case, Hathras — 5 times Allahabad HC pulled up UP govt


Discrimination, Karera’s worst kept secret

On the face of it, the Chauhans insist there is no caste divide in the village. Probed further, however, they reveal the fault-lines.

Jyoti Chauhan, 43, who runs a beauty parlour in the village, at first insisted there was harmony between both communities in the village. “Women from the Valmiki community come to my parlour for haircuts and beauty treatment. We treat them as we treat everyone else,” she said.

However, she then threw in a rider — Chauhans don’t go to the Valmiki part of the village, although the reverse is true.

Manju Chauhan, a 28-year-old woman who runs a kirana store in the better part of the village, said she had no knowledge regarding the conversion of the 236 Valmikis, which occurred at a venue not even 100 m from her shop. “Humne kuch suna toh tha magar hum uss taraf jate nahi hain, toh hume pata nahi (I heard of an event, but I don’t go that side … so I was unaware about it),” she said.

A few minutes into the conversation, she mentioned that the Valmiki men and women were not allowed in their lane. “We don’t even let them open the doors of their houses if it faces us,” her husband added. “They are lower castes and they should know their place.”

Another resident of the village P.V. Chauhan, who has lived here his entire life, also said that he had not heard of the event held on the 14 October. “The Arya Samaj in our village is very active and we accept the Valmikis,” he said. “Why would they want to adopt Buddhism? These are ridiculous claims and no such conversion has happened.”

Right in front of his shop is a new temple that the Valmikis are not allowed to enter.

The Chauhan temple that the Valmikis are not allowed to enter | Photo: Soniya Agarwal | ThePrint
The Chauhan temple that the Valmikis are not allowed to enter | Photo: Soniya Agarwal | ThePrint

Vijendar Singh Chauhan, the Nagar Nigam councillor, says the whole issue is part of the Congress’ political ploy to gain Dalit votes

“Wait for 2 November, all this nautanki around Hathras will get over soon. The Congress wants to make a vote-bank out of Dalits, which is why all this is happening,” he told ThePrint. “I have no knowledge of such an event taking place. I am sure some Bhim-affiliated party must have given them money and convinced them to take this step. If the Dalits are really concerned about their daughters why didn’t they rage against Balrampur rape or the brutality of the Muslims against the Hindu community.”

Talking about why the Valmikis are not permitted into the Chauhan temples, he said, “See if a person is a rag picker you won’t go socialise with them will you? Why should others in this village do it? Similarly the temples have been made personally by these communities and they have their own rituals that they follow. The Chauhans don’t drink or eat meat like the Valmikis. Hence, everyone has their own temple and doesn’t go to the other community’s temple.”

Sunita Valmiki, a 40-year-old who works as a domestic helper, says those of her community are aware of the invisible caste borders that exist in the village but says that ‘upper caste’ Hindus’ misbehaviour is not as blatant any more. “Things are better now. We can go to their side of the village and the shopkeepers don’t shoo us away any more,” the mother of two told ThePrint.


Also read: Some want to call Hathras an ‘honour killing case’ — they forgot it’s an upper-caste practice


 

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46 COMMENTS

  1. Being religion-less would be the best option.
    Countries like Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, China etc have progressed and have stable societies without following a religion. Everyone knows the sincerity honesty and discipline of citizens in some of these countries.
    Religion forces people to carry a lot of ideas in their heads. Just because one follows a religion very seriously does not mean one gives his or her best for the society or nation.

  2. The greatest SHAME of today’s India is its ‘vicious caste system’. This system has dragged down the economic progress of India. India is the most divisive society where upper-caste educated people do not respect the rights of the Dalits. What a shame! A section of Indian people expects to revive the Hindu Religion…They can dream or not…..That’s a issue of debate. But, at least, they should realise that caste system with discrimination is a huge fault-line in that dream of revival of Hindu Religion. India has its inter-planetary missions…the great mockery is that it will settle down in other planets along with its ‘GREAT CASTE SYSTEM’!!!!!!
    At the same time it’s not easy to break through this vicious caste system as it is deep rooted in the Indian minds of all religions . The greatest answer to ‘how to abolish the heinous system’ is education. If the lower-castes can educated themselves, they will be able to break the shackle of discrimination. Remember that education is the only answer, not changing religion. Education can bring share in economic prosperity for them. So, Government of India has a huge role to provide the dalits with QUALITY EDUCATION. Government must not spent money in projects like inter-caste marriage etc…..It will solely spend money for quality education of the dalits….If they are well-educated, the Capitalist system will ensure their access to the jobs.

    • The Government of India is the caste system. Congress could only give some reservation, but it never sought to erase the caste system. The Sanghis want restoration of the Vedic caste system. Golwalkar boasted that the world could come and learn from India how to order society with 4 castes.

      Ambedkar concluded the only way to end it was through conversion.

    • Once lower caste people get educated in English and Science they will realise they are not what their religion mandates them to be. They should then make their own choices to go for a religious system which appeals to them or continue as Hindus if they prefer. But after education, if they continue as Hindus they have to be prepared to face the fact that they
      still will have to marry within their caste and they will continue to face caste slurs even in white collar offices in India or abroad.

      • In Bangladesh, we have observed that people from SUDRA Caste have outplayed other upper caste people in the field of education. And education has ensured their access to employment. Employment has secured their strong economic footing in the Hindu community. Education and education-induced economic progress has helped the upper-caste people to change their mindset towards SUDRA people. Now, inter-caste marriage is increasing gradually. Even, West Bengal, so fer I know, sees this type of inter-caste marriage.
        Government must invest in Dalit human resource development initiatives……Media, civil society organisations have huge role to play though it is known that there are divisions in all sections including government, media etc. The win over caste system is so easy.

  3. This fake claim of conversion has been bursted. The people were given papers to sign and we’re told it’s for some govt. scheme. The paper were actually affidavit for conversion. People didn’t actually convert but were tricked into signing conversion documents.
    It’s the leftist-Islamist-Missionary wet dream to see such mass scale conversion out of Hinduism.

    • Fake news. Why are you Bhakts burning? You have a large population anyways. A few conversions here and there would not matter in a population of 1 billion people.
      It will be a right message to Vedic upholders in UP if the Hathras families themselves convert to Buddhism Islam or Christianity.

  4. Come to maharashtra and we will show you the unity of Buddhists, 90% Buddhists lives in Maharashtra.
    We Marathi Buddhists welcome Valmikis and would request all the Dalits to accept Bhuddism and remain free with choice to do anything. No Islam, No Christianity, No hinduism. Only Buddhism or Athiesism or you can choose to be athiests while being a Buddhist which is what I’m.
    Namo Buddha, Jai Bhim

    • After atheism, Buddhism is possibly the only scientific religious system ever created. However Buddhists of today may not be even be close to practising let alone understanding what the great Buddha taught. I just hope that Buddhists don’t go the way of Hindus in India – speak up against your fellow Buddhists in Burma where they discriminated against the Rohingyas and created a humanitarian crisis.

  5. All the Muslims asking them to be Muslims can buzz off. Islam is worse than Hinduism, That’s why Dr Ambedkar choose Bhuddism and I’m glad that they accepted Buddhism rather than a terrorist producing religion called Islam. To hell with Bhim MIM alliance, I don’t believe in that.
    Come to maharashtra and we will show you the unity of Buddhists, 90% Buddhists lives in Maharashtra.
    We Marathi Buddhists welcome Valmikis and would request all the Dalits to accept Bhuddism and remain free with choice to do anything. No Islam, No Christianity, No hinduism. Only Buddhism or Athiesism or you can choose to be athiests while being a Buddhist which is what I’m.
    Namo Buddha, Jai Bhim

    • But you are an upper caste Hindu claiming to accept Buddhism as it is part of Hinduism.

      Buddhism in India will always be drawn into Hinduism, so the caste system will come through the back door. Conversion to Christianity or Islam is the ONLY solution to break the caste system.

  6. It is no secret cowards to urinated in their pants upon seeing the sword comprise maximum converts to Islam. Now these people hate forward castes as they are jealous of their commitment to their faith despite all kinds of atrocities committed by islamists in India. Not surprising to see some of these cowards spewing caste hatred in comments section. BR Ambedkar in his book ‘Pakistan Or Partition Of India’s very clearly mentions Muslim society is many times worse than Caste System in Hindu society. Dalits must read BR Ambedkar instead of being fooled by Bhim-Mim castists else they’d again end up like Jogendra Nath Mandal.

    • Where did Muslims come into it ? Hindus do all the rape and discrimination.

      Muslims would welcome them, it is just because of riots they prefer not to invite the Valmikis into their fold. The caste Hindus use the Dalits for violence against Muslims.

  7. I m daubtfull that it ll change anything for them….becoz they r under feudal slavery…l will advise them to be muslim becoz muslim themselves are very poor n victimised…
    Rather they sud opt for Christianity whill ll make them economically well of as missionary have lot of money…n it ll send shock wave in hindu…

    • Buddhism is the most logical choice that’s why BR amberkar decided to covert to buddhism. Unlike other abrahamic religion buddhism give you freedom to practice spirituality

      • Ambedkar made a great mistake choosing Buddhism. Hindus claim Buddhism is part of Hinduism, and then caste comes through the back door. Ambedkar himself married a Brahmin. So there is an issue with him.

        Practice spirituality – what is that ? Sounds like Hindu humbug. Modi murders 2000 and goes and sits in cave and folds his hand. Is that what it is ?

    • You are right. Christianity will save them. They will get access to educational institutions and hospitals run by Christians.
      Of course no discrimination anyways in any of the non-Hindu religions in India. And true brotherhood. But a poor uneducated man needs economic support from the religion’s followers not just relying on government schemes. That is where Christianity works for it’s people.

  8. The print, fire your editor. It’s not only b.r. Ambedkar. It is Dr. B. R. Ambedkar. Give respect he is father of modern Indian society.

  9. What the hell these people are saying, I live in this village and haven’t seen anything like this, we brought up playing together, studied together. They can be seen coming to our streets everyday and no one dishonour them and harras them, talk about temples each and every mohalla has its own temple in the village and they go to their own temple, there is not a single case of eve teasing in different cast, writer should have gone to the nearest police station and ask the poilice that how many cases of discrimination in this particular village have been recorded. Few new young boys of this community is active in this cast politics and doing all this with a motive of harming the peace and harmony. Still there are so many valmikis who don’t believe them and are still living freely. Thanks

  10. Very good step by valmiki community . All sc/st should abandoned this shitty religion who teaches discrimination among human. Hinduism is just a mentality of discrimination and it lies on the root of discrimination .

    • Dear Sunny, please be inthe forefront to keep the harmoney intact. It is a design by a lobby to divide the hindu commumity so that they can rule us. Go to their mohallas, temples and other social activities . Help them in their needs. Thank you

  11. That’s what Dr Ambedkar told .
    Dalits should leave Hindu religion to avoid discrimination.
    Now atrocities !!
    Sorry state of affairs !!

  12. Converting to Buddhism will have little social impact, as the Dalit Buddhists in India are a timid and confused people whose leaders are forever fighting among themselves. Better to convert into Islam, which would have sent shock waves through the Cow Belt and also draw support from Muslim countries. The Hindu upper castes will $hit in their pants once they realize that Islam is seeping into the ground they think they hold down beneath their feet.

    • Dear Sunny, please be inthe forefront to keep the harmoney intact. It is a design by a lobby to divide the hindu commumity so that they can rule us. Go to their mohallas, temples and other social activities . Help them in their needs.see other comments a nd their real intentions Thank you

    • You are correct. In Meenakshipuram when 200 Dalit families converted, it sent shock waves and Vajpayee and others ran to touch their feet.

      Conversion to Buddhism in India is ineffectual – the Hindus continue to claim Buddhism is part of Hinduism and they will seek to keep them under their thumbs. We know Buddhism was erased from India by Sankara the Brahmin.

  13. Buddhism is heavily influenced by Hinduism. So why they convert to buddhism, they must convert to Muslim and Christianity and then they will know ghar vapasi 👊👊

    • No gods and caste in Buddhism.
      All are equal. Any one can attain enlightenment.
      How can you say it is influenced by Hinduism.
      It arose as a negation to the beliefs of Hinduism…

      • The Brahmins wiped out Buddhism from India by deploying the idea that Buddha was the 28th avatar of Vishnu. Buddhism was wiped out by a mixture of force and assimilation into Hinduism. For India, the only meaningful conversion options are Christianity or Islam.

        There are no gods in Buddhism you say – but today Buddhists make idols of Buddha and worship. Caste will come through the backdoor for Buddhism in India as Hindus have made it an affiliated religion.

        • Buddha denied God.
          It’s a different matter that Buddhists bow to statues of Buddha.
          That does not mean they acknowledge God exists. But equality of all is a given.

          You are right about Hinduism appropriating Buddhism. But philosophically Buddhism is quite different from what the Brahmins believe in. There is symbolism in Buddhism too but it is not that much filled with symbolism and myth like Hinduism.

  14. When the Mughals ruled they put a curb to caste, they tried for a more egalitarian India.
    The whole country is heading towards the Civil War, once the 170 million Muslims wake up and Are joined by the lower caste, The upper castE would be put to flight. Of course this will happen only in the Hindi speaking belt, which is communal. The people in the south Are far too civilised, they will just decide that they do not want the ignorant hindutva people pulling them down, They will decide they are much better off splitting away from India. Just as the people of Kashmir have decided they no longer want to be part of India.
    Finally the Brahmin , rajput, Baniya Raj will come to an end.
    What a wonderful country India will be without this kind of oppression.

    • Dear Sunny, please be inthe forefront to keep the harmoney intact. It is a design by a lobby to divide the hindu commumity so that they can rule us. Go to their mohallas, temples and other social activities . Help them in their needs.see other comments a nd their real intentions Thank you

Comments are closed.