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More than 100 Dalit women convert to Buddhism amid caste tensions in Saharanpur

Saharanpur was a crucible of ugly inter-caste passions last month. Photograph: (Zee News Network)

WION Web Team Saharanpur, Uttar Pradesh, India Jun 17, 2017, 04.24 AM (IST)

More than 100 Dalit women embraced Buddhism in India's northern Saharanpur town on Friday, weeks after the area was riven with inter-caste violence which left three people dead and at least 16 wounded.

This comes after some 180 Dalit families took to Buddhism in protest against high levels of persecution and police excess on May 20.

On Friday (June 16), Dalit women massed outside Saharanpur's Rampur Maniharan area to demand release of Bhim Army workers who were arrested when caste fault lines had sharpened in Shabbirpur village.

When their demands fell on deaf ears, the women immersed pictures of Hindu deities and announced embracing Buddhism, according to Press Trust of India.

Saharanpur, roughly 180 kilometres from India's capital city of New Delhi, has been a crucible of ugly passions since last month when Thakurs and Dalits -- two communities in India -- resorted to violence to settle their differences.

Trouble broke out on May 5 when Dalits objected to a procession of Maharana Pratap -- a cultural icon of the Thakurs -- passing through one of their temples.

The Thakurs retaliated the next day by torching 25 Dalit homes.

Violence broke out again about two weeks later when the two groups clashed again.

The Dalits -- a lower caste in India -- have since blamed local authorities and the police of doing little to lift the tension in the area.

Their decision to reject Hinduism for Buddhism has symbolic overtones as Dalit's pre-eminent Independence leader, Bhim Rao Ambedkar, had similarly renunciated Hinduism because he believed the religion perpetrated caste injustices.

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