by Vishwas Waghmode  Dec 30, 2014

Mumbai: Even as saffron outfits are spearheading ‘ghar wapsi’ programs across India with the intention to bring Christians and Muslims into the fold of Hinduism, several groups of Hindus in Maharashtra are mulling converting to Buddhism. In fact, several Hindus in the state have registered for the process of conversion.

According to Satyashodhak OBC Parishad, around 1600 families have registered with it for conversion. This includes a large number of OBCs, apart from a few Brahmin and Maratha families.

Some Muslim and Christian families have also signed up for conversion to Buddhism.

Considering that each family comprises three to four persons, nearly 6,000 Hindus in the state are set to convert to Buddhism.

“Before we began the movement of ‘ghar wapsi’ among OBCs, we tried to find out their origin. We found that OBCs were actually Buddhist. So, this movement is an attempt to bring them back into their original religion. This is not conversion but ‘ghar wapsi’,” said President Hanumant Upre of Satyashodhak OBC Parishad.

Dalit women at a protest march in Delhi. Representational image. AFP.

The Satyashodhak OBC Parishad had launched the ‘ghar wapsi’ program on 14 October way back in 2011.

It had planned mass conversions by 14 October, 2016. The organisation has been trying to mobilise support for it its program over the past three years.

Upre alleged that upper caste Hindus are responsible for the struggles and poverty faced by the OBCs. “The caste system in Hinduism is responsible for the backwardness of the OBCs. They have always been opposed to development as they want the caste system to remain intact, so that the OBCs can be exploited. There is no respect for OBCs in Hinduism,” says Upre.

He further alleged that the OBCs have been cheated by the upper caste Hindus in the past. “In 1931, a census of OBCs was conducted by the Britishers. No other census was conducted just for the OBCs in the later days, despite a promise of carrying out a survey in 2010. That’s why the OBCs feel cheated,” said Upre.

“We aim to register around 5 lakh people for conversion in Maharashtra till 2016. There are five crore OBCs among the 12 crore people in the state. We think we can easily achieve the target of converting 5lakh people by 2016,” he said.

In 2007, around one lakh people were converted to Buddhism in Mumbai. The majority of the people who converted to Buddhism were tribals, nomadic tribes and other communities apart from the followers of dalit writer and Sahitya Akademin winner Laxman Mane. Mane himself converted to Buddhism in October 2006.

JV Pawar, renowned Dalit writer, said that the social awareness among the OBC community, who have been practicing Hinduism, seems to have increased in the past few years. “While the OBCs got reservation, they now realise that they need to rid themselves of the caste system in Hinduism. Due to the caste system, Dr BR Ambedkar, the Dalit icon, also converted to Buddhism,” Pawar said.

Pawar, much to the dismay of Hindutva activists, claimed that Hinduism did not exist in history. “India was actually a Buddhist country. It is evident from the cave art and ancient scriptures,” he said.