Rally in India at Which Tens of Thousands of Outcastes Renounced
Summary of original eRumor:
This began on the eRumor
underground with several different versions, but they all pointed to
a rally to be held in New Delhi, India, on November 4 at which up to
one million Hindus planned to renounce their Hindu faith. Most
versions also said that a presentation of Christianity was to be made at the rally by Dr. Rochunga Podiate, a native of India
who is a Christian leader living in the United States.
historic rally on November 4 in New Delhi featuring a mass
conversion of Hindus to Buddhism has taken place, but not in the way
that had been planned.
The best article we've seen about the event is from Assist News
Service and David Hagen:
November 5, 2001
INDIA'S DALITS STRUGGLE FOR FREEDOM
FROM HYPE AND OPPRESSION By: David Hagen
4th Watch, Goshen, IN Special for Assist News Service
GOSHEN, IN (ANS) -- Leaders of India’s 290 million Dalits -
the “Oppressed” or “untouchables”– are leading them to
“quit Hinduism” to gain freedom and dignity. Their freedom of
religion, assembly and speech are threatened as India’s BJP
Government is pressured into dictatorial acts by its coercive
radical Hindu core constituency. This week, these tectonic struggles
have been shaking the foundations of Hinduism and India’s body
In 1935, Dalit Dr. Ambedkar declared: “I was born a Hindu; I had
no choice. But I will not die a Hindu because I do have a choice.”
As Chairman of India’s Constituent Assembly, he codified freedom
of religion, legal equality and abolished caste discrimination in
India’s 1949 Constitution. (In Aug. 2001, Hindu Nepal enforced
this constitutional ban on caste discrimination.) Dr. Ambedkar found
that even constitutional rights were insufficient to ensure freedom
and dignity. On Oct. 14, 1954 he led 300,000 Dalits to leave
Hinduism and become Buddhists.
Since 1997, Ram Raj, leader of India’s Dalit government workers,
has been repeating Dr. Ambedkar’s appeal, calling on Dalits to
“quit Hinduism”. There are at least three Christians for every
Buddhist in India (possibly twice that). Recognizing that not all
would become Buddhists, Ram Raj asked Buddhist, Christian and Moslem
leaders to join in giving nationwide calls for Dalits to leave
Hinduism and join non-casteist religions.
Ram Raj founded the Lord Buddha Club in 1996. In
1997, he formed the “All India Confederation of SC/ST
Organizations” - “AICSSO” (“Scheduled Castes and Scheduled
Tribes” - Dalits for whom India reserves a portion of government
jobs.) In June, 2001 AICSSO leaders announced that 1 million Dalits
would quit Hinduism for Buddhism with a rally to be held on Oct. 14th,
2001. When that date for New Delhi’s Ram Lila grounds was
unavailable, the rally was rescheduled for Nov. 4th.
On Sept. 7th, 749 delegates of the All India Christian
Council met in Hyderabad with Ram Raj and 25 other Dalit leaders. In
the Hyderabad Statement they declared solidarity with the Dalits and
Marginalized Sectors. Dalit leaders expressed willingness for Dalits
to become Christians. Again on Oct. 23, 700 Dalit and Christian
leaders met in Bangalore. Church leaders repented of past failures
and committed to help the Dalits.
Gospel for Asia posted news of the rally plans and these events on http://www.gfa.org/revival
requesting prayer and assistance. Dr. Rochunga Pudaite, Bibles
for the World, similarly posted his expectations to speak at the
rally and distribute 1 million gospels. CBN, ChristianUnity and
other sites repeated this news. Emails multiplied calling for
prayer. However, headlines were sensationalized to “1 million to
convert to Christianity on Nov. 4th”, and “300
million on the verge of converting to Christianity” with other
false statements. Rumors grew that some 30 to 40 million would come
to New Delhi etc.
The radical Hindu Sangh Parivar includes the Rahtriya Swayamsevak
Sangh (RSS) and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP). It accuses Christians
of forcible conversion or corrupt financial inducement (without
evidence). These charges are emphatically denied by Christian
leaders. Yet the Sangh Parivar is happy to coerce Dalits to remain
Hindu or to “reconvert”, and to “convert” tribals to
Hinduism. In fact, donations to Christian missions in India provide
India with less foreign exchange than it obtains from gurus
“converting” westerners to (Hindu) Transcendental Meditation and
The threat of an avalanche of Dalits defections undermining their
privileged status galvanized the radical Hindus to a frantic effort
to cancel the event. A week before the rally, the VHP claimed a
conversion “conspiracy” by western Christian organizations under
the guise of a Buddhist event. They presented as evidence printouts
of those sensationalistic websites and emails, with reports of
truckloads of Christian literature.
The Sangh Parivar (including RSS and VHP) pressured the BJP
government’s Home Minister Advani and the Delhi police to cancel
the rally. They attacked Ram Raj’s integrity as Deputy Tax
Commissioner for being on leave for four years, demanding that
Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha investigate. (Reports indicate Ram
Raj was busy establishing AICSSO, organizing its effective ’97, 98
and ‘99 rallies, organizing this 1 million “quit Hinduism”
campaign, and working on a PhD.)
Claiming a Christian conspiracy, VHP President Girraj Kishore,
called for a ban on conversions of Dalit-Bahujans. After strong
condemnation, Kishore and Sangh Parivar activist Rajendra Chaddha
back tracked, claiming they were not concerned over Dalits becoming
Buddhists, but vehemently objected to their becoming Christians.
(Hindus claim Buddha as the 9th Avitar of Vishnu and
incorporate all Buddhists into Hinduism.)
Ram Raj explicitly rebutted the VHP accusations. He emphasized that
he was not connected to any Christian groups. He rebutted the
“misinformation” of western websites and emails. He claimed
this was a Buddhist “re-affirmation” event with no
“conversions” (as Buddhism was an indigenous Indian religion.)
To salvage the rally and keep his core constituency, Ram Raj said
publicly that Dr. Pudaite would not be speaking and refused to let
any Christian literature be distributed.
In 1992, the VHP destroyed the Babri mosque at Ayodhya. Some 3,000
Moslems were killed in the ensuing riots. Destruction of churches
and attacks on Christians under recent Indian governments have been
200 times greater than in the ‘60s and ‘70s. In 1999 radical
Hindus burned to death Australian missionary Graham Staines and his
On it’s website, the VHP called for “volunteers” to come and
disrupt the Dalit rally (private sources suggest 20,000). Citing
this, Ram Raj called on the Government to uphold the
Constitution’s freedom of religion, and protect rally
This perceived threat of violence by radical Hindus was so great
that the Hindi press reported that the Dalai Lama called for the
rally to be stopped to prevent nation wide violence. (This for a
peaceful Buddhist rally that would have substantially boosted the 8
million Buddhists in India.) The National Minorities Commission also
called for the rally to be stopped, breaching its mandate to uphold
the constitutional rights of minorities.
Just three days before the rally, R.S. Krishnaia, District
Commissioner of Police, revoked the rally permit granted to the
AIOCC. He claimed that “Material downloaded from the internet
clearly indicates that there is an organized attempt to use this
rally for mass scale of conversion.” This explicitly violated
India’s constitutional guarantees of the freedom to profess,
practice and propagate religion. India’s constitution requires the
Government to protect minorities’ rights, not help coerce them to
majority beliefs (i.e. fascism).
Krishnaia also cited newspaper reports that 1 million would be
coming. He claimed this would exceed the capacity of the site and
threaten public safety, and that it was far above their application.
AICSSO had only registered for a “Buddhist” rally of 100,000,
not a “quit Hinduism” rally for the capacity of Ram Lila
grounds. (Time Magazine reported a “capacity” crowd of 275,000
for President Eisenhower.) However, AICSSO claims rallies of 500,000
and 800,000 to 1 million in Delhi in 1998 and 1999.
Ram Raj fought back against this dictatorial Government action. He
urgently appealed to President K. R. Narayanan to intervene and
uphold democracy and the constitutional freedom of religion. He
confirmed that the rally was a Buddhist diksha ceremony and no
Christian conversions would take place. Foreign dignitaries were
invited and thousands of Dalits were already in Delhi. He said it
was too late to stop the rally at this 11th hour.
Meanwhile the police dismantled the stage and positioned armed
forces to keep the Dalits out of the Ram Lila grounds. Banners were
posted declaring the event cancelled. Police imposed a de facto
state of emergency in the surrounding states, turning back massive
numbers of Dalits traveling to Delhi by bus and train. The AICSSO
claims that police kept 350,000 from reaching Delhi by force and
with reports that the rally was canceled.
Dalits were barricaded into the Ambedkar Bhawan. Recommitting to
peaceful action, AICSSO leaders said: “If as the police fear,
violence breaks out, it will be the responsibility of the
government,” and: “If the police shoot, we will take the
bullets.” Denied the Ram Lila grounds, the AICSSO used the grounds
at Ambedkar Bhawan.
Bhante Buddha Priya Rahul performed the sangha-diksha ceremony
(initiation into sangha. After Ram Raj was ceremonially shaved
(“tonsured”), he led those seeking Buddhist diksha to repudiate
Hinduism, and to take the 22 vows Dr. Ambedkar used in 1956. Ram Raj
then took a new Buddhist name Udit Raj.
The AICSSO refused to let the radical Hindus separate them from
India’s Christians. The Buddhist rally honored and thanked senior
Christian leaders for their solidarity. Dr. Joseph D’Souza,
President, All India Christian Council, reaffirmed the Christian
community’s love for their oppressed brothers and sisters and
commitment to Dalit emancipation. Executive member Dr. K.P. Yohanan
welcomed them and committed on behalf of Gospel for Asia to bring
the light of education to the Dalits. Council Secretary General Dr.
John Dayal declared the rally a historic event that would shape
The Dalits then moved on mass towards the Ram Lila grounds till
stopped at gunpoint by barricaded police. The tense confrontation
focused attention on the Dalits’ cause. After impassioned speeches
appealing for their constitutional rights, they finally dispersed.
Brahmin media downplayed these events claiming attendance of only
2-3000. Other observers reported that despite Government efforts
many Dalits reached the rally: cumulatively 50,000 (Times of India),
60,000 (BBC) or 100,000 (ESPL, 2 TV stations).
On August 15, 2001 Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee spoke out
against conversion: “There is a conversion motive behind the
welfare activities being carried out by some Christian missionaries
. . . and it is not proper.” He thus opposed the Constitution’s
guarantee of freedom of religion. Now his BJP Government sided with
the coercive efforts of the radical Hindus (their core
constituents). Ministers and officers actively prevented the public
exercise of India’s constitutional freedoms of religion, assembly
and speech. Others committed misprision (failure of official duties)
of negligence to uphold the Constitution. Thus both Prime Minister
and Cabinet breached their Oath of Office.
On Nov. 5th, Vishal Mangalwadi threw down the gauntlet,
launching “The Quest for Freedom and Dignity: Caste, Conversion
and Cultural Revolution” in New Delhi - a manifesto for the Dalit
conversion movement. (See http://www.vishalmangalwadi.com).
The single minded efforts of Udit Raj (formerly Ram Raj) and AICSSO
to pull off this rally and see the Dalits set free from the bondage
of caste are indicators of the pent up explosive feelings against
the upper castes. The BJP Government’s coercive dictatorial
actions and abuse of Constitution may lose it the Dalit-Bahujan
(“majority”) vote and the next election. These events, Udit
Raj’s promised efforts and Mangalwadi’s book may well launch a
major civil/religious rights movement among the 290 million Dalits
and thence into India’s Bahujan (“majority”) of over 500
million “Other Backward Classes”.
Private surveys and projections show that these rates of change of
belief in India from Hinduism to Christianity, Buddhism and Islam
are larger than official Government statistics. (See Operation World
2001. Details are not advertised because of the sensitivities
involved). Large numbers officially “quitting Hinduism” and the
draconian efforts to prevent them is wildfire news. It will jolt
Dalit-Bahujans into realizing they need no longer be bound by caste.
This paradigm change will catalyze even faster rates of people
leaving Hinduism. The most significant news is not these spectacular
events and headline numbers. It is these hidden but far greater
rates of change.
A real example of the story as it has
May I have two minutes of your time. to tell you this remarkable
Three hundred million Outcast Hindus, tired of being outcasts, have
decided to change religions.
One of their key leaders, Ram Raj, is in the air as I am writing this
(Friday afternoon) flying from India to Colorado Springs to meet with
Dr. Rochunga Pudaiti to spend the weekend learning about Jesus Christ.
Ram Raj has told Dr. Pudaiti that he and the other leaders have been
investigating the Muslim and Buddhist religions, as well as
Christianity. Muslim and Buddhist leaders have assured them that they
would do whatever was needed to bring the 300 million Outcast Hindus
into their camp. When they met with Christian leaders they were
told that the Christians could not help them because they would not be
able to handle the repercussions from the Indian government.
Ram Raj told Dr. Pudaiti that he was keenly
disappointed to hear this, as Christianity had been his first choice.
Dr. Pudaiti offered to assist and it was decided that Ram Raj would come
to the U.S. He reported that an excitement and eagerness has been
building in his soul as he prepared for this trip. On October 14,
Outcast Hindu leaders will meet in India to decide which religion to
adopt. Dr. Pudalti has been invited to make a presentation on
A leading Christian writer in India (a personal disciple of Dr.
Francis Schaffer) will distribute 100,000 copies of a book called
"The Road to Liberty and Dignity" to Outcast Hindu leaders
that day. They are hoping to print and distribute 1,000,000 copies of
the Gospel of John for that same day. It is the plan of the Hindu
leaders that all 1 million leaders will make the same decision to follow
a different god or God. Within one month they expect 5 million to be
followers, and 50 million in one year.