Mass Rally in India at Which Tens of Thousands of Outcastes Renounced Hinduism-Truth!
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.
11/6/01 The 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 politic.
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 so on.
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 two sons.
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 participants.
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 India’s future.
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 Chri
stianity, 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.