Source: Arab News
MUMBAI, 29 May 2007 — A campaign by a coalition of hardcore Hindu militant organizations to stop the mass conversion to Buddhism of over 150,000 Dalits from 42 nomadic tribes on Sunday came to an end with Hindutva organizations forced to face defeat. The coalition included the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), the Bajrang Dal and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Their efforts came to naught as the Dalits embraced Buddhism in front of over half a million people at the Mahalaxmi Racecourse.
Presiding over the event, considered one of the biggest mass conversions in modern Indian history, was Ramdas Athawale, leader of the Republican Party of India (RPI).
Political leaders like Vice President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, Deputy Chief Minister R.R. Patil, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati, and several others stayed away from the event. The Dalai Lama also did not attend citing health reasons.
Undeterred by Hindutva threats to halt the conversions, the Dalits looked strong after the recent victory of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections. The Dalits have become the first lower caste community to challenge the threats of Hindu militant organizations to halt conversions.