Dalits Convert from Hinduism to Buddhism to Escape Discrimination

by Vins

Dalits, India’s outcast group who are often subject to social and economic discrimination, are rising to reform the caste system. Some Dalits are converting from Hinduism to Buddhism to escape inequalities engraved within the caste system.

Thousands of Dalits in Gujarat are fighting for a reformation of the caste system with an unprecedented aim to attract 166 million Dalits all around India to join them in this revolution. Others are opting to drop out of the system by converting to Buddhism.   However, even this step has resulted in attacks by and scrutiny from members of other castes. Whether converting to Buddhism will help the Dalits claim their right to social and economic liberty is a question only time will tell.

According to The Conversation, in July 2016, a group of upper caste vigilantes attacked some Dalits for skinning a sacred dead cow. This incident sparked a social movement. As Kriti Kapila reported a subsequent mass gathering of Dalit is “just one sign that a new era of Dalit politics is increasingly being recognised on its own terms in a thriving Dalit public sphere, on both real and virtual platforms.”

The caste system is an archaic hierarchal social structure where Hindus belong to one of the four categories depending on the caste they were born to. Brahmans are placed at the top of the caste system meanwhile Dalits are entirely outcasts. The caste system benefits those belonging to the top of the pyramid because they are seen to have come from Brahma’s head, the God of creation. Thus they are respected and accepted within the society and they hold authoritative jobs and are better well off than the castes below them.

As of March 15th, 2017, the corporate media has not covered the story of religious conversions. However, various independent media outlets have reported this story.


“India’s Dalit Revolution” Al Jazeera, March 3, 2017, http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/101east/2017/03/india-dalit-revolution-170303090712700.html.

Kriti Kapila, “The Dalits of India Are Finding New Ways to Fight the Caste System,” The Conversation, August 17, 2016, http://theconversation.com/the-dalits-of-india-are-finding-new-ways-to-fight-the-caste-system-63894.

Student Researcher: Madina Azizi (University of Regina)

Faculty Evaluator: Patricia Elliott (University of Regina)