The family infamously flogged by cow vigilantes for skinning a dead bovine in 2016 today led nearly 300 Dalits who embraced Buddhism under heavy police security.
Two boys of the Saravaiya family, who had earlier announced their intention to convert to Buddhism to escape caste discrimination as Hindus, were waylaid by the accused last week when they had gone to Una town to purchase items necessary for the ceremony.
The conversion ceremony took place at Una today as the last-ditch effort by the district administration failed to dissuade the Dalit families to shun Buddhism.
Four members of the Dalit family in Mota Samadhiyala village of Una taluka in Gir Somnath district were publicly bashed up and paraded half naked by self-styled cow vigilantes in July 2016 when they were spotted skinning a naturally dead bovine.
A video recorded by the culprits themselves to make a fast buck by selling the visuals to television channels became their waterloo as the incident led to nationwide hue and cry about the treatment meted out to Dalits in Gujarat.
Those who converted to Buddhism in the presence of monks included as many as 25 Dalit families from Mota Samadhiyala, the epicentre of the original 2016 episode.
One of the victims, Ramesh Sarvaiya, who later gave up the job of skinning dead cows and trained himself to be a tailor, said that the District Collector had urged the family to put off the conversion ceremony as their issues would be addressed soon.
“The conversion was necessary as Dalits are not considered Hindus even 70 years after independence” said Ramesh. The promises made to the family after the flogging incident have not been kept, he said adding that embracing Buddhism was the only way out, just like Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar did.
“If we had put off the ceremony after the Collector’s call, people would have thought we have been bribed”, he said.
Meanwhile, Dalit uprising leader and MLA Jignesh Mevani has called the conversion incident a slap on the face of Hindutva.
Refuting the Gujarat Government’s claims that then Chief Minister Anandiben Patel did not make any promise to the Dalit family, he said that video recordings are available regarding her utterances after the flogging incident.