Thursday, 26 May 2016

A Sharp Decline in Buddhist Growth Rate: A Cause for Concern



A Sharp Decline in Buddhist Growth Rate: A Cause for Concern
SR Darapuri I.P.S. (Retd) and National Spokesman, All India Peoples Front
2011 Census Report has shown a sharp decline in Buddhist population growth rate which should be a cause for concern for all Ambedkarites.  Dr. Ambedkar had adopted Buddhism as a liberating tool for Dalits. His aim behind it was to liberate Dalits from the hellish caste system of Hinduism and usher them into a casteless Buddhist social order. It was not only a change of religion but a way to economic and mental liberation of Dalits.
Dr. Ambedkar had left Hinduism on 14th October, 1956 along with 5 lakhs (0.50 million) Dalits and adopted Buddhism, a religion based on liberty, equality and fraternity. Through it he aimed at ending sub- caste division of Dalits and unite them under a single identity as Buddhists. It was expected that after departure of Dr. Ambedkar Buddhist conversion movement will gain momentum and more and more Dalits will leave the Hindu fold to join Buddhists. He had established Bhartiya Bauddh Mahasabha (Indian Buddhist Association) to carry forward the movement of Buddhist conversion. During his lifetime many Buddhist conversions were arranged in different states and a large number of Dalits left Hinduism and switched over to Buddhism. 
It has been established that Dalits who have adopted Buddhism have progressed much more than Dalits who continue to be Hindus. It is quite evident from the statistics of 2011 Census Report.  According to these figures the Sex- Ratio of Buddhist men and women is 985 as compared with 939 of Hindus, 951 of Muslims and 903 of Sikhs. The Sex- Ratio of 0-6 years Buddhist girls and boys is 933 as compared to 913 of Hindus and 828 of Sikhs. According to this Census the Literacy Rate of Buddhists is 81.3 % as compared with 73.3 % of Hindus and 68.5 % % of Muslims. Similarly Work Participation Rate of Buddhists is 41.3 % as compared with 41 % of Hindus, 32.6 % of Muslims and 36.3 % of Sikhs. These statistics show that sex-ratio, literacy rate and work participation rate of Buddhists is much higher than Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs which shows that Buddhism has helped then in their development.   
The above analysis clearly establishes that Buddhism has helped Dalits in their development. It has brought a qualitative change in their lives. They have left the old dirty professions. Their living standard has improved and their family lives have changed for better. Hence it was expected that with positive influence of Buddhism, more and more Dalits will leave Hinduism and convert to Buddhism and their population will increase considerably. But 2011 Census statistics belie these expectations.
According to 2001 Census Report the population of Buddhists in the country was about 80 lakhs (8 millions) which has grown to 84.4 lakhs (8.4 millions) in 2011 Census Report. But during this decade the population growth rate of Buddhists has fallen from 23.2 % to 6.1 % thereby showing a fall of 17 %. Similarly the Buddhist population in 2001 was 0.8 % of total population of India which has fallen to 0.7 % in 2011 as a result of which there has been an addition of 4.4 lakhs (0.44 millions) Buddhists only during a span of 10 years. This is very low as compared with previous years.
2011 Census has shown that during the last decade there has been a substantial decrease in Buddhist population in the states of Jammu & Kashmir, Punjab, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh (U.P.) and Karnatka. In U.P. where Mayawati, a Dalit was the Chief Minister for 4 times the Buddhist population has fallen from 3.02 lakhs (0.3 million) in 2001 to 2.06 lakhs (0.2 million) in 2011 thereby showing a shortfall of about 1 lakh (0.1 million). In Punjab it has fallen from 41,487 to 33,237. In Karnatka it has fallen from 3.93 lakhs (0.39 millions) to 95,710. Buddhist population in Delhi has fallen from 23,705 to 18,449. During this period the states of Maharshtra and some other states have shown an increase in Buddhist population but shortfall in growth rate and very small increase in population is a cause for concern.
From the above analysis it transpires that during the decade (2001 to 2011) there has been not only a steep fall in Buddhist growth rate but there has been a shortfall in absolute numbers also in some states. It was expected that with rise of awakening among Dalits there will be a significant increase in Buddhist population but the recent census figures paint a very discouraging picture. It appears that caravan of Dr. Ambedkar has gone back instead of moving forward. Hence it requires a thorough analysis of the causes which have resulted in shortfall in Buddhist population. Some of them can be identified as follows:-
It is well known that a lot of bungling takes place during the census process. A majority of the personnel put on this duty are Hindus who try to boost Hindu population. There has been  a general complaint that these persons were filling up the census forms with pencil against the clear instructions of writing in pen only. It leaves a lot of scope for manipulation of religion of the householders. It is not a new complaint. Rather it has been there for a long time.
Buddhist conversion movement of Dalits has been adversely affected by the opportunist, selfish and corrupt Dalit  politics. Two main components of Dr. Ambedkar’s movement were annihilation of caste and conversion to Buddhism but Dalit politicians have betrayed these ideals and principles. No doubt, Dr. Ambedkar had identified political power as a key to all the problems but at the same time he had said that political power should be used for development of society whereas Dalit politicians have used it for self aggrandisement. Dr. Ambedkar had also said that the task of a political party is not to win election only. The real role of a political party is to give political education to the masses. But Dalit politician’s one point program has  been to win election in any way. The result is that social and religious movement of Dalits has been pushed back resulting in loss of interest among masses.  
The lack of interest among Dalits in Buddhist conversion has also resulted from the quality of Buddhist converts. They have failed to inspire the non-Buddhist Dalits through their role model. Many of them have adopted Buddhism in name only and continue to behave as before. It was incumbent on the converts to be good Buddhists and become role models for others. But it has not happened as required.
After the departure of Dr. Ambedkar there was a need for a well organised Buddhist movement but Bhartiya Bauddh Samiti has failed to carry on this task. For long there have been two processes of Hinduisation and Dehinduisation of Dalits. It is seen that major sub-castes of Dalits like Mahars, Chamaras and Malas have been adopting Ambedkarism and thereby undergoing Dehinduisation. At the same time smaller sub-castes of Dalits who happen to be orthodox Hindus have been undergoing Hinduisation. Rashtriy Svayamsevak Sangh (R.S.S.) has accelerated the process of Hinduisation by co-opting them under the umbrella of Hindutva. Smaller Dalit sub-castes have been acting in reaction against the dominant Dalit sub-castes and RSS has exploited this divide. The result is that if dominant Dalit sub-castes have adopted Ambedkar as their ideal, the smaller Dalit sub-castes have become more orthodox Hindus thereby falling into the trap of Hindutva. The result is that at present Dalits are divided not only socially but they are divided politically also as evidenced by the last General Election results.   
Hence from the above analysis it transpires that social and religious movement started by Dr. Ambedkar has moved backward instead of moving forward. The last census report has made this situation very clear. During the last  decade there has taken not only a steep fall in growth rate of Buddhist population but there has been a shortfall in absolute numbers also. Hence it is necessary to identify the internal and external causes of this downfall and take measures to remove them. The present opportunist, selfish and unprincipled Dalit politics needs to be replaced by a radical politics. At the same time it is essential to give an impetus to the Ambedkarite movement of annihilation of caste and opposition to capitalism so that Dalits may be united to fight against the onslaught of Hindutva and Corporate capitalism. Similarly it is necessary to speed up the Buddhist conversion movement in a well planned manner so that Dr. Ambedkar’s dream of making India again a Buddhist country may be achieved.

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