The house-visit phase of the 12th national census has just concluded and by now all the requisite data must be in. The census staffs had visited people's homes, asking for their names, castes, religions, sex, etc. On the other hand, some Dalit activists and atheists have been vociferously expressing their dissatisfaction with the whole process. Dalit religious activists are saying that the Dalits should not have had to select ‘Hindu’ as their religion as they believe Hinduism is the main cause of their discrimination. Likewise, the atheists are asking: why couldn’t they say they believe in no god at all?
On the basis of the census tabulations, the state will come up with various plans, policies and programs to lift the status of certain groups. Moreover, census figures will be used to gauge the rise and fall in the number of adherents of certain religions. Expect some drastic changes in the religious mix.
This time, the census will show a higher number of Christians and a lower number of Hindus. But why has the number of Hindus gone down? The Hindu extremists may even accuse others, mainly Christian missionaries. But they will not analyze themselves, not see how they have discriminated against other human beings on caste basis. They will continue to ignore the demand for Dalit religious rights. The ignorance and insult of high-caste Hindus is a major factor making many Dalits change their religion. This is why the number of Hindu adherents may be down when the results of the census are published.
The Hindu extremists have never considered that the Sudras also belong to Hindu religion, and have similar castes, cultures and traditions. This has made many Dalits adopt Christianity so that they are treated as equals, both religiously and culturally. In Christianity there is no hierarchal discrimination. Everybody is equal and anybody can be a church pastor. That’s why it attracts Dalits and ethnic tribes.
According to the new Christian Dalits, changing religion was a kind of rebellion against Hindu rites and rituals that traditionally discriminated against them in social, cultural and religious spheres. The Dalits are barred from entering temples and the so-called high castes refuse to have family relations with them. Moreover, Dalits are often mistreated, manhandled and even killed by so-called high caste Hindus. Many Dalits say they won’t have to face such discriminations in Christianity. Moreover, some Dalits argue, why follow a religion where beasts are loved and worshipped while many fellow human beings are insulted?
The encroachment of a foreign religion is a big challenge and threat to native Hindus. Day by day, more and more people, especially Dalits, are attracted by other religions that respect them. Just see the number of churches that have sprung up in places like Jumla and Kalikot, never mind in the more developed urban centers.
In India Dr. Bhim Rao Ambedkar converted many Hindu Dalits into Buddhism. Similarly, in South India, many Dalits changed their religion and adopted Christianity en masse. Nepali Dalits may decide to take a leaf out of their books.
If the current trend of systemic discrimination does not stop, there could soon be a drastic reduction in the number of Hindu adherents, with the exit of those who have otherwise been following Hinduism for ages. If Hindus are serious about protecting their religion, the first thing they need to do is respect the rule of law. For that they have to take legal action against those who practice caste-based discrimination. Second, they should adopt progressive policies to make the society a more even playing field. Likewise, the radical Hindus should deconstruct the discriminatory social norms and values, and they must introspect: What is making so many Dalits change their native religion?