Rajratna Ambedkar, the president of the Buddhist Society of India who administered the 22 vows to approximately 10,000 people on Ashoka Vijayadashami, which is considered the “Dhammachakra Pravartan Din”, said the Aam Aadmi Party had no role in the conversion episode, and if the outfit is claiming that, it is false. On this day, in 1956, Dr BR Ambedkar had converted to Buddhism with a few lakh supporters.
Speaking to News18 from abroad, Rajratna Ambedkar said, “All 24 hours, you are not a minister, you have certain duties to society. On the stage of this conversion, Rajendra Pal Gautam was not invited as a minister of Aam Aadmi Party. AAP has no role in our conversion. If they are claiming that, then it is false… Rajendra Pal Gautam was invited as an Ambedkarite and Samata Sainik Dal member.”
Gautam, Minister of Social Welfare in Delhi, is in the eye of a storm after videos of the event and the initiation started doing the rounds on social media and one clip, where people were asked to vow not to worship Hindu gods and goddesses, nor to follow Hindu rituals, sparked a controversy, with the BJP attacking AAP over it.
When asked to clarify how AAP had no role in the conversion when its minister was one of the organisers, Rajratna Ambedkar replied, “He (Rajendra Pal Gautam) is not working in his capacity as minister, he is working in the capacity of Jai Bhim convener. AAP has no role in our programme. If I am a minister, don’t I have a social life, don’t I have a religious standing?”
The great grand nephew of BR Ambedkar said that the Buddhist Society of India and the Jai Bhim Mission played a role in organising the event and the conversions, not only in Delhi, but also in Gujarat and Karnataka on the same day. In fact, in Maharashtra, 5 lakh people on the same day embraced Buddhism in Nagpur. “Your sentiments are not getting hurt when it is happening in Nagpur, but your sentiments are getting hurt when the Buddhist conversion is taking place in Delhi and that too only 10,000, when a larger number has embraced Buddhism in Nagpur on the same day. Because you want to project this as a political event that you can take mileage of in Gujarat elections,” he said.
BJP leaders are raising this issue because of the upcoming Gujarat elections as they want to show that AAP is against Hinduism, said the Buddhist activist. “And, again, I am saying that AAP has no role in our conversion programme. We have never printed on our pamphlet that some minister is attending. He was present there in his capacity as an Ambedkarite and he did not give the 22 vows. 22 vows were given by me. He does not have any role in the 22 vows. He had only taken that. And before taking it, I had visited his residence. Also, he does not have any photos or statues of gods or deities in his home. Officially or unofficially, he was a Buddhist earlier also,” he reiterated.
Asked whether the presence of the minister had given the BJP a handle to target the Aam Aadmi Party, Rajratna Ambedkar said that is solely a matter for AAP. “If AAP takes any action against Rajendra Pal Gautam, then we will also get an idea that AAP is also a stooge of the BJP. Because it is our religious right. Mr Kejriwal must give Rajendra Pal Gautam his religious right.” He also asked why no one has a problem when Gautam is seen with Kejriwal in a puja, but questions are asked when he embraces Buddhism.
With inputs from News18