There is a massive religious conversion taking place in Maharashtra, India on the New Year. While there has been a ghar wapsi, or reconversion effort, in place in India recently, the OBCs are going in a completely different direction. Rather than working to convert to Hinduism as the ghar waspi is attempting to have people do, they are actually converting to Buddhism.
WHAT ARE OBCS?
The OBCs are a group from India that is defined by the government as being the Other Backward Class. In the larger caste system, these are the individuals that are considered to be educationally and socially disadvantaged. These OBCs face a great deal of discrimination when it comes to getting a well-paying job as well as getting any form of education that would benefit them for social mobility. Historically speaking, they have been purposely excluded from being helped and uplifted by the social elite and upper class in the caste system. These are just some of the reasons that members of this group have decided to redefine themselves according to their past.
A HISTORICAL BASIS
These individuals from the Maharashtra area of India have decided to convert to Buddhism. For them, though, they see it as a simple means of returning to their roots. After all, they have recently found evidence that suggests that they are actually descended from Nagvanshis, a group of Buddhists that were said to be descended directly from emperor Ashoka, a notable Buddhist. The leaders of this reconversion effort have said that they have been cheated over and over again by the system of Hinduism that was forced upon them. Now they have filed to make their conversion official so that they are free to pursue what they see as a better course of life.
While the OBCs are confident that they will not face any form of backlash from the Maharashtra government authorities, they are still worried that they will be ostracized based on their political stature. As they attempt to bring more and more people back to their “original religion”, they feel that they may be setting themselves up to feel some backlash from a political system that would rather see them contained within their caste level than continuing to encourage others to join them. While there are no widespread threats being made towards the OBC Buddhists that would like to convert in Maharashtra, those who choose to convert will be monitoring the way that they are treated by the government and those within different social ranks.