Amiya Ranjan Jena
On 13 May 2018, Krushna Chandra Sagaria, the Member of Legislative Assembly of Odisha from Koraput constituency embraced Buddhism along with 55 families in his ancestral village Burja under Laxmipur block of Koraput district. Around 3000 people across Koraput, Kalahandi and Bolangir district had attended the two day run Dhamma Kranti ceremony in his village.
According to Mr. Sagaria, “Buddhism preaches wisdom, friendship and equality”. He explained it by quoting Babasaheb Ambedkar, “if you want to establish equality in the society and acquire erudition, then you should adopt and espouse Buddhism”. Inspired by these teachings, he along with his family members embraced Buddhism. It was never a hastily taken decision by him, instead he was following Buddhism for the past one decade and finally decided to embrace it. During his interactions with various Buddhist monks, he came to know that his forefathers were Buddhist. So, he treated this as a home-coming and not as conversion. The first timr MLA, who belongs to a scheduled caste, said the most important thing which he liked in Buddhism is the concept that “Human Being’ is the centre of all activities and it is “Human Being” who is given importance in Buddhism which is rarely found in any other religion.
Hence it is important to learn from this movement and the ideas behind it. It is also important to see that the assertion of Dalits is not merely a show of power or a clash between two groups; it is a resistance against oppression that has been continuing since 2000 years upon them. As a resistance they are not only just reacting to this oppression but are also moving towards own culture, a culture of liberty, equality and fraternity. This will also put a light on the theory propounded by Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar of ‘Revolution and Counter-Revolution’. This movement urges a revisit of the Buddhist history and highlights a new trend that India has been witnessing.
Though the economic and educational conditions of Dalits in Odisha require much improvement, the level of understanding of Brahmanism is sophisticated in nature and they are of concrete opinion that reading, understanding as well as applying the principles of Babasaheb is true salvation to the Dalits and would help in their upliftment and thus bring a change in their socio-educational and economical status. The social oppression faced by Dalits throughout their life shall find an end through conversion. The spiritual freedom that comes with this will be a big achievement. It also gives a strong message to society that changing religion is not something that is done for economic development.
As part of my research on the topic of Ambedkarite Buddhism I could visit this village and interact with the people here and I got to witness the level of interest shown by the people in following the principles of Buddhism.
Even though he belonged to a party which is purely brahminical in nature, Krushna Chandra Sagaria dared to go against the party leadership and ruling government to protect the rights of Dalits and Adivasis even though it meant jeopardizing his future political career. Krushna Chandra Sagaria is no more an MLA at present. He resigned on 30th October 2018 in protest against the grave injustice in the Kunduli gangrape incident, where the government and police were accused of suppressing the allegations against the security forces and for abetting the suicide of the survivor.
Amiya Ranjan Jena is pursuing his Masters Degree at TISS, Mumbai and is interested in Ambedkarite Bahujan Politics and research in Ambedkarite Navayana Buddhist Philosophy.