In an exclusive interview with The New Indian, former Delhi minister Rajinder Pal Gautam speaks about his decision to quit Arvind Kejriwal’s cabinet and how Buddhism will help remove casteism in India.
In a statement that could stir the hornet’s nest, advocate turned politician Rajendra Pal Gautam said that renouncing Hinduism and adopting Buddhism can only bring change and end the dispute of casteism in society.
Gautam has recently resigned from the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)-led Delhi government after getting caught in an alleged conversion controversy. A mobile video of the function, held in Delhi’s Ambedkar Bhawan on October 5, became viral.
While the video must have cost him the post of a Delhi cabinet minister, it surely helped him to emerge as the Dalit face in the National Capital.
Reacting to the video, Gautam, while speaking to The New Indian, said that it was among the 22 vows administered by Baba Bheem Rao Ambedkar to his 6 lakh followers after converting to Buddhism in Nagpur on October 15, 1956.
He also said Babasaheb’s 22 vows are there in the 17th volume of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar: Writings and Speeches, printed by the government of India’s Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.
For the welfare of the people of this country, Gautam said that he had done a revolution, just as Babasaheb had done by resigning from the post of the country’s first law minister.
“My resignation is for two reasons: one, why does nobody, including the Prime Minister and President of the country, talk about incidents of assault on Dalits. Second, I don’t want my CM (Arvind Kejriwal) to be targetted by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) unnecessarily,” said Gautam.
On the question of the BJP blaming him for doing the mass conversion on October 5, Gautam said he never influenced or asked anybody to come and participate in the renouncing ceremony.
“I never influenced anyone to convert and renounce Hinduism. The whole event was recorded live. Show me a single video where it is proved that I have influenced anyone to participate in diksha samaroh,” said Gautam.
“On the same day, a similar diksha samaroh was held in Nagpur in which union minister Nitin Gadkari ji and Ramdas Athawale ji were among the participants. The 22 vows of Babasaheb were recited on that occasion too. Were they also wrong?” Gautam questioned.
He said the question is, if they are Hindu, then why do they get killed for touching a statue or going inside a temple, touching a pot or sporting moustaches? “These questions need to be answered,” he added.
“Former president Ram Nath Kovind was also stopped from going inside a temple in Odisha. There’s a lot of discrimination against our people; that’s why Buddhism is necessary,” Gautam argued.
“There are 128 countries that follow Buddhism. Because of Gautam Buddha, India got famous. The message of peace and humanity goes to the world only because of Gautam Buddha. One day, crores of people will adopt this religion,” he added.
On the question of who else in his family has adopted this religion, Gautam said, “On that day (October 5), my wife and both of my children also took the oath of Buddhism at Ambedkar Bhawan along with 10,000 persons. Many persons from the Brahmin and Thakur communities also took oaths on that day.”
While recalling the journey of the adoption of Buddhism, Gautam said one instance of attack on his family by upper caste people had triggered him to think about discrimination by upper caste.
“I was just six. It was my elder sister’s marriage. We were attacked because we were celebrating despite being Dalits. This incident hurt me. And when I came in class 9, I got to know about Buddhism and gradually started believing in Buddhism,” Gautam said.
He also said that he was inspired by Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption movement. In 2016, he joined AAP and later got a post in the Delhi cabinet.
On Tuesday, Gautam was called by the Delhi Police for questioning over the issue of alleged mass conversion.
“The Delhi police called me for questioning without legal notice. I am a lawyer and respect the law. On Tuesday, I gave all the answers that the Delhi Police asked of me. They asked me if I had been asked by my party to participate in the October 5 event. I told them, I went all the way in my capacity. The party has nothing to do with the event,” he said.
Gautam also dared Delhi Police to register an FIR and then call him for questioning or arrest him.
In the end, Gautam said he would keep working for the party as a true soldier. He reiterated that the BJP has a fear of losing in Gujarat, which is why they are raising all these issues.