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Thousands of India’s Dalits (Untouchables) are converting to Buddhism to protest discrimination by higher-caste Hindus.

Untouchability has been illegal in India since independence, but it is still commonly practised. In many villages Dalits are not allowed to drink clean water from a well. In some areas, tea shops keep a different glass for Dalits to use, so higher-caste Hindus are not “polluted” by drinking from the same vessel, even after it has been washed. After the 2004 tsunami, Dalit survivors in Tamil Nadu were prevented from sharing water in relief camps.

Dalits are converting in large numbers this year because it is the 50th anniversary of the conversion of their most important leader of modern times, B R Ambedkar, who first called on Dalits to become Buddhists in order to escape discrimination.

(Hat tip: Imli.)

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