Some 50,000 low-caste Hindus and nomadic tribesmen converted to Buddhism at a horse race-track in Mumbai on Sunday in one of the single largest conversions in recent times.
For centuries, the stratified caste system has been one of the greatest scourges of India, particularly in the rural hinterlands where those from the lower castes and Dalis (former untouchables) still suffer at the hands of the upper castes.
But conversions have also become a sensitive issue in India, where some upper caste Hindus charge that inducements are resulting in conversions to other religions.
Hindus constitute the majority of Indian’s population.
According to the 2001 census, Hindus account for 80.44% of India’s population, Muslims for 13.42%, Christians are 2.33%, Sikhs 1.84% and Buddhists 0.68%. Jains and other faiths account for the rest.