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January 24, 2000
Malayalam poet embraces Buddhism
D Jose in Thiruvananthapuram
Even before the Hindutva brigade in Kerala could come to terms with poet Kamala Das's decision to convert to Islam, Malayalam poet Balachandran Chullikkad has delivered yet another blow to its anti-conversion campaign by embracing Buddhism.
Worse, both Das and Balachandran are now targeting the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and its affiliated bodies at every opportunity that comes their way.
Balachandran has openly claimed that his rejection of Hinduism was a political move. ''Conversion is a basic right of every citizen... my decision to convert to Buddhism is an assertion of this right," he said recently.
The poet has also caused considerable embarrassment to the saffron brigade by launching a strident attack on their brand of Hindutva. "Hinduism is one religion in which one's status in a social set-up depends on the family in which one is born," Balachandran said.
The poet, who will soon travel to Sri Lanka to formalise his initiation into Buddhism, has not spared the Communists either. He has come out strongly against the ruling Communist Party of India-Marxist for its ''attempts to marginalise scheduled castes and scheduled tribes.''
"No party is prepared to give them (scheduled castes and scheduled tribes) an assembly seat in constituencies other than those reserved for them," Balachandran said.
He has admitted that he was inspired by Kamala Das to embrace Buddhism. "I was greatly disturbed by the saffron brigade's attacks against Sorayya (Kamala Das's adopted name). He said he had also received threats for having supported her.
Balachandran said though he had initially wanted to keep it a private affair, he decided to go public when he realised that his rejection of Hinduism had political significance in the contemporary context.
Incidentally, Kamala Das's son, Monu Nalapat, has also adopted Buddhism. Balachandran has been a frequent visitor to their house after Kamala Das became Sorayya.
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