‘Buddhists not benefiting from India’s inclusive growth policy’

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Mon Oct 13 18:48:43 UTC 2008

'Buddhists not benefiting from India's inclusive growth policy'

Oct 13th, 2008 | By Sindh Today |

New Delhi, Oct 13 (IANS) India's nearly eight million Buddhists are
not benefiting from the government's inclusive growth policy to
enhance the socio-educational status of minorities, says Lama Chosphel
Zotpa, a senior member of the National Commission for Minorities
(NCM). 'We are not benefiting from India's policy of inclusive growth.
Buddhists continue to remain on the margins and have to slog on their
own to keep life going against all odds,' Zotpa told IANS in an
interview. 'The government has not met even a single important demand
of the Buddhist community. It is, perhaps, because we are peace loving
people and do not matter numerically in the country's electoral
politics,' Zotpa said.

According to him, the community's key demands were setting up a Lord
Buddha Foundation, an International Buddhist University, special
funding for monastery education, and inclusion of the Bhoti language
in the 8th Schedule of the Indian Constitution. Bhoti is many
Buddhists' mother tongue and they get initial education in monasteries
in this ancient language. Since the language is not constitutionally
recognised, aspirants for government jobs have to write their
examinations in one of the 15 languages listed in the 8th Schedule.

'This is proving to be a major handicap for poor Buddhists, who
receive basic education in Bhoti, and fail to learn English or Hindi
for want of proper facilities in monasteries,' Zotpa pointed out. The
idea behind the Lord Buddha Foundation and an International Buddhist
University is to spread the teachings of the Buddha - who was born in
India - provide scholarships to students pursuing Buddhism for higher
studies, and promoting the pious words of the Buddha by attracting
students from across the world.

'There is the Maulana Azad Education Foundation to promote education
among backward Muslims and the Jagjivan Ram Foundation for the
Scheduled Castes students, but nothing for us,' Zotpa pointed out.

He said an international university would get students from several
countries whose citizens throng India annually to visit places like
Bodha Gaya, Rajgir, Sarnath and Kushinagar that are associated with
the Buddha.

'The university will receive students from China, Nepal, Bhutan,
Tibet, Mongolia, Japan, Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand, and (South) Korea
where followers of Buddhism are in big number,' Zotpa said.

What also makes Zotpa angry is the government's nonchalance in handing
over the management of the Bodh Gaya temple in Bihar to Buddhists.
Hindus currently hold the key posts in the temple's management.

'I cannot imagine why the genuine demands of the Buddhist community
are not being met when the present government talks of inclusive
growth,' he said, adding: 'Since 2006, the government has withdrawn
the Rs.15 lakh (Rs.1.5 million) annual grant to organise a Buddha
Mahotasva (festival).'

'Lord Buddha is our only hope,' he said, pointing out that the Buddha
preached truth and non-violence to the world several hundred years
before the arrival of Jesus Christ.

India's minority affairs ministry, which came into being in January
2006, has been allocated Rs.10 billion to create 'productive assets'
for the minorities, who account for 18.4 percent of the country's one
billion plus population.

Commented a ministry official: 'All schemes are open for the
minorities and there is no discrimination against any community.
Efforts are on to make people aware of the ministry's various schemes.

'So far as the specific demands, including setting up the Buddha
Foundation, are concerned, the ministry is doing the needful. It will
take some time before something concrete comes about,' the official,
requesting anonymity, said, without specifying details.

(Rajeev Ranjan Roy can be contacted at rajeev.r at ians.in)


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