City anchor: ĎAre you a Buddhist? If so, cut off that threadí

Are you a Buddhist? Do you believe in the 22 vows our beloved leader Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar prescribed to? If yes, come here and shed those threads around your neck and wrists. They go against the teachings of the Buddha.

This faint but constant announcement emanating from a nondescript stall amid lakhs who thronged the ground to pay homage to their leader at Ambedkar memorial Chaityabhoomi, drew several Ambedkarites.

'22 Pratigya Abhiyan' floated by a motley bunch of educated Ambedkarities including IIT graduates, scientists and professors from across the country, approached people wearing any thread and offered to cut it for them "if the person is a true Buddhist". "The teachings (Buddhism) are strictly against superstition. We explain to people why it is essential to give up these threads. It is a non-Buddhist culture," said Dr Sanjay Khobragade from Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Technological University, Raigad.

Khobragade said, "We are a group of 200 volunteers here on the field. We are equipped to approach each person, ask what these threads signify and if they helped them in any way. Once the person fails to explain the significance, we move to the next stage of suggesting if they would want to cut the thread."

Some said it was a futile exercise. Tata Institute of Social Science professor Avatthi Ramaiah said such acts are nothing but a sheer waste of time. "Rather than wasting time on such things, Dalit intellectuals could focus on consolidating their community and educating and uplifting them," he said. Such acts, in fact, go against teachings of Buddha and Ambedkar. Avatthi said even Ambedkar had at one point struggled for Dalits' right to enter Hindu temples, but realised it was more important to work for the uplift of the downtrodden.

The '22 Pratigya Abhiyan' floated a few years ago has found many takers. "We are over 2,000 of us connected to each other through several platforms, social networking sites being one," said Shweta, one of the volunteers. While many show willingness to cut the threads, some do counter these acts with questions, says Arvind Sontakke, a deputy commissioner of Income Tax, and one of the volunteers.

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