Police say they don’t know of any such conversion. But Dalits say they were forced to this end because of the bias and continuing violence in the district.

Around 180 Dalit families from riot-hit Saharanpur said they have converted to Buddhism in the background of the violent caste clashes that have been occurring in the district with surprising regularity ever since Ambedkar Jayanti. The families said another reason for their giving up Hinduism was because of the treatment meted out to the Bhim Army by the district administration.

On Thursday, the families immersed paintings and statues of gods and goddesses in a large canal. Most of the families hail from the villages of Rupali, Kapurpur, Eighri,  Unali and Badi Majra.  The affected families chanted slogans against governance and administration.

The protesters said in the violence that took place in Saharanpur, action was being taken only against Dalits and the Bhim Army. Cases are being foisted against activists of the Bhim Army, they said.

More than 25 houses have been burnt in the past week and 23 vehicles torched in the violence. Some 10 FIRs have been registered against administrators of social media accounts who are allegedly responsible for spreading rumours and inciting communal hatred in the district. The administrators named in the FIRs mostly belong to the Bhim Army.

The police have arrested 36 people and registered some 15 other FIRs.

SSP Subhash Chandra Dubey said most people who have converted are also named in the complaints of stone pelting and arson. He said they cannot get away from the crimes they have committed by converting their faith, which is a personal matter.