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Discrimination and caste system

The worst form of inequality is to try to make unequal things equal

Equality consists in the same treatment of similar persons

Aristotle

Introduction

Discrimination No doubt, discrimination of any kind is undesirable. But at the same time, not all difference is
discrimination, it can be circumstantial. Discrimination is objectionable, when it is intentional and done with some selfish
motive. There are some people in every society, who in their self-interest act inhumanly, irrationally and harm others. There is
no justification for such irrational acts, which later on give rise to discriminatory practices.

Reality is much deeper than what is seen on the surface. It is not desirable to pass on comments based on half cooked
information, half a truth, partial or incomplete knowledge, which could be harmful for the whole society. Many a times,
irresponsible acts of some irrational and cynic persons create misunderstandings. National policies and plans of any nation
should not be based on irrational acts of a few irrational people. Also it would not be right to blame the whole system or a
society for irresponsible acts of a few.

President Obama, while in India, has commented, The dreams of those who do menial jobs are just as worthy as ours. In
India and US the grandson of a cook can be President, A Dalit can help write the Constitution, a tea-seller can become a PM.
(President Obama, Quoted from TOI, Jan 18,2015) On the basis of the personal experiences of the two leaders of USA and
India both of whom have risen from humble backgrounds to top positions.

Caste system One should not criticize any system or form an opinion or take a decision without analyzing rationally the
whole scenario. Many misconceptions have been spread around about caste-system of India and its nature by vested
interests of certain people during the last few centuries.

Ancient India did not sanctify discrimination. The present birth-based caste-discrimination is a blot on India and is more
recent than is told by vested interests. Ambedkar himself in his famous book, who were Shudras said that in ancient times,
India had widely respected Shudras rulers as well, and the oppressive scriptural verses justifying discrimination and casteism
were included into the texts later. According to Bhagwat Gita, four Varnas were based on guna (attibutes) and Karma (deeds).
Rishis/sages were accorded the highest status in ancient India. The two most popular epics Ramayana and Mahabharata
were composed by Valmiki (a Shudra according to present ranking) and Ved Vyas (a backward caste).

Arvind Sharma, a Professor in McGill University says that caste rigidity and discrimination emerged in the Smriti priod (from
after the birth of Jesus Christ and extending upto 1200 CE). During Medieval period, it was challenged by Bhakti movement
led by many non-upper caste saints. At that time some powerful empires led by Shudra rulers like Kakatiyas emerged. Caste
discrimination became rigid again during British rule. Now education, economic reforms and urbanization can remove caste

discrimination and poverty to a great extent.

For sustainable development of the nation, all Indians must oppose and fight

against any kind of discrimination

Issue

Bitter criticism of the caste system Caste system is vehemently criticized in modern world without understanding and
analyzing what caste as a system is. How, when and why, the system got derailed and how to bring it back on rails.

Recently Rikke Nohrlind, co-ordinator of the International Dalit Solidarity Network said, Caste discrimination is a global
issue, affecting hundreds of millions of people in many parts of the country Therefore, an amendment in Equality Act 2010
has been made to outlaw Caste in UK to give legal protection to 816,633 Hindus based in the UK. Till now, the Act prohibited
race discrimination, harassment and victimization in the work-place. Very strong views have been expressed in the Lords on
this (caste) matter and we have reconsidered our position and agreed to introduce caste-related legislation. We hope that
this decision will serve as an example to other countries Jo Swinson Equalities Minister, U.K. (Quoted from daily Newspaper,
Times of India, P.24)

Dalit pressure group criticizes Caste system for its being highly discriminatory. The Imperial British rulers had condemned
the Caste system strongly earlier also before the Independence. Now many political parties, many intellectuals Dalit activists
and their leaders have joined them. They are born, educated and brought-up in an atmosphere, which is deeply influenced by
rhymes and reasons of western societies.

Needs an analysis Blaming caste system for all discriminatory practices or suggesting bringing to an end a well
established and accepted system in the name of discrimination, needs to be given a second thought. For understanding the
problem, answer of the following questions with an impartial, rational, sensitive and perceptive mindset is required

Is it that discrimination exist only in India because its social structure is based on Caste System. Other society especially
the Western free from any kind of discriminatory practices socially or politically?

Are really the practices and values of caste-system problematic and complicated?

Is it the caste-system, which is responsible for discrimination and exploitation of weaker/ unprivileged sections of society?

What is the position of different castes as it exists presently in ground realities?

Why the system is politicized?

What is the difference between caste as a system and casteism?

Discrimination elsewhere in the world

Discrimination to some extent exists everywhere in one form or other be it a social, political and economic system or
institution, be it a big or small institution as small as that of a family. Vulnerable individuals or weaker sections of society have
always become an easy prey for discrimination. Within a family, vulnerable family members like children, old or widowed

parents, poor relatives or unemployed youth become an easy prey of discrimination. And in a society, poor, illiterate and
ignorant people quite often become victims of exploitation. Fear of being discriminated or exploited springs from ignorance.

Equality of all exists in theory , but no power on earth can ever turn it into a reality.

Intolerance reason behind discrimination

Usually, in every society, differences in behavior, character, education, language, way of life, culture, social background
create a distance between two individuals or groups. Resistance to tolerate, adapt or appreciate each other widens the
distance. Some become so aggressive that they openly abuse or oppress others. In order to be one up, either they let down
others or try to control their destiny by adopting discriminatory practices. And in this rat-race, stronger always wins and
weaker suffers.

Grounds for discrimination

In every society and a nation there exists numerous identities based on factors like race, class, caste, religion, gender,
language or region. Craving for more power muscle, money or political of some individuals or groups tends people to
adopt discriminatory practices. Discriminatory practices work on whims and fancies/likes and dislikes of strong persons.
Controlling the destiny of others satisfies their ego and serves their interests.

Racism and Western World

Racism is a much more serious problem than caste in matter of discrimination, as it is based on the color of the skin, which
can not be hidden. Societies in Western World are divided sharply into four water-tight compartments. Whites at the top of
social hierarchy, then comes Yellows (Japanese, Chinese or Philippines) followed by Browns (Indians, Pakistanis and people
from other South-Eastern nations and at the bottom Blacks. The western world is witnessing a rise in white supremacist
movements. Last two categories have always been humiliated. They have to struggle to get suitable jobs according to their
qualifications. They are forced to work for less money, accused for snatching jobs from whites and having slavish mentality.

Treatment to Indian students in western nations

Every year, on an average 430,000 odd Indian students go to Western nations for further studies. Recently in Australia,
Indians, Pakistanis along with Vietnamese students of middle-class background are being targeted, racially abused, insulted,
ridiculed and assaulted physically now and then by Whites. They take bank loans, borrow money and pass through many
difficulties to get a degree from foreign university. Life is not easy for them in any way. They have to work very hard to fund
their education there.

Despite everything the exodus of students from upper castes continues because due to reverse discrimination policies, they
are being treated as second rate citizens in their own country. It is an anomaly that Western society, where discrimination on
racial grounds has always been a part of life (only it is being highlighted by media now), wants to reform India.

Caste system and British rulers

In the past, British rulers in India, while laying foundation of democratic institutions of India, started many discriminatory
practices. In order to keep balance of power and counter Brahmins hold on Indian society passed some discriminatory Acts
like Act of 1919 (Minto Morely Reforms)or Communal Award of 1932.Till 1947, they kept their railway compartments, waiting
rooms, parks, clubs, hotels, places of other entertainment and residences segregated.

Two aspects of caste system have amazed the British rulers in the past

influence of Caste system on Indian society;

Reluctance of its people to convert into other religions, on the ground that all religions are valid.

Dalit Activists and caste system

Dalit Activists criticize caste system vehemently and hold it responsible for keeping 750 million Hindus dalits, tribals and
other backward classes poor, subjugated, discriminated against and humiliated. Technologies for human survival . were
all developed by lower castes, but upper castes took away the fruits of their labour and invention. In the hearts of the
oppressed castes, there is anger and hatred. Social-justice demands their emancipation by ending all kind of
discrimination.

There are two options: either complete equality to Dalit Bahujan communities or their conversion into other religions. Such
comments of Dalit Activists and political leaders arouse emotional sentiments of poor masses, generate venom in their heart
and create a feeling of otherness.

According to Pr. Kancha Ilaiah, an activist, complete equality means

Embracing all lower castes,

Eating with them,

Treating them as their equal, and

An end to the allegation that they are merit-deficient.

Inspite of all such comments, it is the lower segment of society, which is sticking strongly to its caste-identities.

India and Caste as a System

Caste is a very old and indigenous system, conceptualized, developed and practiced exclusively in India. It is difficult for the
western world to understand its role past or present in Indian society or because of its complete localization and
unfamiliarity to see it in its totality.

Strong features of caste-system

The strength of caste system has been proved by the following facts:

Despite centuries of foreign rule over 75% of Indian population remains Hindu and have strong feelings for caste-system.

Had caste system become obsolete, it would have given place to other system.

Caste system has influenced all other communities living in India.

Following are the strong features of caste as a system

Assimilation of different social groups without conversion In the past, caste assimilated numerous social groups
immigrants, locals, tribal, professionals or others into its mainstream without any conversion. It assigned each incoming
new group a separate caste identity and made them its integral part in due course of time.

This way, neither it disturbed its existing internal social order nor prevented new groups to join the mainstream. It did not
annihilate their faith, way of living, internal order, customs, culture or language. Instead, it gave them freedom to prosper
according to their internal rhythm.

Caste regarded as a natural institution by Hindus Indian society regards family, extended family, Kula, Caste and religion
as fundamental social institutions. An individual is a natural member of a family, which is a unit of an extended family,
extended family of Kula, Kula of a tribe (Vish) and a tribe of a Jana of Jati (Caste). Caste is second only to the family in
widening a persons social radius and in getting importance in his/her private and occupational life.

Equal status to all within a caste All the members within a caste enjoy equal social status vise-a-vise other castes. Caste
values, beliefs, prejudices, injunctions as well as distortions of reality become an indivisible part of a persons psyche and
conscience. They share moments of joy and sorrow.

It is a common sense that a persons relation with his own caste-members is closer than with those belonging to other
castes. Internalized caste norms define an individual role in the society. A person feels good and loved, when he lives up
to these norms, and anxious and guilty, when he transgresses them.

Caste, providing social security and stability Earlier, instead of government, elders of each caste (having sense of
belonging, not a desire to exercise authority) used to take care of maintaining discipline within the caste and helped its
destitute/helpless members.Caste provided to all its members social security and stability. Even as today, it does so in
rural areas. Each caste still maintains its own rules, regulations, customs, and way of life and controls the conduct of its
members. It encourages self-discipline, conscious, self-control, and self-direction.

Castes as a series of vertical parallels The key, to understand the caste system, is not in seeing it as a framework of
hierarchical layers of social order, each fitting neatly below the other, as pointed out by census operations done during
imperial rule, but as a series of vertical parallels. Each caste is an independent entity, with its own hierarchy, based either
on a tribal identity or an occupational identity.

Inter-dependence an integral part of caste system In ancient and medieval India, all people living in a village or city were
bound together by economic and social ties. All castes living in a local area, whether high or low, had a strong bond of
mutual dependence, caring, sharing and supporting each other in fulfilling different kind of needs. There was hardly any
room for any section of society to consider itself, as being placed in greater or lesser disadvantageous position with
reference to another. Concept of forwards or backwards or feeling of exploitation of lower strata by upper castes was
almost non-existent at that time. Industrialization and modernization have changed the scene.

Criticism

Some people blame Caste system for its being discriminatory in nature. They say, it serves the interests of haves and
enhances the agonies of have-nots. But it is an anomaly, that still it is only the have-nots, who cling more tightly to their
caste identities today.

Caste system has been criticized for

Giving importance to birth -_Caste system has been alleged for giving rise to disparities in the society, because it gives
importance to birth in determining social status of a person. But same is the position in Western world also, where wealth

determines social status. Wealth is also acquired through birth. There also exists a sharp distinction between the
Aristocratic/elite society and common man.

Critics claim that for centuries in the past and even at present, people born in lower castes have been suppressed or
oppressed by people belonging to upper castes. Upper castes are accountable and punishable for the miseries of lower caste.
They should make reparations for the sins/historical wrong done by their ancestors.

How far this allegation and its remedy is correct? Justice Social, economic and political never allows punishing somebody
else for the crimes committed by others.

No access to education It is alleged that upper castes has kept its monopoly on education to reinforce its traditional
dominance and prevented lower castes from getting educated. When British rulers allowed legally admission to all
irrespective of caste or creed in government schools, higher castes opposed admission of the children belonging to lower
strata.

It is only a half truth. British rulers did not bother much about mass education. It was not so much because of discrimination,
that backward castes were debarred or denied access to education, as for

Modern education system was very costly and therefore, unaffordable by masses. The costly nature of education tended to
make it a monopoly of the richer classes and city dwellers.

The medium of instruction was a foreign language English.

Lower-castes did see any immediate use of education. It was more important for them to work and arrange two square
meals day rather than spending on education.

However, an impoverished group caste Hindus in search of livelihood looked upon modern education as means to earn their
living respectfully and devoted their scarce resources on it.

The relentless effort of missionaries and the reformers could educate a very small number of people from lower-castes.

Ranking

In the past, ranking of different social groups was done on some principles. Self-discipline, hygiene, cleanliness, morality,
knowledge, spirituality of different social groups i.e. castes and usefulness of their work to the society as a whole were the
considerations, which determined the social, economic or political status of a group in society vise-a vise others. Higher a
caste, purer it was considered, and greater were the self-restrictions on its behavior through rituals.

Mobility

Mobility of individuals from one caste to another was restricted in the past. But upward mobility of a group in the social scale
was though difficult, but not impossible. Ancient India had allowed upward mobility of a caste through good deeds by
adopting more orthodox practices, cleaner habits, self-discipline and observance of rituals or the position of a caste could be
improved. This way, lower-castes were encouraged to follow discipline in life.

Now different castes prefer to be called backwards. They are racing to get a tag of backward castes, so that they can avail
the benefits of quota fixed for backward castes in jobs an.

Wealth Doors for honor or wealth were always open to deserving individuals/groups of any caste. History is the proof
that even the lowest rank attained even sovereignty in India such as Maratha Kings, who fought their way up-to the throne
against Mohammedan and commanded respect of all Indians. From fourteenth to the eighteenth century, soldiers came
from all strata of society including the lowest in the ritual term. There was no discrimination in the recruitment and
treatment of soldiers on caste basis. Rajput status was given to soldiers.

Occupation

Critics of Caste system allege that there was no freedom/choice to individuals in matter of occupation in the past. They were
forced people to employ themselves in hereditary occupations. This allegation is not wholly truth.

In ancient Europe and Asia also, occupations were not only hereditary, but also limited it to be followed by specific classes
only. It was considered natural and convenient for a person to do a job, which he knew, the knowledge of which, he acquired
in a natural way.

Changes brought in by Industrial revolution

It was the industrial revolution, which had changed the trend. Now total aversion of modern youth from their traditional
occupation has rendered millions unemployed or underemployed or confused about what they want to do. They waste their
time, energy and efforts in search of white collared jobs rather than pursuing jobs, which suits to their knowledge, aptitude
and qualifications. There is more job-satisfaction, happiness, success or contentment in doing a job, one knows well rather
than in stepping on someone elses toes.

Sir John Shore, who was Governor General of India during 1793-1798, observed that there was considerable latitude in matter
of work in India. Among many castes, it was constantly found that one brother pursuing hereditary vocation and another
entering army. HT Colebrooke also confirms it, It may be received as a general maxim that occupation appointed for each
tribe is entitled merely to a preference. Every profession, with few exceptions, was open to every description of persons and
the discouragement arising from religious prejudices is not greater than what exists in Great Britain from the effects of
Municipal and Corporate laws.

Alternative ideologies to provide breathing space

In the past, whenever rigidities and discriminatory practices of society in the name of caste system suffocated Indian society,
there arose alternative ideologies or styles of life, which gave people breathing space. Rise of Buddhism in Ancient India, Sufi
tradition of Islam and Bhakti movement of Hindus in medieval India (around 10th century), and reform movements of 19th
and 20th centuries taught sympathetic attitude towards lesser human beings, brotherly love for each other and fellowship,
love and respect all human beings irrespective of caste or creed and rejected practice of elaborate rituals and caste
pretensions.

Modern India

Most of the allegations against caste system, which were there in the past, can not be justified now in modern India. Process
of modernization, industrialization, spread of education and growing awareness among masses have already brought to an
end slowly but steadily many of the discriminatory practices of Caste system. It has become more liberal and less restrictive
in all walks of life. Castes no longer enjoy legal or religious sanctions. Expulsion from castes means little, while earlier it
meant complete social ostracism. Old style of authority and power exercised by caste-elders has already diminished.
Restrictions or interactions between different castes arising due to considerations for purity and pollution are fading away
from public life even from rural areas. Traditional barriers on marriage, hereditary occupations and commonality are loosing
its importance.

Constitution of India

Preamble of the Indian Constitution promisesto secure to all its citizens: JUSTICE, social, economic and political; LIBERTY of
thought, expression, belief, faith and worship; EQUALITY of status and of opportunity; and to promote among them all
FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the Nation. Article 15 of the Constitution
prohibits any kind of discrimination on grounds of caste, race, religion, gender or place of birth; Article 16 gives equality of
opportunity in matter of public employment, Article 338 creates National commission for Scheduled Castes to safeguard their
interests etc.

Legislations for equal opportunities

A number of amendments in the Constitution and legislation have been passed to remove the disabilities of backward people.
Un-touchability has been declared a crime. Bonded labor is abolished by law. Civil Rights Act, 1955, aims to eliminate
injustice against weaker sections. Amendment to Prevention of Atrocities Act (SCT) 1989 provides for stern punishments for
offenses committed against SCT by Upper Castes. Special Courts, under SCT Act, have been established for punishing
officials, if found guilty. Still, there is no respite from discriminatory practices. Why?

Reasons for the miseries of downtrodden

There are many reasons, why people do not get respite from discriminatory practices. There is no denial of the fact that with
the passage of time, and for a long time, living under alien rule, caste system had developed many deformities. The system
became too rigid to keep its identity continuing. Still it is not so much because of the caste-system, but because of bad
politics and poor governance, that millions of people have still to suffer discrimination and exploitation in modern India. Some
of the causes are as following

Emergence of Political Identities

During their imperial rule, the British had divided the Indian society into five major groups, giving each one an independent
political identity based on the political power and the amount of wealth, they hold. The water-tight compartmentalization of

Indian society had been done by Censuses during British rule into Minorities, Scheduled Castes, now popularly known as
Dalits or SCs, Scheduled Tribes (STs), Other Backward castes (OBCs) and Higher Castes.

Political compartmentalization of Indian society

Modern Indian society has been polarized on caste and communal basis into following unbridgeable sections Upper castes,
Scheduled Castes, Scheduled tribes, Other Backward Class and Minorities. Stratification of Indian society has been done in
most insensitive manner for the purpose of balancing the power. It has become a bye-word for Indian politicians.

Poor execution of rules and regulations

Indian society is sharply divided into two broad divisions- haves and have-nots. The most important factors responsible
for disparities are present-day-politics, irrational and corrupt ways of pursuing the paternal policies of the government at
cetral and State levels and governments failure to address real issues.

Use of Caste as the most powerful tool to create vote-banks

Caste has become for the present-day political leaders as the easiest and most powerful tool to sway public emotionally
and to create a larger vote bank. It may be called ossification of caste-system fallen into the hands of power brokers and vote
guzzlers.

Priority to abstract issues in order to divert public attention

Day in and day out, public attention is being diverted from real issues and public sentiments are aroused by floating in
political world abstract issues like discrimination, social justice, affirmative action/reservations, secularism. Sectional interests
are being promoted on caste basis. Real issues like mass-scale illiteracy, poverty, unemployment, inflation, deteriorated law
and order situation, increasing violence or general coarsening of moral fiber of the Indian society are pushed into the
background.

Centralization of control systems

There is complete centralization of control systems in the hands of a few individuals, families and groups irrespective of
castes or creed. They have enough money, muscle and political power plus and the support of criminals. They are flourishing
day by day and control almost all the national resources. They enjoy life at cost of tax-payers. This very small section of
society virtually controls the destiny of millions. They have a say in almost every walk of national life.

Corruption

Corruption has become a major/perennial impediment to implement various developmental schemes. Ignorance and
pessimist attitude of masses makes corrupt persons bold. Once the public raises its voice against arbitrary behavior/actions
of powerful lobby, all discrimination and malpractices would get automatically controlled.

Aversion form human, moral or traditional values

Aversion of people from human, moral or traditional values has aggravated the problem. The total concentration of educated
people is on pursuit of money and materialistic pleasures by hook or crook. Favoritism, in-discipline, violence, corruption, and
chase of materialism based on ruthless competition have given sharp rise to disparities and discrimination. It leads to cutthroat competition and creates rift amongst different groups. Political expediency and opportunism has made sectional forces
more assertive/aggressive in attitude and vocal about their rights but ignores duties.

Reconcile the claims of growth with the claims of equity

It is one of the big challenges for the government to reconcile the claims of growth with the claims of equity. Compassion,
sensitivity, equality or fraternity can not be imposed or enforced by any outside agency or authority. Such a step may prove
to be a cause of social unrest. It has to be in-built in the social economic and political system of a country through education
and awareness education, which is the source of knowledge and power; and awareness, which comes from availability of
information.

Narrow loyalties of caste and religion

Narrow loyalties of caste and religion are encouraged generating sub-cultures like caste-ism, favoritism, and lure for easy
money, nepotism, parochialism, communalism, regionalism, bigoted sentiments and irresponsible comments, spreading indiscipline in the society. The rising aspirations and demands of people, with the spread of education and awareness, has
created added problem for the government.

Discriminatory measures taken by the Government

In Independent India, Governments at centre and the provinces are continuously thrusting upon the public many
discriminatory/lofty/populist rules, regulations and policies in the name of helping poor masses. Common men especially
belonging to upper castes feel threatened, helpless and suffer from discriminatory policies of the government. Protective
policies and laws can neither convert an iniquitous Society into an equitable one, nor does it help in any way the vulnerable,
oppressed and submerged masses.

Most of measures taken by the Governmental authorities touch the problems superficially at its periphery only. Most of the
solutions pursued by the government are totally unrelated to day to day problems of common man in real life. Instead of
benefiting or helping the poor, on one hand such developmental programs increase corruption, and on the other it
encourages lethargy, agitation and attitude to depend on authorities for each and everything.

Reservation policy as means to end discrimination

Successive governments both at the centre and provinces are trying to tackle problem of discrimination and disparity by
openly favouring policies of reverse discrimination, which give more importance to distribute power on pro-rata basis by

fixing quota. The sustainable development of submerged sections can be achieved by providing quality of education to
everybody and making people aware of different opportunities available to them.

Reservation policy can hardly be able to bring in desired transformation in the society. In a democratic country, discrimination
anywhere or in any form be it positive or negative is the most objectionable thing. The problem of discrimination or
disparities can not be tackled by fixing up quotas or by adopting the path of reverse discrimination or treating a few sections
of society more than equals by entitling them for preferential treatment by the governmental agencies in different spheres of
life.

Political leaders of various political parties desire to fix up quotas in all governmental institutions for different sections of
society on pro-rata basis. Such a demand is based on negative exhortations. The governments policy of Reservation in jobs
and education has resulted in a tough competition amongst various castes to demand a lower status, so that they can also
avail more concessions and facilities.

Under-currents of caste politics have made the government incapable to solve the burning national issues. It has made to
maintain law and order difficult. Inter-caste and intra-caste, inter-community and intra-community and inter-tribal and intratribal conflicts are increasing day by day in order to get more space in the corridors of power.

Meaning of No Discrimination

No discrimination does not mean sharing power equally. More than thousand million people can not be accommodated in
power echelons. It means a harmonious partnership between people belonging to different sections of society and the
authorities responsible for governance. Governance should be done on the basis of mutual help, mutual respect and mutual
trust. Governance is a continuing process, through which conflicting interests and diverse needs of all the people are lookedafter and a cooperative action is taken.

Pathetic condition of upper castes belonging to middle class

Middle class has always been the backbone of society. Now the voice of upright and honest people belonging to middle
class is being continuously throttled mercilessly. They are being punished for following sincerely family-planning norms,
which has decreased their numbers. In present day vote-bank politics based on game of numbers, it is very easy now for the
pursuers of political power to sideline them.

Lower castes more tenacious about their caste-identity

Today lower castes, which are more tenacious about their caste than the higher, could be easily swayed emotionally in the
name of caste-based reservations. Reservations Policy has given the backwards an identity as a composite and powerful
political pressure group. They have grouped together and increased their numerical strength. It has helped them to emerge
as a powerful and assertive pressure group and unite, organize and fight vigorously for the seats of power.

A large number of educated people of so-called Backward-castes have already entered into the corridors of power and are
occupying important places, exercising authority. Dalits and Muslims are being wooed with vigor by all major national political
parties. Even Naxalite groups find in Dalits an allies, as most of their action squads are formed of Harijans. No political party
could dare to annoy them. All concede to their demands openly or discreetly.

The transformation of untouchables into Harijans, Depressed class and now Dalits is a classic example, where a fraction of
society is increasingly distancing itself from the mainstream and establishing firmly its separate identity. The organized
intolerance of some groups due to over-consciousness about their separate identity has grown out of proportions now,
perpetuating agitation and violence. They desire a complete hold on political power plus protection of those laws and policies
indefinitely, which were started sixty years ago for enabling them to join the mainstream. They want to have a cake and eat it
too, but without much effort or blending their ways.

Conclusion

It is a matter of shame that after giving so much constitutional and government protection to weaker sections, incidents of
discrimination keep on increasing. Instead of over-looking the interests of the whole society or whole of the nation, it is
desirable that law-implementing machinery should get tough on perpetrators of injustice. Discriminatory practices or
oppression of weaker sections of society is unacceptable to the whole of humanity.

Instead of blaming an invisible institution (caste-system) for discrimination, deep wisdom and honesty of purpose is needed
to find out right methods and courage to strive for it sincerely.

So-called Backward castes need to understand the spirit of Indian Constitution and try to adapt thinking, culture and lifestyle of the mainstream of the nation. Otherwise, there will always be cultural rifts, both in their lives and minds, threatening
the unity of the nation from time to time.

Today, when the whole world is reeling between economic depression and and terrorism, people expect from the government
to bring in change in economic situation and in fight against terrorism. Hate, jealousy, anxiety or fear leads to violence and
give rise to wars, riots, antagonisms and class or caste conflicts.

After-effects of the great economic depression of 2008 has brought many social and economic changes and aggravated the
problems for present government. The GDP growth has fallen there, business investment has dipped alarmingly.
Unemployment has risen.

Therefore, Government needs to be very careful, while planning for measures developmental or punitive to be taken. The
needs and aspirations of the people as a whole should be taken care of by the government, not of any specific section of the
society.

Present atmosphere demands to resolve sensibly the differences and clashes of interests peacefully with rational thinking and
understanding for each other. For a change, India needs collective nation building efforts of both the authorities and the

public with a sense of justice, commitment to the nation, understanding for each other and consciousness about duties along
with rights.

Winding up

Following steps could to be taken to bring to an end discrimination of any kind

First of all, government should find out root causes of discrimination and deprivation,

Government should identify without bias vulnerable groups, which are discriminated against by the present modern
society. It should not be on the basis of caste.

Identify the special needs or problems of each group separately,

Accordingly plan about the measures to be taken to protect the interests of vulnerable individuals.

Well meaning judicious laws, which could directly improve day today life of common men, should be carefully legislated.

Such laws should not remain only on papers but have to be executed/implemented in real life for dealing with social
injustice effectively.

To give relief to Have-nots, the way out is to tackle effectively local crimes against common man whether in rural or
urban areas and improve law and order position.

The money meant for the development purposes should actually be spent for which it is intended i.e. the betterment of
submerged sections of society.

Power generally rests with physical strength, wealth and knowledge. Knowledge brings in both physical strength and
wealth. Therefore, stress on knowledge through education for all should be the top priority for the government for
empowerment of weaker sections, which are victims of discrimination.

Widespread human rights violations should be stopped by punishing the culprits.

It is necessary to put honest and right persons at crucial positions. There are very few people, who have the
knowledge/understanding what to do, how to do and when to do;

A strong political will and courage is needed to bring to an end caste-ism and with it all kinds of discriminatory attitudes,
repressive laws and practices. For the prosperity of the nation and tension-free/stress-free life of common man, as suggested
by First Backward class Commissions Chairman Kaka Kalelkar in mid fifties, National solidarity in a democratic set up
demands Government to recognize only two ends the individual at one end and the nation as a whole at the other. Nothing
should be encouraged to organize itself in between these two ends to the detriment of the freedom of the individual and
solidarity of the nation. All communal and denominational organizations and groupings of lesser and narrower units have to
be watched carefully, so that they do not jeopardize the national solidarity and do not weaken the efforts of the nation to
serve the various elements in the body politic with equity. Mutual help, mutual respect and mutual trust are the touchstone,
on which all communal and denominational activities will be tested.

April 14, 2016 Posted by latasinha | General, Social and political values and systems | Equality fi All | Leave a comment

Origin, Westernization, Sanskritization and Modernization of Caste System

If there is honesty in India today, any hospitality, any charity- any aversion to evil, any love to be good, it is due to whatever
remains of the old faith and the old culture. C. Rajgopalachari

Caste was the system of social life, in which Hinduism was expressed. Hinduism was the ideological and emotional
buttress of caste. Caste and Hinduism succeeded in doing in India, what no state, no conqueror and no economy was able
to do the establishment of a single unified system of society throughout the whole of India (accommodating numerous semiautonomous communities arising at many times and in many places), a system of society, which was able to comprise a
greater range of local differences in a single system than any society has previously accomplished. Through caste system,
India has simultaneously accommodated it to an almost endlessly varied system of semi-autonomous community and at the
same time, it brings considerable unity, harmony and condition of peace. It succeeded in wielding an enormously varied
plurality of semi-autonomous communities arising at many times and in many places and adopting themselves to many
different conditions into a single system of society (Don Martindale, India since 1947, p 39)

In modern understanding of caste-system, element of system is less and caste is dominant.

Introduction

Conceptualized, originated and practiced exclusively in India India presents one of the oldest, continuous and
uninterrupted living civilizations in the whole world known as Hinduism. (Other well advanced civilizations of ancient world
were of Egypt, Greece and Mesopotamia). One of the prominent features of Indian civilization is its Caste-system. Caste
system is a unique way of stratifying the society. It has been conceptualized, originated and practiced exclusively in India. It
has given a distinguished identity to Indian society.

Covers the entire social fabric of India Caste-system is one of the prominent features running through the entire social
fabric of India. Castes have its ethnic roots as denoted by Jati (extended family), and a ritualistic and symbolic significance in
its Varna aspect. It is quite natural for all human beings to have closer ties with ones own fellow-beings and the persons
following same kind of occupation and having the common traits/mindset. So emerged the caste system. Internalized caste
norms define an individual role in the society. Common men feel good and loved, when they live up to the norms set up by
their elders, and anxious and guilty, when he transgress them. It has greatly influenced the thinking of people and their
culture allover India.

One of the oldest living institution Caste system has maintained its continuity without interruption. It has survived the
vicissitudes of time, saved itself by erosion from within and assault from outside only because of the adaptability. Its
absorptive nature has internalized alien influences. It has taken different shades and meaning with the changing times and
places. Its character during Indus Valley Civilization was altogether different from what exists today. It is still in a transient
phase. Its shade is different in the context of village, locality, region or religion. Once changed, the system never returned to
its original form. Its absorptive nature has internalized alien influences. That is why it presents one of the oldest social
institution and a continuous and uninterrupted living culture still existing in the entire world.

Issue Caste system has always been a centre of attention for Westerners, politicians, intellectuals, activists or reformers
from other faiths. It has been both defended and opposed vehemently in the political circles of modern India. Many assaults
have been made on caste-system, especially because of the deformities and rigidity developed into the system during a very
long period of its evolution and its being under alien rule. However, after each assault, caste system has re-emerged with
greater force.

How Caste-system has changed its complexion with the changing times continuously, can be seen in its origin and process of
evaluation its origin, and moving through the eras of modernization, Sanskritization and politicization?

Why so much criticism? Usually, suspicions or misunderstandings about any system arise, when the fundamentals and
knowledge about the system or ground realities of the place are not clear. Half cooked information, half a truth, partial or
incomplete knowledge with a purpose to let down somebody is harmful for the whole society. Many a times, such opinions
turn out to be a great lie.

Reality is deeper than what is seen on the surface Reality is much deeper than what is seen on the surface. One should not
form an opinion or take a decision without analyzing rationally the whole scenario. Many misunderstandings about castesystem would not sustain itself, once there is even a moderate understanding about its origin and true nature of its beliefs,
systems and values and a little knowledge about the ground realities of 21st century of India. One should form an opinion or
take a decision after analyzing rationally the whole scenario.

Western World and Hinduism and caste system

Hinduism and its caste-system, a way of life Hinduism and its caste-system do not mean religious festivals, sacred texts,
and statues of deities, rituals or show off religiosity. It is a way of life.

Criticism of Caste by British rulers and why? In the past, British Imperial rulers and missionaries criticized castesystem bitterly. Ward alleged Not only is the caste contrary to every principle of justice and polity, it is repugnant to every
feeling of benevolence. The social circle is almost invariably, composed of persons of the same caste, to the careful exclusion
of others. It aims one class of men against another; it gives rise to greatest degree of pride and apathy. It forms a sufficient
excuse for not doing an act of benevolence towards another, that he is not of the same caste, Ney, a man dying with thirst
will not accept a cooling drop of water from the hands or the cup of a person of a lower caste. They intentionally highlighted
the weaknesses and suppressed the salient feature of caste as a system.

Karl Marx remarked that British, had a double mission in India, one destructive, the other regenerating; the annihilation of
the old Asiatic Society and laying the material foundation of Western Society in Asia. The regenerating character was
concerned with social transformation through modern education, English language as a medium of learning and official
language, modernization in economic sphere, political unification of the country and laying foundations for many democratic
institutions. The reactionary and destructive character was seen in the economic and social sphere. The growth of casteism
had a close connection with these developments. (Dutt RP, India Today, p476).

Pursuance of sectional interests Along with them, a group of intellectuals, activists and reformers, who were deeply
influenced by the thinking of western world, condemned caste-system. In the beginning of 20th century during British rule in
India, with the introduction of electoral politics, many political groups emerged in the scene taking up the interests of
particular section/sections. Such a development gave a new shape to caste system and placed pursuance of sectional
interests over the interests of the all the people. At present, a large number of political leaders/ groups/political parties are
vocal in criticizing caste and pursuing sectional interests, as it helps them to attract the illiterate masses and creates votebanks for them. For them, caste has become a derogatory word. They consider it problematic and complicated and wish to
create a casteless society.

Why Western World is mystified?

There are some basic differences in class as the system adopted by West for stratification of society and caste in
India. Western world is mystified by amazing pluralities and unique social structure of India based on caste. It is difficult for
the western world to understand the role of caste past or present in Indian society. Complete localization and unfamiliarity
makes it difficult to understand caste as a system in its totality and to know the nuances, the nature, role (both in the past as
well

as

in

present)

and

value

of

caste

as

system.

Because

Caste not class basis of stratification Stratification of a society becomes necessary for organizing human and social
behavior in tune with the objectives of a society. While in Western world, usually anthropologists, historians and sociologists
identify class, as universal basis of stratification within a society, Indian society has been stratified socially on the basis of
Varna/caste-system.
Power and social status associated with wealth In materialistic Western societies, wealth has always been associated with
power, authority and social status. In India, its Caste system has separated wealth from status, power from authority, pursuit
and achievement in knowledge from temptations of worldly comforts. The greatness of a state is judged on the basis of the
degree of righteousness and justice, with which a social group lives or administration governs lives of the people, and not on
the basis of the size of a state or its treasury. Similarly, in the society, status of a person or a caste is ranked on the basis of
knowledge, discipline and moral standards, and not on the basis of material success, or

control of power.

Stress on duties rather than rights Whereas, Western cultures have grown around the idea of `rights, forming the natural
foundation of human relationship, caste system evolves around the concept of duty, tolerance and sacrifice. Emphasis on
duty usually makes a person or a group humble and tolerant. Its value-system helps people to adjust themselves, without
much difficulty, to most drastic changes. India has achieved its freedom in a peaceful manner under the leadership of
Mahatma

Gandhi.

Common

men,

here,

are

filled

with

sense

of

duty.

No conversion Unlike Christianity or Islam, Hinduism has made new groups its integral part without any conversion and
brought

them

under

one

umbrella

without

annihilating

their

own

faith.

Truth, Ahimsa, peace and non-aggression Truth, Ahimsa, peace and non-aggression have always been the part of Indian
ethos. Indians have till now accepted oppression and exploitation without much protest. Indian way of life and tolerance of its
people has prevented the masses to exercise coercion so far. While in the past, intolerance of people led to bloody revolutions

elsewhere in the world, India kept on adapting itself to changing times. Whereas in the past, other nations had passed
through many bloody revolutions like in ancient Greece, Rome or other European countries, and made people to work under
the threat of a whip, tolerance in India had prevented people from doing that. It is continuously

Internalizing the

changes and has kept on adapting itself to changing times. India has entered the modern era without any cultural break.

Origin of Caste System

Initial stages of Caste system

Caste-system in the making Caste-system is very old and indigenous one, conceptualized, developed and practiced
exclusively in India. As reflected in Rigveda, when people ceased to be a wandering people, started the Vedic period the
period when the process of building up socio-political structures and systems started leisurely. It took over about 2000 years
(roughly somewhere around 2000 BC to about600 BC) to develop Vedic culture, its values and systems.

Many nomadic or semi nomadic, egalitarian tribal communities formed small groups and started living together a settled life,
mostly in hilly areas, not far from rivers. Pastoral tribal society ceased to be a wandering people and transformed itself into a
settled agricultural society, confining its activities and life within a small area or territory.

This was the time when Hinduism emerged in the scene. Initially people living beyond Indus River were called Hindus and
their way of life as Hinduism.

Initially a simple class division Initially a simple class division was seen in the social structure, i.e. nobility and the ordinary
tribesmen. In the beginning people hardly possessed more than what was needed for their subsistence/survival. The practice
of cultivation, rise of crafts and iron tools transformed the egalitarian society into fully agricultural and stratified society
sometime during 6th century BC.

Possession of land, slaves and hired laborers started. People began to produce and possess more than they needed. The
kings began to collect their surplus yields. The power of kings gradually increased. For regular collection, administrative and
religious methods were devised.

Start of Vedic period Vedic culture came into being due to intermixing of the thinking of Aryan invaders, who came to India
in waves, with the culture of indigenous tribal people of India during 2nd century BC to 650 AD. Varna/caste system is mainly
based on Vedic literature and philosophy. Its sacred knowledge has been handed down from time immemorial, earlier by
verbal transmission and later on, in written form by the ancestor to succeeding generations.

Vedic literature and philosophy

Perfect guide to art of living Vedic literature is a vast reservoir of knowledge. It presents a magnificent example of scientific
division and orderly arrangement of rules, in a few words, in different branches of human knowledge, covering almost all the
aspects of life, be it phonetics, arts, literature, medicine, polity, metrics, law, philosophy, astrology or astronomy. It is a

perfect guide to art of living. It speaks of everything- on staying healthy, social values, improving concentration and tenets of
behavior, which are relevant till today. Its rituals are techniques for leading a harmonious life. According to Vedic philosophy

Basic qualities of human beings Hindu philosophy believes that whole world of activities is a result of complex
intermixing of three basic qualities of human nature goodness (Satwa) associated with purity, peace and knowledge;
Passion (Rajas)with comfort and action; and dullness (Tamas) with ignorance, sloth, sleep and carelessness. The
combination of these qualities in different degrees determines physical strength, mental capacity, aspirations, likes and
dislikes, inclinations, expectations, tendencies, potentialities, limitations, traits and character of individuals and gives
them direction for action.

Four Varnas Originally, as per enunciation of Hindu scriptures, Hindu society was classified into four Varnas. Only antisocial elements, adivasis and foreigners fell outside this social structure, because they did not subscribe to rules and
values of the Varna system.

Why different groups are formed in a society Vedic philosophy believes that individuals differ from one another in
natural endowments, intelligence, aptitudes, attitudes, skills, personal needs and other innate characteristics. Such
differences are apt to give rise to the formations of different social groups. Emergence of such groups is out of functional
necessity as well. It needs to be organized systematically.

Duties assigned on the basis of Attitude and Aptitude The duties were assigned to the four Varnas according to their
capacity, attitude and aptitude. Brahmins having flair for learning and possessing intellectual/spiritual qualities to preach
were assigned duties of acquiring knowledge and setting norms for common-men; Kshtriyas having warrior skills and men
of action were assigned duties to rule and defend the community; Vaishyas having business acumen were supposed to
carry on business; and Shudras unable to do above three tasks without any guidance were supposed to assist/serve the
above three or conquered ones were also supposed to serve the community of conquered.

Not by birth Initially in Varna system, no one belonged to a Varna by birth. Varna was interchangeable. It was governed
by ones thoughts and deeds. The basis of categorization was qualities, aptitude and occupation of an individual.

Principles of Varna, Dharma and Karma Principles of Varna Dharma and Karma are the Foundation pillars of Vedic
culture. These principles together have given Indian society a distinguished identity and a solid social structure with a
system of thought, a way of life, and sense of direction.

Principle of Varna has engineered a system for social stratification placing people into different groups
according to their attitude, aptitude and innate qualities.

Dharma had assigned duties to different groups according to their natural endowments, instincts and qualities.
Principle of Karma has given due meaning, direction and value to human effort and provided the whole society
a quality of life. Principles of Dharma and

Karma inculcated self-discipline amongst ignorant masses and taught them to be self-reliant. Principle of Karma
imbibed in people tolerance. These principles together gave the people a sense of direction through infinite
variety of rituals, prayers, practices, customs and meditation.

Together these principles organized inter-relationship These principles together organized inter-relationship of various
sections of society. It prepared an atmosphere for co-existence of different sections of the society be it ruler or ruled, be
it rich or poor. It had organized orderly performance of various functions needed to provide a quality of life to its people in
the past. It gave Indian Society a stable, sustainable and solid social structure with a system of thought, a way of life and
sense of direction. It kept the continuity of its way of life intact, despite numerous foreign invasions, migrations and
assimilation of various groups and contributed to its growth.

The basic tenets of Vedic culture, values and systems served to give Indian society coherence, stability and continuity; and
held together different castes and communities having diverse languages and practices for generations thus making unity
in diversity a reality.

Varna-system giving way to Caste-System

Took thousands of years to evolve Caste-system came into existence, when numerous racial and other social groups be it
racial, immigrants, locals, tribal or professional desired to join the main-steam of the nation and be an integral part of their

cultural system. It took thousands of years to evolve. It was done cordially through caste-system at different points of time.
The beauty of the system was that the main society as a whole remained stable, even while offering a place to new groups
within the main-stream.

Caste as a mechanism for the merger Caste system has provided unique mechanism for the merger ofnumerous discrete
tribes/social groups and associations arising for political, sectarian or other reasons. As more indigenous and foreign social
groups desired to merge into its fold, Varna system gave way to caste system, which assigned each new group a separate
caste identity. Numerous castes and sub-castes emerged within each Varna. There always remained only four Varnas. All new
social groups, known as castes and sub-castes, were fitted under the four Varnas.

Origin of caste system not attributed to one single founder Origin of Hinduism lay embedded in a very remote past. Initially
people living beyond Indus River were called Hindus and their way of life as Hinduism. Hinduism and its caste-system do not
mean religious festivals, sacred texts, rituals, show-off religiosity or statues of deities. It is a unique principle of stratifying the
Hindu society, conceived thousands of years ago.

Caste as a natural response of many small and primitive groups The origin of Varna/caste system can not be be attributed
to one single founder (like Budhha for Budhhism, Christ for Christianity or Mohammad for Islam). Nor can it be confined to one
authoritative text (like Bible for Christians, or Kuran for Islam).

As Basham says that Varna followed by caste system may well be called a natural response of many small and primitive
groups of people, who were forced to come to terms, with a more advanced economic and social system.

Evolved in a natural way It has been evolved in a natural way over thousands of years. It is the synthesis of the collective
thinking and wisdom of generations of learned seers in search of giving meaning and substance to human life. It was
conceived through intellectual contemplation and empirical observation. Aryans and numerous other social groups arrived
in India in waves at different points of time from different parts of the world. Their mixing up with the indigenous people
(popularly known as Hindus) gave birth Hinduism and Vedic culture. The experiences and deep thinking of many learned
sages and intellectuals belonging to generations of almost all the communities assimilated under Hinduism have contributed
to evolve this system.

Castes in the making The first faint trace of caste is to be found in the careful cataloguing of traders and professions in later
Vedic literature. Many traders were organized into guilds around 5th century AD, in which some authorities have seen the
origin of commercial castes. These can be seen as the castes in making. Even up to 7th century AD, people showed no clear
knowledge of the existence of castes. Huan Tsang, in the Seventh century was well aware of the existence of Varna, but not of
castes. Later on, instead of Varna, caste became a dominant factor, a natural unit of Hindu society, running through the entire
fabric of its social structure.

Strengths of Caste system

Caste system as a mechanism Caste system acted as a mechanism for assimilation. Caste system never tried to liquidate
or absorb new groups artificially into its main stream. Through it, numerous discrete tribes/social groups be it immigrants,
locals, tribal, professionals or others have been internalized in the mainstream of the society. Each was assigned a separate
caste name and made them its integral part in due course of time.

No conversion Hinduism does not believe in conversions. It has not imposed its own beliefs, practices and customs on
incoming social groups. It concedes validity to all the religions of the world and does not lay down strictures against any faith
or reject any religion or its god as false. It has accommodated people belonging to all the faiths, that is why, all the twelve
major religions of the world are present and flourishing in India without much hindrance.

Assimilation of different groups Hindus never prevented new social groups to join the mainstream of the land. Outsiders
were neither repulsed, nor allowed others to sweep their own established culture off the roots. It never tried to annihilate the
originality, internal order, customs or language of incoming groups. Through Caste-system their beliefs, behavior patterns
(rules and regulations and life styles were legitimized with the freedom to evolve and change according to their internal
rhythm. It has neither repulsed any trend vehemently, nor allowed others to sweep its own established culture off the roots.

Caste a natural institution for Hindus The units of social-political organizations were family, clan, village, tribe and Jana.
Common-men regard them as natural and fundamental social institutions. A number of families living in one locality formed
grama (village). A number of such units dwelling in a particular region constituted a vis (canton). Jana (a group of tribes)
consisted of a number of such cantons, with a king as their ruler.

Every individual born in a family has a caste. Family was the unit of society headed by father. Caste is second only to the
family in widening a persons social radius and in getting importance in his/her private and occupational life.

Equal status to all within a caste All members of a caste enjoy equal social status with similar rights and duties, similar and
similar thinking process.. A persons relation with members of his caste remains closer and equal than with those belonging to
other castes. His relations with other castes are usually formal. Caste values, beliefs, prejudices, injunctions as well as
distortions of reality become an indivisible part of a persons psyche and conscience. They share moments of joy and sorrow.

Why assignment of Caste by Birth? Over the time, due to economic and social reasons, caste system became a hereditary
system. Assignment of different functions to different communities led to the transfer of knowledge and expertise through
inheritance. It has evolved an atmosphere, where traits of a trade, intelligence abilities, experiences, values and skills were
transmitted from one generation to another in a natural way through inheritance.

Employment, dignity and honor for all There was a close bond between individual and the society and individual and the
occupation through caste. It managed a specific work for all. Doing ones job properly boosted the morale of the people and
promoted social equilibrium and solidarity.

Spawning bed for high level of excellence -The system served as a spawning bed for social and technical skills and led to
achieve a high level of Specialization and wisdom in different areas of activities. By its very nature, it encouraged the
development and preservation of local skills. There was a tendency to bring in the most diversified skills to high level of
excellence.

Local character (decentralized) and Interdependence No caste took an all India character. All the activities of urban or rural
areas were confined within a small area, having very little links with the outside world because of slower means of transport.
Local character and semi-autonomous nature of caste system made close interaction and cooperation between different
castes a reality. Inter-dependence in social life and self-reliance in personal life were the intrinsic features of caste system
making each local area self-sufficient and capable to fulfill all the needs of its people.

Caste, providing social security and stability Earlier, instead of government, elders of each caste (having sense of
belonging, not a desire to exercise authority) used to take care of maintaining discipline within the caste and helped its
destitute/helpless members.Caste provided to all its members social security and stability.

Controlled arbitrariness of strong and powerful persons There was not a single group identifiable as very strong-dominating
all the others, or as an enemy to defeat. The plurality of society provided automatic checks and balances and controlled the
arbitrariness or unbalanced growth of power of any group.

Importance to self-discipline and knowledge Vedic culture has given importance to the considerations of self-discipline,
morality, and knowledge. All social groups i.e. Varnas/Castes were supposed to lead a self restraint and self disciplined life in
all respect, be it in the matter of daily routine, occupation or inter group relationship. Higher a caste, purer it was considered,
and greater were the self-restrictions on its behavior through rituals.

Not much disparity Earlier there was not much disparity between different sections of society. Authority/power was
decentralized. Each caste was an independent entity, with its own hierarchy, based either on a tribal identity or an
occupational identity. There was not much disparity between different castes or between urban and rural people. As far as
castes are concerned, they rose and fell in their social order, some died out and new ones were formed from time to time.

Sharing joys and sorrows together It held all sections of society together. People shared with their caste-fellows moments of
joys and sorrows.

Rationale behind assigning rights and duties to different groups The system of each caste having a specific position in the
society and a specific work to do with its rights and duties boosted the morale of its people and promoted social equilibrium
and solidarity. Their relative position in society depended on purity, morality, knowledge, contribution of their work to the
society as a whole and spiritual standards, they could maintain. Considerations of self-discipline, hygiene and cleanliness on
the basis of climatic conditions of the region were given importance.

Most scientific system In its purest form, caste system may be regarded as one of the most scientific social systems ever
evolved anywhere in the world. The genius of the philosophers of ancient India has provided a philosophy, the rationality of
which is in conformity with the laws of nature. It provided a strong social structure to Indian society, which led to the all round
growth of its cultural heritage and given Indian society coherence, stability, continuity. It kept its members comfortable and
satisfied. It instilled in people, self-discipline, consciousness, self-control and self-direction. It assigned them duties according
to their natural instincts and qualities. It developed in them a feeling of belonging, interdependence and team-spirit. Belief in
concepts like live and let others live as well as Vasudhev Kutumbkam (meaning whole world is a family) prepared an
atmosphere.

Brought different groups under one umbrella Hinduism has made numerous new groups its integral part without conversion
and brought them under one umbrella. Generation after generation, people of different castes and communities could coexist despite of numerous foreign invasions, centuries of foreign rule, migrations and assimilation of new groups. Its unity of
culture has bound together all people of Indian peninsula from one end to the another. It gives the nation a synergetic
character, a pluralistic tradition and an absorptive nature of internalizing alien influences.

Ingredients of good organization Almost all the ingredients of good organization are found in the system like team-spirit,
division of labor, automatic checks and balances, to each according to his capacity etc. Decentralized self-regulated
systems directed all activities in social, political, and economic life and controlled its malfunctioning or dis-functioning. Interdependence in social life and self-reliance has been the intrinsic features of caste system.

Influenced the whole Indian society All sects living in India, whether foreign or indigenous, have throughout been greatly
influenced by Vedic culture, its thinking, practices and systems. Discipline has been inculcated amongst ignorant masses and
a sense of direction was given to them through infinite variety of rituals, prayers, practices, customs and meditation.

Golden period of Indian History The system had been able to provide such an atmosphere in the past that when the world
was passing through the Dark Age, India was full of light. The first few centuries are recognized as the golden period of Indian
history. During this period, arts, commerce, crafts, philosophy and knowledge flourished magnificently. Its people reached a
high level of intelligence having specialization in different areas. It has become rich in literary, philosophical and religious
fields.

Caste system before Westernization

Seventh century onwards, the great Indian civilization gradually declined with the fall of Hindu rulers. Islamic civilization
flowered, nourished by the wealth of commerce.

Damage because of Continuous invasions The continuous invasions resulted not only in the downfall of Hindus value
system, The whole of medieval period India, especially the western and northern parts faced continuous attacks from the
borders of Turks, Afgans and Mugals Ghazani (998-1030) and others, establishment of slave dynasty (1206- 1030), Khilji
Dynasty (1290-1320), Tuglak Dynasty (1320-1412), Sayyad Dynasty (1414-51), Lodi Dynasty (1451-1526) and Mughal Empire

(1526 to 1757). Initially Muslims were interlopers in the subcontinent. They established their empire from the 13th century
onwards. For a period of over one thousand years, Islam had walked hand in hand with power.

Many social evils developed into the system Widespread misunderstanding gave birth to many social evils, caste-conflicts,
feudal oppressions and mass poverty. Continuous loot, arson, killings and violence on poor and women developed feeling of
insecurity in Hindus, which led them to religious fundamentalism in order to retain their cultural identity. While living under an
alien political order, whether it was Turks, Mughal, Portuguese or British, ignorant masses blindly followed the dictates of
Hindu Priests and all the rituals suggested by them. To Hindus, rigidity in observing the rituals appeared as a shield to retain
their cultural identity. They rigidly and blindly observed all customs and traditions, which had lost their sanctity in the light of
the circumstances of that time. It tended to develop many evil practices in the system.

Start of discriminatory practices The discriminatory governance of Muslim rulers prepared ground for stiffening / hardening /
crystallizing social norms, practices and rituals. Most of the time under Muslim rule, non-Muslims, especially in the North were
continually at the receiving end of the discriminatory practices of the rulers and forced conversions at the hands of Muslim
invaders. Intolerance of rulers towards their Hindu subjects made it difficult for Hindus to preserve their culture and continue
their indigenous identity.

Rise of communalism Hindu and Muslim priests arbitrarily distorted and misinterpreted tenets of their respective religions.
They purposely highlighted and criticized the differences on the surface like Hindus are idol worshippers or Islam believes
either you are a Muslim or else a Kafir etc. It tended to make people superstitious. Indian society was torn by acrimony
between Hindus and Muslims. Sometimes it took an aggressive form. Both the communities had forgotten that God is the
same whether you call Him Ishwar or Allah. All human-beings are equal in his eyes. He never divides man from man.

Reaction on masses People blindly followed the dictates of Hindu and Muslim priests. People blindly followed the dictates of
Hindu and Muslim priests. Ignorant mob concentrated more on observance of rituals rigidly than understanding the
substance/meaning/or reason behind them acted as a shield to protect and preserve identity and the basic roots of Hinduism.

Emergence of evil practices Continuous loot, arson, killings and violence on poor and women, kidnapping of beautiful
girls/women for sexual pleasures of those in authority led to emergence of many social evils and practices like child marriage,
Sati Pratha, Purdah system to save ones honor, Polygamy, dowry etc. During Medieval era, also started the feudalistic
attitude, extravagance and luxurious life style of Mogul rulers and those at helm of authority. Disparity between rulers and
ruled had increased. Ignorance, superstitions and helplessness of poor masses had led to the oppression of weaker sections
of the society especially the women and poor workers/shudras.

Nature of Caste during Medieval Period

Automatic checks and balances The plurality of society provided automatic checks and balances and controlled
arbitrariness or unbalanced growth of any particular caste-group. There was not a single group amongst Hindus identifiable
as very strong dominating all the others, or as an enemy to defeat. The existence of powerful peasant was a reality of the

rural life of Medieval India. They provided leadership of most armed bands, which were numerically predominant and
economically and politically strong at the village level. Non-Kshatriya peasantry in UP, Bihar and MP kept a check on
Kshatriyas arbitrariness. There was a cut-throat competition between Kayasthas gave a tough competition to Brahmins in the
fiela of learning.

Floating population Floating population of groups like Gujjars, Bhattis, Rajput rangers remained outside caste system. They
were so strong, that they terrorized settled agriculturists for centuries. Forests, which competed with arable land in size and
importance, till the 18th century, gave shelter and food to large sections of society and served as havens for those in search
of escape from society.

Equal social status to all within a caste Throughout medieval period also, all the members within a caste enjoyed equal
social status vise-a-vise other castes. Caste values, beliefs, prejudices, injunctions as well as distortions of reality became an
indivisible part of a persons psyche and conscience. They shared moments of joy and sorrow. A persons relation with his own
caste-members was closer than with those belonging to other castes/communities.

Westernization of caste-system

Rise of European powers with Renaissance Movement The Process of Westernization started with the Renaissance during
late middle ages in Italy around 14th century. This cultural movement has profoundly affected European intellectual life. It
started in Italy, and spread to the rest of Europe by the 17th century.

The Renaissance movement was a cultural movement that profoundly affected European intellectual life. Its influence was felt
everywhere, in literature, philosophy, art, music, politics, science, religion, and other aspects of intellectual inquiry. The
sincere knowledge seekers of Western world did not care for inconveniences or challenges for creating modern civilization.
They sacrificed their time (for about two centuries), energies and comforts in search of knowledge. Then only they could
develop great modern scientific knowledge, technique and wealth.

Scientific and technological changes Europe set out on path of scientific and technological change. Reliance on observation
and rationality had led to many inventions in the field of science and technology. The invention of printing, being one of them
has helped in the dissemination of ideas from the later 15th century onwards.

Changes due to the development of technology In 1492 the discovery of the New World by Christopher Columbus
challenged the classical world-view. It changed the relationship between different parts of the world. It led to the rise of the
European Maritime economics, the colonization of the Americans and South and Southeast Asia.

Process of Westernization of Caste system

The process of Westernization of caste-system in India began with the frantic efforts of missionaries to convert as many
Indians as possible into Christianity and coming of East India Company in India first to trade and later on to increase its
political power in India. East India Company successfully established British Imperial Rule in India by 1958.

Karl Marx on the objectives of British Rulers in India Karl Marx had rightly remarked that while laying down the foundation of
Modern democratic government in India, British had a double mission in India, one destructive, the other regenerating; the
annihilation of the old Asiatic Society and laying the material foundation of Western Society in Asia. The regenerating
character was concerned with social transformation through modern education, English language as a medium of learning
and official language, modernization in economic sphere, political unification of the country and laying foundations for many
democratic institutions like Parliament, Indian Civil Services, Judicial system etc. etc. The reactionary and destructive
character was seen in the economic and social sphere.

Divide and rule policy of Imperial rulers The rulers adopted the path of divide and rule. The way British governed India,
served double purpose for them. They got the credit for amelioration and protection of primitive and inward-looking society of
Indians. At the same time, they kept the natives busy in their in-fights.

Development of modern means of transport The positive effect of the process of modernization and industrialization,
technological developments under British rule, especially in the areas of transport, means of communication and information
technology was that it had made closer interaction possible. Shortening the geographical distances had brought people living
in distant areas together.

Negative influence on society

The modern means of transport and communications brought to an end the local character and inter-dependence of various
caste groups. Small local castes living in distant places grew in size. Caste organizations and pressure groups entered into
region-wise caste alliances and emerged as a strong force for the pursuance of their sectional interests in the politics. It led to
polarization of different caste groups and watertight compartmentalization of Indian society.

Effect of Industrialization The process Industrialization began under British rule to build a modern India. While Britain, along
with other European nations, was producing high technology, high productivity, high wage and high profit commodities, India
remained to produce low technology, low productivity, low wage and low profit items. It left India economically far behind the
advanced
One

nations.
that

During

British

rule,

revolutionized

India

missed

out

agriculture

first

few

phases

of

and

Industrial

textile

revolution

production.

Second one occurring in the first half of the 19th century, which was based on capital goods industry. And
The third during the last quarter of the 19th century, when science was fused with technology.

Discredited traditional occupations Industrialization and emergence of white-collared jobs based on formal education tended
to make many traditional occupations obsolete, as they were considered less paying, more hazardous or time consuming.
Industrialization had eroded the authority of caste and kinship in matters of occupation. New occupations that emerged gave
choice of occupation, but accessibility to them depended on modern education, knowledge of English language and loyalty to
British.

Adverse effect of traditional occupations becoming obsolete Due to the apathy of rulers towards indigenous skills,
knowledge and occupations, many traditional occupations became obsolete and led to the decay of village industries. It
pushed millions backward in a very subtle manner and loosened the sanctity of caste rules and caste consciousness in
matters of occupation. It discouraged local genius, cottage industries and fine arts. Many castes of rural artisans, craftsman
and traditional occupations abandoned their traditional work. They had no option but either to migrate to cities as industrial
labor or become agriculture labor.

Changed work-culture It scattered the efforts, sense of direction and manufacturing skills of millions of artisans, craftsman,
weavers etc. There had been casualty of workers first, afterwards their work style, commitment, motivation and culture. They
lost their creativity, sense of achievement and pride. Work culture has changed tremendously since then. More, a person
withdrew from physical labor, more civilized, honored and qualified he was regarded by modern society. It resulted in
discrediting many traditional occupations and in destruction of Indian handicrafts and cottage industry.

Unemployment increased Very few of them could join modern occupations. Majority of people could neither enter into
modern sector, nor could stick to their traditional occupations considering the menial work derogatory. In the near absence of
industrial, commercial or social service activity, most of them had no option, but either to join band of agricultural labors,
industrial workers and marginal labor for their survival or increase number of unemployed or under employed.

Policies which divided the people and prolonged British rule

After consolidating their power, British rulers used social, demographic, linguistics, religious and cultural diversities of India to
enflame anti-national, anti-secular/communal and castiest feelings of the people. To keep their power intact, they played off
one part against other, caste against castes, Hindus against Muslims and province against provinces.

The Imperial rulers created split in 3 stages, first they appeased Hindus, then Muslims and at last backward castes. They
continued their divide and rule policy till end and kept Indians busy with their internal problems.

Start of cut throat competition After consolidating their position in India, the Imperial rulers devised a unique method of
distribution of power, to keep balance of power and prolong their rule in India. Cut-throat competition for scarce positions of
power and prestige under British Raj was the starting point for the entry of caste into politics. Later on it led to uncontrolled
feelings of communalism and casteism.

Regenerative and degenerating policies and their effects on Indian society National leaders, Reformers and a section of
intelligentsia were intelligent enough to understand the positive effects of policies as well as to feel the damage, British racial
discrimination and their repressive policies were doing. There were following regenerative as well as degenerating policies
started by British rulers in India

Modern education In 1834, Lord Macauley laid successfully the foundation of modern education in India. It was based on
colonized British Grammar School type education.

Regenerating effects of modern education Introduction of modern education was welcomed by all, missionaries as well as
Humanitarians, intellectuals and nationalist leaders. The atmosphere was completely ready. National leaders and reformists
considered modern education the key to the treasures of scientific and democratic thought of the modern West. Spread of
the Principles of Democracy across the nation led the people to resist imperialism and tyranny of British rule. The elite and
intellectual sections of society hoped that modern education would give the people the key to open the treasures of scientific
discoveries. Through Western literature and philosophy people would understand the democratic, liberal and humanitarian
thoughts of the modern West.

It was hoped that modern education would make people aware of the real issues hampering the progress of Indian society,
remedy the social, political and economic ills of the country and improve the life of common men by enabling them to
conquer ignorance, hunger, poverty and disease. As hoped modern education, eighteenth century onwards, led to social
awakening, gave impetus to social progress and brought many reforms. It had influenced substantially the working style and
thinking of the people. National leaders welcomed rationality and good features of Modern English education. Some of the
positive effects of modern education on Indian society were as follows

Opened up the doors of the knowledge Modern education opened up the doors of the knowledge flourished in Europe after
Renaissance

movement

of

Middle

Ages.

It

had

widened

the

mental

horizons

of

Indian

intelligentsia.

Education for all During second half of the nineteenth century, British government in India opened the doors of education
to all the sections of Indian society, irrespective of caste or creed. Still, very few amongst the general public could avail the
advantages

of

formal

modern

education.

Education

remained

confined

within

small

section

of

society.

Highlighted evil practices Modern education had highlighted the evil practices and weaknesses developed into the system
like rigidity and harshness of many social customs and practices prevalent at that time for the weaker sections of the society
i.e. un-touch-ability and inhuman treatment to women, Sati, Polygamy, child marriage etc. etc. prevalent at that time.
Attracted attention of social reformers Modern education had attracted the attention of intellectuals and social reformers
towards real issues evils caused by ignorance, irrationality of mumbo-jumbo of rituals and superstitions created by some
selfish people to entangle the ignorant and poor masses. They suggested remedies for social, political and economic ills of
the country. They took upon themselves the responsibility to build a modern, open, plural, culturally rich, prosperous and
powerful India out of a fragmented, poverty stricken, superstitious, weak, indifferent, backward and inward looking society.
Realization of the worth of liberty and freedom It equipped national leaders with intellectuals tools with which they fought
the oppressive British Raj. Indians realized the worth of liberty and freedom. They got exposure to the philosophies of thinkers
like Locke, Mill, Roussseau, Voltaire, Spencer and Burke etc. They understood the reasons and impact of English, French,
American revolutions.

Degenerating effect of modern education

Many Indian leaders, intellectuals and reformists could feel the harmful effects of modern education on people. British rulers
intended to educate Indians in such a way that they should through western education get Anglicized in terms of both

cultural and intellectual attainments. The traditional Indian system of education had withered away for the lack of official
support. Its gradual disappearance had disassociated Indian people from their culture, classical roots, knowledge and
traditional way of living. Along with it faded Indian values, philosophies and traditions. Some of the adverse effects of modern
education system on Indian society were as following

Brainwashing through education In educational institutions under British government or Missionary schools, educated
them, preached people and instilled in the minds so much complex about the primitiveness of Indian society, its social
structure

and

its

values

and

systems

that

they

started

feeling

their

social

practices

as

indefensible.

Many Educated Indians regarded native practices as discriminatory, iniquitous, exploitative, oppressive barbarous,
uncivilized and highly stratified. Indian social-structure, based on caste system, was held responsible for all evil social
practices, feudalistic attitude, backward thinking, belief in dogmas and superstitions sustained by a unique set of rituals, and
whimsical

concept

of

purity

and

pollution.

A good recipe to convert individuals into christianity Missionaries considered modern education a good recipe to brainwash
Indians and to attract Indians towards Christianity. Modern education system had made their job easy. Missionaries schools
were opened allover India. Government gave them liberal grants for providing free education to lower strata of Indian society
and

providing

for

them

permanent

jobs.

Modern

education

prepared

ground

for

mass

conversions.

Disassociated Indian people from classical roots Modern education has also disassociated many Indian people from their
traditional way of learning, classical roots and knowledge. With it faded Indian values, philosophies, systems and traditions. It
made

them

to

loose

their

faith

in

social

values

and

systems.

Rise to unhealthy competition Modernization of the pattern of education and occupations (making knowledge of English as
basic qualification for white collared jobs especially in government) increased role of formal education and training for
employment. Limited opportunities in modern education and government jobs became the bone of contention between
different sections of the society. Tough competition between different sections of society to get hold on modern occupations,
led

to

inter-caste

rivalries,

social

tensions

and

group

conflicts

among

Indians.

Start of Brahmin vs Non-Brahmin movement The monopoly of Brahmins in these areas cautioned the British and generated
anger amongst the non-Brahmin communities and Muslims. In the Southern states, there emerged two rival groups
Brahmins and Non-Brahmins and in the North Hindu and Muslims.

Census operations

Regenerative effect of Census operations After consolidating its position, the British Government in India made an effort to
know about the people, whom they want to rule and chalk out strategies for the colonial governance. British anthropologists
worked very hard to collect data and to catalogue various castes and tribes. For the first time, the Census operations drew
the attention of the rulers, intelligentsia and public to the diversity of Indian society and multiplicity of castes and sub-castes
throughout India.

Administrative convenience, main concern of rulers British rulers redefined the structure of Indian society through Census
operations according to their administrative convenience.

Degenerative effect of Census

So far, Caste was a flexible and fluid unit of Indian society. Census operations destroyed its flexibility and gave rigidity to
social stratification and hierarchical ranking.

The older four Varnas, embracing numerous castes and sub-castes within its fold were divided into five new unbridgeable
compartments Backward caste, forward caste (caste Hindus), untouchables or scheduled caste, scheduled tribes and
minority. Through legal process, each one got a new separate and distinct identity. It led to an all-round hardening of
social-system and to frantic effort by each group for one-up position in the echelons of power.

Codification of all castes The process of Census enumeration was far from neutral. The British retained the distinctions
between different sub-castes, relevant to them for organizing labor and homogenized all those sub-castes, for which they
had no use, therefore, no interest. Middleton, a Census Superintendent remarked, We pigeonholed everyone by caste
and community. We deplore its effect on social and economic problems. But we are largely responsible for the system
Our land records and official documents have added iron-bonds to the old rigidity of caste. The governments act for
labels and pigeon-holes had led to a crystallization of the caste system, which, except amongst the aristocratic caste, was
really very fluid under indigenous rule.

Instigated caste rivalries The knowledge of such diversity of Indian society and multiplicity of castes and sub-castes
helped the rulers to instigate caste consciousness, caste animosities and make caste a tool in political, religious and
cultural battles that Hindus fought amongst themselves from now onwards without any sign of relief even as of today.

Introduction of Electoral politics

The introduction of electoral politics, in the beginning of the 20th century gave rise to leading to inter and intra caste rivalry
and made politicians to understand the Power in numbers. It gave political leverage to the non-Brahmin castes on account
of their numerical strength. Since then, their influence in politics has been growing continuously.

Importance to the idea, Power in numbers The introduction of electoral politics, in the beginning of the 20th century gave
rise to Power in numbers. Government of India Act of 1909 also known as Minto Morley Reforms granted separate Muslim
Electorate.

Divided Indian population into uncompromising groups on caste and communal lines It brought the idea of communal
electorate to the forefront in the minds of all the castes and communities and led to divide Hindu population also into two
uncompromising groups, viz. `We Non-Brahmins vs. `They Brahmins and caste Hindus. It gave political leverage to the nonBrahmin castes on account of their numerical strength.

Suggestion to exclude Untouchables from Hindu-fold The suggestion of Census Commissioner to exclude untouchables from
Hindu fold in the coming 1911 census immediately increased the importance of untouchables in political circle, in social
circle, and in their own eyes too. Around 1909, the non-Brahmin Community, which resented the Brahmins hold in modern
occupations, was divided into two Backwards and untouchables. For the first time, the lowest layer of Hindu Community was
conceptualized under the name of untouchabes in the political circles.

Communal Award, Poona pact of 1932 Communal Award of 1932 created a permanent split in Hindu Society and
perpetuated casteism further. Dr. Rajendra Prasad said, the principle of dividing population into communal groups, which had

been adopted in the Minto Morley reforms had been considerably extended, even beyond what had been done by Montagu
Chelmsford Reforms The electorate in 1919 was broken up into 10 parts, now it is fragmented into seventeen unequal
bits Hindu community was further weakened by giving separate representation to Scheduled castes. Division on the basis
of religion, occupation and service were made. Every possible cross division was introduced by the British. The Communal
Award strengthened the roots of casteism in politics.

Instilled venom against caste system and Hinduism The leaders of the downtrodden like Mahatma Phule, Ambedkar
or Gopal Ganesh taught the lower castes to get united. They instilled deeply in the minds of millions of unlettered Hindus,
venom against caste-system and the Brahmin community. Caste system, to them, was responsible for treating them as lesser
human beings; engaging them in forced labour, unsavory jobs imposing many restrictions on them; preventing them from
joining the mainstream of the society; and the subjugation of lower castes with the help of religion. They vehemently
criticized its hierarchical structure, and regarded untouchability as an inevitable concomitant of caste system. Dr. Ambedkar
made it abundantly clear that, it was through political power that untouchables were to find their solution, not through
acceptance by Hindus. Eradication of caste system became the major plank of backward castes and untouchable castes.

Start of the practice of giving Preferences (Reservation Policy)

British rulers devised a novel method to distribute and balance power on preferential-basis. To restrict Brahmins entry in
Government jobs and make it available to non-Brahmins communities, British rulers started practice of Preferences by
giving non-Brahmins financial assistance and preferences in education and Government employment at local and provincial
level. It served double purpose for them getting credit for amelioration and protection of downtrodden and keeping natives
busy in their in-fights. Later on, it gave birth to the Policy of Reservations.

Brahmin-Non-Brahmin movement in South Practice of giving non-Brahmins financial assistance and preferences in
education and Government employment at local and provincial level by the government was strongly established in the South
at provincial level. The patronage of British rulers to non-Brahmin castes had led to the emergence of powerful pressure
groups and increased their demand for preferential treatment in education, jobs and elections. It ultimately gave birth to the
quota system. 1905 to 1940 was the period, when idea of Reservation/positive discrimination was conceived, experimented
and established firmly. It opened up various channels of confrontation.

Sanskritization of Caste system

Modern education, Western literature and philosophy widened the mental horizons of visionary national leaders and
reformers. They welcomed rationality and other good features of and made good use of liberal, and humanitarian
ideas/thoughts of Modern Western World. But at the same time destructive nature of new policies alarmed national leaders.
National leaders got alarmed at the erosion of Indian Culture and divisible policies of the rulers. They realized the impact of
British racial discrimination and their repressive policies on the Indian people. The destructive character of British imperialism
lit the fire and gave birth to national movement. Economic loot, political subjugation, assertion of lordly superiority over the

subject on the ground of race, assumption of a haughty exclusiveness, persistent insulting and supercilious behavior towards
all Indians, exclusion of Indians from all places of authority and responsibility and denial of their capacity for self-governance
united Indians against British rule.

National leaders and reformers tried to revive their own rich ancient culture and prevent the masses from being swayed away
by the glamour and materialism of alien culture. Social Reformers advised people to remain firmly rooted to the Indian
Culture.

Reformers and intellectuals fought for Reformation Reformers observed that ignorance, superstitions or irrationality
of people was hampering the progress of Indian society. Reformers organized meetings to make people aware of the social
evils/real issues. They advised people to stop treating low caste Hindus inhumanly. They advocated for giving women their
rightful place in society. It was considered it vital because woman as a mother is the best teacher. Also women needed to be
protected from evil social practices like Sati, Polygamy, child marriage, infanticide, feticide etc.

The intellectual ferment was strongest in West Bengal, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu. In 1928, Raja Ram Mohan Roy founded
Brahma Samaj in Bengal. He inspired the people of Bengal, UP, Punjab, Madras and other provinces, to form similar
organizations and interpret religion rationally. Prarthana Samaj in Maharashtra (1867), Arya Samaj in Northern India, Rama
Krishna Mission, Theosophical Society of India (1879), Dev Samaj in Lahore and Servants of India Society took up the job to
awaken the masses. They talked about the greatness of Hindu Vedic culture and about Vedas as the source of all knowledge
and truth. Swami Vivekanand founded the Rama Krishna Mission tried to reveal to the world Indian Philosophy and culture.
Some reform institutes like Vivekanands or Rama Krishna Mission or Theosophical Society of India tried to familiarize the
Western World, too, to the charm and graciousness of Indian Culture.

Reform movement of early 20th century Swami Vivekanand and many others gave a call to Return to Vedas. He said,
Each nation like each individual has a theme in this life, which is its center, the principle note, around which every other note
comes to form the harmony. If any nation attempts to throw off its national vitality the direction which has become its own
through the transmission of centuries the nation dies.

Reformists and their organizations had purely social thrust. They aimed at establishing a social order based on Vedic
teachings and practices. They criticized the mumbo-jumbo of rituals and superstitions created by some selfish people to
entangle the ignorant and poor masses. They laid emphasis on interpreting Vedas in a rational and scientific way.

They

explained

Knowledge

alone

that

is

the

key

to

truth.

Vedas has been conceived through intellectual contemplation and empirical observation and Upnishads (speculative
interpretation
Their

of
rationality

Vedas

or
is

Mythology)
in

are

conformity

the
with

creation
the

of

human
laws

imagination..
of

nature.

No one belongs to any social group because of birth. It is inter-changeable and depends on ones thoughts and deeds.

True

religion

does

not

discriminate

mankind

in

terms

of

race,

color,

nationality,

caste

or

gender.

The most noble task of every individual is to work for the enlightenment and uplift the weaker persons.
The markings of Indian culture are simplicity and solidity.

They advised people not to be swayed away by Western culture. First they should know their own heritage and try to revive
what is good in it. They made sincere efforts to make religion as bedrock of the value-system. Religion in its pure sense does
not lead to discrimination. It does not teach people to hate or divide mankind. These were the noble ideas that had influenced
greatly the young minds of educated middle class.

Modernization of caste system

By independence, we have lost the excuse of blaming the British for anything going wrong (BR Ambedkar, quoted from TOI,
P.20, Jan 26, 2010)

Post Independent India From 15th of August 1947 onwards, Independent India is committed to democratic, secular and
egalitarian principles as enshrined in the Constitution of India. Preamble of the Indian Constitution promises to secure to all its
citizens: JUSTICE, social, economic and political; LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship; EQUALITY of status
and of opportunity; and to promote among them all FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and
integrity of the Nation. Article 15 of the Constitution prohibits any kind of discrimination on grounds of caste, race, religion,
gender or place of birth; Article 16 gives equality of opportunity in matter of public employment, Article 338 creates National
commission for Scheduled Castes to safeguard their interests etc.

Concern of Government for the protection of underprivileged-castes A number of amendments in the Constitution and
legislation have been passed to remove the disabilities of backward people. Untouchability has been declared a crime.
Bonded labor is abolished by law. Civil Rights Act, 1955, aims to eliminate injustice against weaker sections. Amendment to
Prevention of Atrocities Act (SCT) 1989 provides for stern punishments for offenses committed against SCT by Upper Castes.
Special Courts, under SCT Act, have been established for punishing officials, if found guilty. Still, there is no respite from
discriminatory practices. Why? Is caste system responsible for it or problems lie somewhere else?

Caste more liberal in social sphere In modern India, spread of literacy and growing awareness among masses has
already brought to an end slowly but steadily many of the discriminatory practices and deformities developed in Caste
system, while living under alien rule. It has become more liberal and less restrictive in social life of the people. Castes no
longer enjoy legal or religious sanctions.

Castes Less restrictive Expulsion from castes means little, while earlier it meant complete social ostracism. Old style of
authority and power exercised by caste-elders has already diminished except for a few rural areas especially in Haryana and
Rajasthan. Restrictions or interactions between different castes arising due to considerations for purity and pollution are
fading away from public life even from rural areas. Traditional barriers on marriage, hereditary occupations and commonality
are loosing its importance.

Poor governance In modern India, millions of submerged people suffer from discrimination and exploitation, it is not the
caste-system, but the bad politics and poor governance, which is responsible. Modern India is sharply divided into two
haves and have-nots. The most important factors responsible for disparities are vote-bank politics, irrational and corrupt
ways of pursuing the paternal policies and governments failure to address real issues at central and State levels.

Caste, the most powerful tool for creation of vote-banks Caste has become a bye-word for Indian politicians. For the
present-day political leaders caste is the easiest and most powerful tool to sway public opinion emotionally and to create a
larger vote bank for them. It may be called ossification of caste-system fallen into the hands of power brokers and vote
guzzlers.

Emergence of political identities For political and governance purposes, modern Indian society has been stratified in most
insensitive manner. For grabbing the political power, the modern Indian society has been divided into the following
unbridgeable groups Upper castes, Scheduled Castes, Scheduled tribes, Other Backward Class and Minorities. Sectional
interests are being promoted on caste or communal basis shamelessly.

Narrow loyalties of caste and religion Narrow loyalties of caste and religion are encouraged in political arena. It has
generated sub-cultures like caste-ism, favoritism, and lure for easy money, nepotism, parochialism, communalism,
regionalism etc. Bigoted sentiments and irresponsible comments are spreading in-discipline in the society. The rising
aspirations and demands of people, with the spread of education and awareness, has created added problem for the
government.

Under-currents of caste politics Under-currents of caste politics have made the government incapable to solve the burning
national issues. It has made to maintain law and order difficult. Inter-caste and intra-caste, inter-community and intracommunity and inter-tribal and intra-tribal conflicts are increasing day by day in order to get more space in the corridors of
power.

Real issues pushed into the background Real issues like mass-scale illiteracy, poverty, unemployment, inflation,
deteriorated law and order situation, increasing violence or general coarsening of moral fiber of the Indian society etc. are
pushed into the background. the voice of upright and honest people belonging to middle class is being continuously throttled
mercilessly. They are being punished for following sincerely family-planning norms, which has decreased their numbers. In
present day vote-bank politics based on game of numbers, it is very easy now for the pursuers of political power to sideline
them.

The voice of upright and honest citizens of India irrespective of caste or community is being continuously throttled
mercilessly. In present day vote-bank politics based on game of numbers, it is very easy now for the pursuers of political
power to sideline them.

In modern India, the powerful and assertive pressure groups already emerged in so-called backward and Dalit castes have
grouped together and increased their numerical strength. They have become more tenacious about their caste-identity than
the higher.

Winding up

Caste system has travelled a very long distance since then. Many changes have taken place in the system especially during
centuries of Muslim and British rule in the country. As time passed on, vested interests in each era had distorted or
interpreted the original concepts in the manner, which suited to their purpose. Many deformities and rigidities had developed
into system to preserve its indigenous identity and culture.

In political circles, caste is blamed for all the agonies of submerged sections of Indian society it could vary from illiteracy to
creating disparities of power, wealth and culture, escalation of violence, crimes and corruption leading the nation towards
disintegration and discrimination and exploitation of weaker, unprivileged sections of society, forcing destitution on vast
number of people. But the fault lies somewhere else.

Still Caste-system presents one of the oldest social institution and a continuous and uninterrupted living culture still existing
in the whole world. The strength of caste system has been proved by the following facts:

Despite centuries of foreign rule over 75% of Indian population remains Hindu and have strong feelings for caste-system.

Had caste system become obsolete, it would have given place to other system.

Caste system has influenced all other communities living in India.

Caste has become the most powerful tool in the hands of political parties for garnering votes and creation of vote-banks.

Values of caste system have acted as a shield. During medieval and initial period of modern India, caste system has been a
major force for failure of Islam, Christianity and other religions to make headway during the Muslims or British rule and even
after the mass conversions of Hindus into Islam and Christianity. Even in 21st centurys atmosphere of chaos, as C.
Rajgopalachari has pointed out If there is honesty in India today, any hospitality, any charity- any aversion to evil, any love
to be good, it is due to whatever remains of the old faith and the old culture.

Allover the world, many systems, institutions, structures, principles, and cultures have been developed from time to time,
which created a wave sweeping the entire world with it for some time. But soon, they became obsolete and were replaced by
anti-waves which replaced them and wiped off the previous influence. Caste system, on which Indian social structure is
based, has proved to be an exception. Its character is different in the context of village, locality, region or religion. Its
absorptive nature has internalized alien influences.

Change one must. Past should not be idolized. Any system, which in light of modern times appears to be ineffective or
inefficient should be replaced by a better one. But it will be suicidal to sacrifice something to an increasing passion for
change. Changes must be based on constant interpretation of past experiences and opinions.

April 8, 2016 Posted by latasinha | Social and political values and systems | Changes in the nature and role of
Caste | Leave a comment

Caste as a system, Casteism and Casteless society


In present-day understanding of caste system, the element of caste is predominant and the element of system is
suppressed considerably.

Introduction

Very Sensitive issue Caste- system has been both defended and opposed over the course of Indian history and up-to the
present day. In the past or at present, quite often Caste-system has been criticized vehemently by politicians, intellectuals,
activists or reformers from other faiths. There has always been a section of society, which has desired either to make drastic
changes in the Indian social structure or completely wipe it out from Indian scene and create a casteless society.

Caste system as problematic and complicated?

Critics of caste system regard practices of caste system as problematic and complicated. It has become a fashion in certain
quarters to criticize caste system. Caste has become a derogatory word in present political scenario. Indian society is being
portrayed as a caste-ridden society and caste for all the miseries of submerged sections of society. It could vary from
illiteracy to creating disparities of power, wealth and culture, escalation of violence, crimes and corruption leading the nation
towards disintegration, discrimination and exploitation of weaker, unprivileged sections of society to forcing destitution on
vast number of people.

Issue

Demand for castless society Therefore, Opponents of caste system wish to substitute this caste-ridden Indian society
with a casteless society. Is it possible? If yes, then how? And if no then why? Arguments in favour and against caste system
lead to some basic queries like what is caste system? Has it become obsolete and useless in modern context? How, when and
why did it come into existence and develop in its present form? What have been the factors, which contributed to its
development? What are the strengths and weaknesses of caste system? How much influence does it still exercise on modern
Indian society? Is it really responsible for discriminating and exploiting weaker, unprivileged sections of society and forcing
destitution on vast number of people? Is there a need to replace caste system with a casteless society? Is it possible to create
a casteless society in India?

Before forming any opinion or reaching to any conclusion, it would be better to understand the difference between castesystem and caste-ism and caste-less society on the basis of ground realities that exist today.

Venom against caste-system started only in recent past There was not so much heart-burning because of caste
earlier. Venom against caste in some quarters does not lie in distant past, but only about 150 years back. It got escalated
during British Imperial rule in India. The roots of present socio-political and economic ills and deprivation of masses on large
scale lie not so much in caste system as mainly on the issues like poverty, illiteracy, population-explosion, or mass unemployment etc.

Has caste system become obsolete?

Even today, caste-system has not become obsolete despite all the weaknesses developed into the system and all the attacks
on it from time to time. It has survived the vicissitudes of time and saved itself so far by erosion from within or assault from
outside. Otherwise, it would have given place to other systems. It still presents one of the oldest social institution and a
continuous and uninterrupted living culture still existing in the whole world.

Allover the world, many systems, institutions, structures, principles, and cultures have been developed from time to time,
which created a wave sweeping the entire world with it for some time. But soon, they became obsolete and were replaced by
anti-waves which replaced them and wiped off the previous influence. But caste system, on which Indian social structure is
based, has proved to be an exception. After each assault, it re-emerged with greater force.

Is creation of a casteless society possible?

Substituting caste-ridden Indian society with a caste-less society is no solution for empowering weaker sections of society. So
far the supporters of caste-less society have not been able to suggest a better alternative scheme. So far, they have not
thought of new support systems and norms needed to substitute caste-system.

Common men, too, are not willing to experiment new systems. They are reluctant to replace or abandon caste-system an
institution of proven value on trial and error basis. They are not sure about the effectiveness of proposed new systems to be
created by the proponents of caste-less society. Therefore, elimination of caste still remains a distant dream.

Majority wishes for rational reforms in the already existing system People understandably wish to make
improvements in the tried and tested old system by removing deformities developed into it with time. A change is good for
the growth of a society. But changes must be based on constant interpretation of past experiences and opinions, present
requirements and existing ground realities of the place and future prospects.

Difference between caste as a system and caste-ism

In the modern political understanding of caste system, the element of caste is predominant and the element of system is
less. There is a difference between caste-system and caste-ism.

Caste as system Caste is an organised social institution. This term is specifically used to refer the social structure of
Hindu India. Broadly speaking, the fourfold division of society has been sanctioned in ancient scriptures and said to
structure all social relations.

Caste-ism Entry of caste in politics, government basing it uplift of submerged sections of society on caste, rigid attitude
in observance of caste practices without having regard for reason or rhyme or using it for vested interests of powerful
lobbies -be it Brhmins, musclemen, politician to garner vote-banks lead to casteism. It has generated many abnormalities
and distortions in the system. Caste is a social institution. Bringing it into politics and using it for political gains is the
biggest disservice one can do to the nation done by the leaders of various political parties in recent past.

Caste as a tool to further their following for the Critics of caste-system It is an irony that those very people, who
criticize caste-system vehemently, them-selves cling to their caste identity very strongly. Entry of caste into politics led to
unchecked growth of caste-ism. For politicians, it is a recipe for creating vote-banks. For others it is the base to enjoy special
privileges/benefits of affirmative action programs initiated and implemented by the Government of India. Elite section
amongst lower castes protects its turf under the banner of backward castes. The interest of all lies in keeping the majority of
people ignorant, insecure and out of mainstream. And here lies the crux of present days caste-ist politics.

Raising expectations of agitated youth Rising expectations of people, political ambitions and economic interests have
aroused the militancy among the discontented youths of different castes and communities all over the nation, which has
divided the Indians into innumerable unbridgeable groups. Politicization of caste needs to be arrested at its earliest.

Stratification of a society, a natural phenomenon

Individuals differ from each other in natural endowments, intelligence, aptitudes, attitudes, skills, personal needs and other
innate characteristics. Such differences are apt to give rise to the formations of different social groups and systems. It is quite
natural that in every society, anywhere in the world emerge different groups out of functional necessity. Each society devises
its own principles for stratification, for coordinated functioning of all parts together, for keeping its whole system fit and
functional as well as for taking care of the interests of its people as a whole. Its basis may differ from place to place. It may be
on basis of class, caste, religion, region, language or occupation.

Class a basis in Western Societies

Individualistic by nature Usually, class stratification begins with individuals. Division of society along Class lines forms
different groups on the basis their economic and cultural level. What determines class varies from one society to another.
Usually possession of wealth determines hierarchical distinctions between individuals or groups within a community .
Distinction between two groups depends on their being powerful and powerless. Social classes with more power usually
subordinate classes with less power, which Power was closely linked to ability to assert ones status through physical
strength.

Ranking Different variables are also adopted to decide status of different groups within a society, like occupation, education
and qualifications, income, wealth, ownership of land, property etc. Besides, there are other factors as well considered as
important as ones wealth in determining class status, at least at higher levels, like costume and grooming, manners and
cultural refinement (tastes and sensitivities of different groups). Political standing vis--vis church/temples/ mosques,

government, and/or social clubs, as well as use of honorary titles, reputation of honor or disgrace, language, race determines
degrees of influence on class standing.

Western societies stratified on basis of class Western societies are stratified on basis of class. Its focus is on individual.
Individuals of same economic and cultural level form one social group/class. Social status of a person depends on material
success and control over power/authority. Wealthy class usually rules over poor classes in such societies. Broadly, a society is
usually
Upper

divided
class

includes

those

into

persons

with

great

influence,

wealth

and

prestige.

Lower class/Working class includes poor, alienated and marginalized members of society. This class constitutes majority of
people

in

any

nation.

Middle Class In between comes Middle Class.

Caste as basis India

Inclusive by nature In India, stratification begins with a social group, called caste. Caste-system is different from class on
some points. It is not concerned with persons individually, but includes all persons belonging to a social group.

Separates wealth from status Caste-system separates wealth from status, power from authority and knowledge from
temptations of worldly comforts. All individuals within a caste group irrespective of ones financial position are equal
having similar rank, rights and duties. Its constituent members are supposed to be independent, yet their roles
complementary.

Caste as a system

Caste system is one of the oldest social institutions in the world. Caste-system gives Indian society a distinguished identity
and a solid social structure with a system of thought, way of life, and sense of direction.

Covers entire social fabric of India Caste system covers almost the entire social fabric of India. Not only in the past, but at
present also, caste system commands respect and attention of a common man in India as a natural, valid and inevitable
institution of society. It is popular not only amongst Hindus, but amongst other sects as well living in India, whether foreign or
indigenous. Muslims or Christians, Sikhs or Buddhist could not remain immune from its caste system for long. They also have
been influenced and absorbed many of the systems and practices of caste-system.

A natural social institution An individual is a natural member of a family, which is the unit of an extended family, extended
family of Kula (clan), Kula of a tribe (Vish) and a tribe of a Jana or Jati (Caste). Caste is second only to the family and is a
natural, valid, useful and inevitable unit of Indian society. Family, extended family, Kula, and Caste are fundamental social
institutions. Caste is nothing but a large extended family bonded by same language, customs, thinking and way of living and
occupation. Rules of endogamy, ritual purity, interdependence, specialization and hierarchical order of social units were its
important traits.

Closer relations A persons relations with members of his caste are closer than with those, belonging to other castes. Caste
values, beliefs, prejudices, injunctions as well as distortions of reality are the indivisible part of a persons psyche and
conscience. Internalized caste norms define an individual role in the society. It makes one feel good and loved, when he lives
up to these norms, and anxious and guilty, when he transgresses them. In a way, caste is still second only to the family in
widening a persons social radius and in getting importance in his/her private and occupational life.

Indian culture and caste inseparable Indian culture and caste are inseparably related each other by traditional customs. It is
virtually impossible to think of one without another. Being a very old and indigenous system, conceptualized, developed and
practiced exclusively in India, it is difficult for Westerners and non-Indians to understand what caste system is and what
caste means to a common man.

Origin of Varna/Caste system The origin of Caste-system can not be found in one single authoritative text, nor can it be
attributed to one single founder. It evolved in a natural way over thousands of years. The experiences and deep thinking of
many learned sages and intellectuals belonging to different communities at different points of time have contributed to
evolve this system. It is a very old and indigenous system, conceptualized, developed and practiced exclusively in India.

Natural response As Basham has pointed out, Caste system may well be called a natural response of many small and
primitive groups of people, who were forced to come to terms, with a more advanced economic and social system. It provided
a mechanism, by which numerous discrete tribes, all sorts of groups and associations arising for political, sectarian or other
reasons could be internalized and preserved within the whole.

Development of thousands of years Caste is the development of thousands of years of the association of many racial and
other groups in a single cultural system. The arrival of Aryans hereditary kinship and tribal groups in India in waves, from
different parts of the world and their mixing up with the indigenous people (popularly known as Hindus) gave birth Varnasystem of Vedic culture.

Pastoral tribal society -The beginning of the system can be traced from the times of pastoral tribal society, when people
started forming small groups mostly living in hilly areas, not far from rivers. Tribal communities were nomadic or semi
nomadic and egalitarian. They depended on nature for its subsistence.

Settled agricultural society Gradually pastoral tribal society transformed into a settled agricultural society, confining its
activities and life within a small area or territory. Clans and tribes settled permanently in different parts of the country. As
reflected in Rigveda, during early stages of Vedic Age people ceased to be a wandering people, started a settled life.

Entry of Aryans Aryans arrived in India in waves at different points of time. Aryans, after entering into India first
conquered its original inhabitants of Northern part of India, colonized and established kingdoms, then Deccan and then
south. During the period, it was possible to have high ranks, but not high social classes. Initially a simple class division
was seen in the social structure, i.e. nobility and the ordinary tribesmen.

Development of structures and systems Socio-political structures and systems were evolved leisurely over about 2000
years (roughly between 2000 BC to about 600 BC) and kept on coping with the changes slowly, time had brought in. In the
beginning people hardly possessed more than what was needed for their subsistence/survival. The practice of cultivation,
rise of crafts and iron tools transformed the egalitarian society into fully agricultural and stratified society sometime
during 6th century BC.

A simple class division Initially, there was a simple class division in the social structure, i.e. nobility and the ordinary
tribesmen. Later on, possession of land, slaves and hired laborers started. People started producing and possessing more
than they needed. The kings collected their surplus yields. The power of kings gradually increased. For regular collection,
administrative and religious methods were devised.

The units of social-political organizations The units of social-political organizations were family, clan, village, tribe and
Jana. Family was the unit of society headed by father. Three or four generations lived together, and probably owned
property in common. A number of families living in one locality formed grama (village). A number of such fighting units
dwelling in a particular region constituted constituted a vis (canton). Jana (a group of tribes) consisted of a number of such
cantons, with a king as their ruler.

Principles of Varna, Dharma and Karma, a base for stratification of society Indian social structure is based on
the principles of Varna, Dharma and Karma. Varna system has engineered a system for social stratification placing
people into different groups according to aptitudes, occupation, and location. Principle of Dharma taught Indians to place
ones duties above rights and principle of Karma imbibed in them tolerance and belief in concepts like live and let others live
as well as Vasudhev Kutumbkam (meaning whole world is a family). The multi-centricity of present society has given it a
synergetic character, a pluralistic tradition and an absorptive nature of internalizing alien influences.

Principle of Varna (meaning color) Principle of Varna, one of the guiding principle of Vedic society has divided the society
into various groups. The principle of Varna was based on the assumption, that all persons were not identical and differed from
one another on the grounds of natural endowments and aptitudes. Therefore, it gave rise to the fourfold division of society
and assigned duties according to natural instincts and qualities of its people

Brahman Meaning all pervading and consciousness The people, who could keep themselves away from ignorance,
illusions and lust, and have a flair for learning were put in this category of Brahmans. They possessed intellectual and
spiritual qualities. They were debarred from indulging in the pleasures of material world. They were assigned the duties
like learning, pursuit of knowledge and setting norms for common man, so that whole society could benefit from their
knowledge.

Kshatriya People having warrior skills and men of action were put in this group. Their duty was to protect the people
from internal disorders and external aggressions.

Vaishyas People having business acumen were included in this category. They were engaged in production, business,
trade and commerce.

Shudras People, who needed guidance and support for doing a work, were advised to do menial jobs and work under the
guidance of any of the above three Varnas. They were either the people unable to do the above three tasks or the
conquered ones. Mostly people belonging to this category were supposed to be incapable of taking independent decisions,
maintaining self-discipline and contributing to the society directly without any guidance.

Groups outside Four Varnas People, who fell outside Varna-system were anti-social elements, Adivasis living in faraway
places, which were not easily approachable and foreigners. They were exempted to subscribe to rules and values of the Varna
system. Groups of lower-ranks were advised to elevate their status by attempting to emulate the practices of higher castes.

Ranking of various groups Fair skinned Aryans, being the conquerors, kept themselves on the top. People, who were
conquered and admitted into the fold of Aryan society, were looked upon as the lowest of the four classes. Conquered Kols
and Dravid tribes formed the fourth class of Dasas or Shudras. However Aryan princes did not regard Dasa princes as inferior,
for they made alliances with them.

Dream of an Ideal society comes true The dream of an Ideal Society dreamt by Greek philosophers like Plato and
Aristotle of ancient times came true and was actually realized in real life through Varna system of India. According to Plato
there should be the following four groups according to aptitude, assigned jobs accordingly and did ranking in following order

Philosopher

Kings

(Intellectuals).

Army

men

Business

(Warriors).
Community.

Slaves People unable to do the above mentioned jobs or conquered people to do menial works.

In their ideal state, all people were supposed to belong to one group or the other, not on basis of birth, but on basis of their
capabilities and aptitudes.

Most scientific social system Many intellectuals and social reformers regard Varna system, in its purest form, as one of
the most scientific social systems ever evolved anywhere in the world. Don Martindale says, Hinduism was the ideological
and emotional buttress of caste. Caste was the system of social life, in which Hinduism was expressed. Caste and
Hinduism succeeded in doing in India, what no state, no conqueror and no economy was able to do the establishment of a
single unified system of society throughout the whole of India, a system of society, which was able to comprise a greater
range of local differences in a single system than any society has previously accomplished. Through caste system, India has
simultaneously accommodated itself to an almost endlessly varied system of semi-autonomous community and at the same
time bring considerable unity, harmony and condition of peace. It succeeded in wielding an enormously varied plurality of
semi-autonomous communities arising at many times and in many places and adopting themselves to many different
conditions into a single system of society(Don Martindale, India since 1947, p 39).

Varna-system giving way to Caste-System As the population increased and more and more indigenous and foreign
groups were joined/merged into the Hindu-fold, Vedic Varna system gave rise to caste system. Numerous castes and subcastes emerged within each Varna. Varnas were never more or less than four and always remained the same.

Ethnic roots of a caste in ritualistic mannerism and symbolic significance in Varna aspect Each caste found its place under a
Varna on the basis of their nature of work, its being ritually clean or unclean and amount of self-discipline, they exercised.
Castes had its ethnic roots as denoted by Jati and a ritualistic and symbolic significance in its Varna aspect. For over 2000
years, their order in precedence remained the same. As far as castes were concerned, they rose and fell in their social order,
some died out and new ones were formed from time to time.

Start of Caste-system The first faint trace of caste is to be found in the careful cataloguing of traders and professions in
later Vedic literature. Many traders were organized into guilds around 5th century AD, in which some authorities have seen
the origin of commercial castes. These can be seen as the castes in making. Even up to 7th century AD, people showed no
clear knowledge of the existence of castes. Huan Tsang, in the Seventh century was well aware of the existence of Varna, but
not of castes. Later on, instead of Varna, caste became a dominant factor, a natural unit of Hindu society, running through the
entire fabric of its social structure.

Created an atmosphere of co-existence and harmony It has given Indian society coherence, stability, continuity and led to
its all round growth. It has prepared generation after generation an atmosphere for co-existence of different castes and
communities despite numerous foreign invasions, centuries of foreign rule, migrations and assimilation of various groups

having diverse languages and practices into it. It has provided unity of culture, which binds together all people of Indian
peninsula from one end to the other, thus making unity in diversity a reality.

Strength of caste system

The strength of caste system mainly comes from its foundation pillars, which are based on principle of Varna (which later on
gave birth to caste system), accompanied by principles of Dharma, and Karma. Principle of Varna gave Indian Society a
stable, sustainable and a solid social structure with a system of thought, a way of life and sense of direction. These principles
together have ensured the continuity despite numerous foreign invasions, migrations and assimilation of various groups. The
strength of a caste depended on consensus and unanimity within every caste. Everyone was having some responsibilities
along with rights and one shared his experiences and feelings with other cast-fellows. Achievement of one was shared by all
within the team. Following are the reasons of the strength and survival for such a long time

Ingredients of a good organization Almost all the ingredients of a good organization are found in caste system. It
provides strong structure based on principles of Varna, Dharma and Karma, keeps its members comfortable and
satisfied, assigns duties to different sections of society according to their natural instincts and qualities and instills
amongst people feeling of interdependence and team-spirit etc. Caste-system believes in lofty principles like Vasudhaiv
Kutumbkam (whole world is one family), live and let live, Self restraint, automatic checks and balances division of
labor along with to each according to his needs and from each according to his capacity etc. etc.

Assimilation without conversion Caste system is a natural response of mixing up of numerous social multi-ethnic groups
with indigenous groups of the land into a single cultural system. Beauty of caste system lies in the way; it assimilated
numerous social groups coming from different parts of the world at different points of time in waves. immigrants, locals,
tribal, professionals or others into its mainstream. Unlike Islam or Christianity, it has brought them under one umbrella
without any conversion.

Caste as a mechanism for inclusion of other groups Caste system has provided a mechanism for inclusion of other
groups without any disturbance. The system had assigned each incoming new group a separate caste identity. Society
remained stable, while offering a place to a new community. The system neither disturbed its existing internal social order
nor prevented any new group to develop itself. Without any conversion, caste system made new groups its integral part. It
never tried to annihilate their faith, originality, internal order, customs, culture or language. Instead, it gave them freedom
to prosper/make changes into their systems according to their internal rhythm.

Based on the vision of an organic society Caste-system has been based on the vision of an organic society. Society as
an organic body needs services of all its constituents equally. Each part has been assigned a particular function. All the
parts are equally important and indispensible, need equal attention for its growth and care for balanced growth of the
whole system. Coordinated functioning of all parts together keeps whole system fit and alive.

Employment, dignity and honor for all The unique feature of caste system was that it provided work and employment to
everyone. There was no dearth of employment opportunities for persons willing to work or wanting to become soldiers.
Caste system inspired people to do their jobs well, as all worldly honor and spiritual happiness were vested there. It
assured the people that proper performance of ones work, whether high or humble, whether of a priest, warrior, Shudra
or yogi were equally important for the society and were, therefore, right, respectable and worth pursuing. It had provided
the whole society a quality of life in the past.

Basis of segmental-ranking Though the caste system believed in segmental ranking of different caste groups, according
to their relevance and contribution to the society, it placed all the individuals, within a caste group rich or poor on the
same footing. All members of a caste had similar rights and duties, similar thinking process, similar customs, language,
food habits, domestic routine, and style of dress. Elders took care of maintaining discipline within the caste and helped the
members, who were weak and helpless.

Not glaring disparity Varna system was so conceived by the genius sages that there was hardly any room for any Varna
to consider itself, as being placed in greater or lesser disadvantageous position with reference to another. The ranking of
different castes was dependent on the nature and social relevance of their work, contribution of their work for social
subsistence, efforts required to perform their duties and amount of self restraint/self discipline, they exercise, their
relative purity, morality, knowledge and spiritual standards. Considerations of self-discipline, hygiene and cleanliness on
the basis of climatic conditions of the region were also given importance, while ranking different castes.

Concepts of forward castes or backward castes non-existent There was not much disparity between different castes or
between urban and rural people. The concepts of forward castes or backward castes, disparities between different

sections of society and exploitation of the weak were almost non-existent earlier. The tropical climate of the country
compelled the people to the distribution of surplus, as it was difficult to store anything for long.

Stress on self-restraint and self-discipline Every caste was supposed to lead a self restraint and self disciplined life in all
respect, be it in the matter of daily routine, occupation or inter caste relationship. Brahmins, occupying the highest place
in the society, were put under maximum restrictions and were denied accumulation of wealth. They were directed to lead
a simple life, devoted to the spiritual and intellectual pursuits. The higher the caste within a Varna, the purer it was
considered, and greater was the self-restrictions on its behavior through rituals. The system of each caste having a
specific position in the society and a specific work to do with its rights and duties boosted the morale of the people and
promoted social equilibrium and solidarity.

Inter-dependence because of its local character Local character and semi-autonomous nature of caste system made
close interaction and cooperation between different castes a reality. All the activities of urban or rural areas were confined
within a small local area, having very little links with the outside world because of slower means of transport. Only
merchants visited different distant places. The local societies used to be self-sufficient mutually `supporting and caring
for each other.

No caste took an all India character No caste took an all India character. There was no nationwide hierarchy of castes.
However, in a local area, the relative standing of castes was more or less fixed. All local castes, whether high or low, living
in an area mutually depended and supported for fulfilling different kind of needs and cared for each other. All people living
in a village or city, were bound together by economic and social ties and had a strong bond of mutual dependence. Rituals
required the participation of all castes.

Inter-dependence in social life and self-reliance in personal life Inter-dependence in social life and self-reliance in
personal life were the intrinsic features of caste system making each local area self-sufficient and capable to fulfill all the
needs of its people. People living in a local area shared moments of joy and sorrow with each other. All castes including
untouchables were assigned important social duties. Harijan women helped all castes at time of child-birth. Harijan males
beat drums in front of Hindus houses or in front of a procession on important occasions/ceremonies. Village barber spread
news, arranged marriages and served food during celebrations. Occasionally non-Brahmins or Harijans served as priests of
temples of goddesses like Sita or Kali, where all castes made offerings. The key, to understand the caste system, was not
in seeing it as a framework of hierarchical layers of social order, each fitting neatly below the other, but as a series of
vertical parallels. Each caste was an independent entity, with its own hierarchy, based either on a tribal identity or an
occupational identity. All the castes were independent, yet their roles complementary.

Automatic checks and balances Decentralized self-regulated systems managed various activities in social, intellectual,
political, and economic life and controlled its malfunctioning or dis-functioning. There was hardly any question of all India
tyranny of any caste group. There was not a single group identifiable as very strong-dominating all the others, or as an
enemy to defeat. Laws remained unmodified and flexible with the capacity to adapt to local customs and situations.
People in power and position cared for the lower castes in order to acquire and retain local followers. The system made
upper castes generous in matters of food, drinks and loans, when required.

Control over arbitrariness of any social group The plurality of society provided automatic checks and balances and
controlled the arbitrariness or unbalanced growth of power of any group. Till medieval period, Indian peasantry in UP,
Bihar and MP were armed and put pressure on Kshatriyas. In fact, non-Kshatriya peasant provided leadership of most
armed bands, which were numerically predominant and economically and politically strong at the village level. The
monopoly of powerful peasant was a reality of the rural life of Medieval India. The Brahmin strongholds were the centers
of learning. The floating population, consisting groups like Gujjars, Bhattis, Rajput rangers, who remained outside caste
system, were so strong, that they terrorized settled agriculturists for centuries. Forests, which competed with arable land
in size and importance, till the 18th century, gave shelter and food to large sections of society and served as havens for
those in search of escape from society. Thus, from time to time, and place to place, different castes rose and fell in their
social order, some died out and new ones were formed.

More stress on duties The system clearly specifies duties, privileges and restrictions of each role separately and
managed relationship with others. It encourages self-discipline, self-control and self-direction. Sprees on ones
responsibilities/duties rather than on rights, combined with principle of inter- dependence provides its own system of
checks and balances over arbitrary use of ones authority and leads to automatic decentralization of authority.

Flexibility and adaptability Caste system took different shades and meaning with the changing times and places. Once
changed, it never returned to its original form. Its adaptability and absorptive nature has pronged its life. The system
evolved its structures and systems leisurely and kept on coping with the slow changes, time brought in. Its character
during Indus Valley Civilization was altogether different from what exists today. It is still in a transient phase. It is different
in context of village, locality, region or religion.

High level of intelligence and specialization The Caste system served as a spawning bed for social and technical skills.
By its very nature, it encouraged the development and preservation of local skills. There was a tendency to bring in the
most diversified skills to high level of excellence. It was encouraged with religious and semi-religious sanctions.
Assignment of different functions to different communities led to the transfer of knowledge and expertise, from one
generation to another, through inheritance and evolved an atmosphere, where a high level of Specialization and wisdom
in different areas of activities could be achieved.

Natural training without investment The Caste system transmitted the tricks of a trade, hidden intricacies, solutions of
their occupational problems, intelligence, abilities, experiences, values and skills from one generation to another in a
natural way. They learned it while growing up, informally from their elders. It gave them confidence and saved them from
confusion or unhealthy competition. Being in constant contact with the family occupation, it was natural for the people to
learn maximum about their traditional occupations.

Acted as a shield During medieval India, caste system was a major force for failure of Islam, Christianity and other
religions to make headway even after mass conversion. Though many evil practices developed in the system during this
period, but it acted as a shield for Hindus to retain their cultural identity, while living under alien rule, whether it was of
Mughals, Portuguese or British.

Caste-system worked so well and efficiently in ancient India that when the world was passing through Dark Age, India was
full of light. First few centuries are recognized as the golden period of Indian history. Caste system had wisely organized all
activities of society properly. The first few centuries are recognized as the golden period of Indian history. During this period,
arts, commerce, crafts, philosophy and knowledge flourished magnificently. Its people reached a high level of intelligence
having specialization in different areas. Many travelers visiting India, from alien lands at different points of time, confirmed
that India possessed huge wealth, knowledge, and quality of life. It was a cheerful land. Each person found a niche in the
social system. Its people reached a high level of intelligence having specialization in different areas. It was a cheerful land.

Weaknesses developed into Caste system has travelled a very long distance since then. Many changes have taken
place in the system during the long period of its evolution, especially during centuries of foreign rule in the country. Many
deformities and social evils have been developed into caste system. British rulers drew the attention of Indian intelligentsia
towards those weaknesses, but carefully avoided telling its strong points. They developed a complex in Indian minds about
efficacy of caste system.

System of Caste under British rule

Karl Marx had remarked that British had a double mission in India, one destructive, the other regenerating; the annihilation of
the old Asiatic Society and laying the material foundation of Western Society in Asia. The regenerating character was
concerned with social transformation through modern education, English language as a medium of learning and official
language, modernization in economic sphere, political unification of the country and laying foundations for many democratic
institutions. The reactionary and destructive character was seen in the economic and social sphere. The growth of casteism
had a close connection with these developments. Caste-ism and communalism were fanned by British imperial power for
political reasons.

Ideological attack on caste system by British rulers British rulers made purposely an ideological attack on Indian social
structure based on caste-system. They developed a complex in the minds of Indian intellectuals about efficacy of caste
system. British rulers portrayed caste-system as discriminatory, iniquitous, exploitative, oppressive barbarous,
uncivilized and highly stratified. They held caste system responsible for evil social practices, feudalistic attitude,
backward thinking, belief in dogmas and superstitions sustained by a unique set of rituals, and whimsical concept of purity
and pollution. They criticize caste-system as discriminatory, iniquitous, exploitative, oppressive barbarous,
uncivilized and highly stratified. They hold it responsible for evil social practices, feudalistic attitude, backward thinking,
belief in dogmas and superstitions sustained by a unique set of rituals, and whimsical concept of purity and pollution.

British rulers vehemently criticized caste system for

Its being highly stratified According to rulers caste system had divided the population into vast number of groups having
distinct and diverse thinking and life styles. However, the British thinkers could not appreciate the role of caste system in
integrating different tribes, groups and communities together under one system for centuries. Instead of adopting the
policy to convert the new groups in Hindu religion and thrusting on them its own values, thoughts, processes,
superstructures and practices Hindu religion, through caste system, presented an unique example in the world history. All
the incoming groups were welcomed and accommodated in Hinduism on their own terms. It legitimized their beliefs,
behavior patterns and life styles with freedom to evolve and change according to their internal rhythm.

Its being discriminatory system It is an anomaly that British, who themselves played discriminatory practices by keeping
their railway compartments, waiting rooms, parks, clubs, hotels, places of other entertainment and residences
segregated, criticized caste system as being discriminatory. It was not very difficult for the British to present the examples
showing the prejudice, high handedness or rude behavior of some of the caste Hindus towards the lower strata of society.

Disregard for menial work it was not the caste system, but the industrial revolution, which taught humanity to hate or
escape from menial work. The creation of new white collared jobs by British developed the attitude to discredit manual
work. The more a person withdrew from physical labor, the more civilized and qualified he was regarded by modern
society. Such an attitude lured all the sections of society to leave their traditional occupations and join white collared jobs
in organized sectors, irrespective of their background, aptitude, skill and knowledge.

Employment, dignity and honor for all The unique feature of caste system was that it provided work and employment to
everyone. There was no dearth of employment opportunities for persons willing to work or wanting to become soldiers.
Caste system inspired people to do their jobs well, as all worldly honor and spiritual happiness were vested there. It
assured the people that proper performance of ones work, whether high or humble, whether of a priest, warrior, Shudra
or yogi were equally important for the society and were, therefore, right, respectable and worth pursuing. It provided the
whole society a quality of life.

Caste and community tools for Indians to fight amongst themselves British rulers redefined caste-system and
politicized it according to their administrative convenience. They made caste and community tools for Indians to fight
amongst themselves. On surface, everything appeared fine, but in reality different communities were divided by recognizing
officially political formations on basis of race, religion, caste, creed, or place. They adopted the path of divide and rule. The
policies, which gave a boost to caste-ist tendencies like

Modern education
o

Modern means of transport


o

On one hand modern education equipped Indians with the intellectual tools, with which they fought the
oppressive British Raj. On the other, imperialist rulers planned it in such a way that it disassociated Indian
people from their traditional way of learning, classical roots and knowledge. With it faded Indian values,
philosophies and traditions. Tough competition between different sections of society to get hold on modern
occupations, led to inter-caste rivalries, social tensions and group conflicts among Indians.

The modern means of transport and communications on one hand, shortened distances and made mobility and
communication faster and easier, but at the same time, it destroyed the local character of society. Small local
community was confined within a small area earlier. Now it grew in size, embracing a much wider area than
before. Many caste organizations emerged and entered into region-wise caste alliances. It sharply restricted the
hold of caste-elders over its members and replaced the traditional pattern of checks and balances and
leadership by voluntary associations, social reformers and leaders.

Industrialization
o

Industrialization led to the decay of village industries as the competition was directly with the cheap machine
goods. It also led to urbanization. The British discouraged local genius, cottage industries and fine arts. It made
many traditional occupations obsolete. Many castes of rural artisans, craftsman and traditional occupations
abandoned their traditional work. They either migrated to cities as industrial labor or became agriculture labor.
The British apathy towards indigenous skills, knowledge and occupations pushed millions backward in a very
subtle manner and loosened the sanctity of caste rules and caste consciousness in matters of occupation.
Industrialization pushed millions towards poverty It was not the caste system which was responsible for
pushing millions of people towards poverty. With the beginning of industrialization in India under foreign rule,
many traditional occupations became obsolete or less paying or were regarded more hazardous and more time
consuming. White collared jobs gained importance. More, a person withdrew from physical labor, more civilized,

honored and qualified he was regarded by modern society. It resulted in discrediting many traditional
occupations and in destruction of Indian handicrafts and cottage industry.

Census operations
o

For the first time, the Census operations drew the attention of the rulers, intelligentsia and public to the
diversity of Indian society and multiplicity of castes and sub-castes throughout India. Through Census
operations, British rulers divided Indian social structure in a fundamental way and gave rigidity to social
stratification and hierarchical ranking. The older four Varnas, embracing numerous castes and sub-castes within
its fold were divided into five new unbridgeable compartments Backward caste, forward caste (caste Hindus),
untouchables or scheduled caste, scheduled tribes and minority. Through legal process, each one got a new
separate and distinct identity. The new way of classifying the Indian society instigated caste consciousness,
caste animosities and made caste a tool in political, religious and cultural battles that Hindus fought amongst
themselves from now onwards without any sign of relief even as of today.

Destroyed the flexibility of caste system Census operations are responsible for destroying the flexibility of
caste system and giving rigidity to social stratification and hierarchical ranking. Caste was a flexible and fluid
unit of Indian society. Census operations codified the castes and standardized the system by placing all the jatis
into four Varnas or in the categories of outcastes and aborigines. Census operations, led to an all-round
hardening of social-system and to frantic effort by each group-for upward mobility. It led to caste-ism in politics.

Pigeonholed everyone by caste and community Middleton, a Census Superintendent remarked, We


pigeonholed everyone by caste and community. We deplore its effect on social and economic problems. But we
are largely responsible for the systemOur land records and official documents have added iron-bonds to the
old rigidity of caste. The governments act for labels and pigeon-holes had led to a crystallization of the caste
system, which, except amongst the aristocratic caste, was really very fluid under indigenous rule.

Census enumeration far from neutral The process of Census enumeration was far from neutral. The British
retained the distinctions between different sub-castes, relevant to them for organizing labor and homogenized
all those sub-castes, for which they had no use, therefore, no interest. All the floating population like Gujjars,
Bhattis, Ranger Rajputs, who remained out-side caste system were fused into one. The Census operation kept
Brahmins, whom, the British administrators, Christian Missionaries and Orientalists, pinpointed as the potential
threat to the British, at periphery and, instigated other castes against them.

Venom against caste-system and the Brahmin community The leaders of the downtrodden like Mahatma
Phule, Baba Saheb Ambedkar or Gopal Ganesh taught the lower castes to get united. They instilled deeply in
the minds of millions of unlettered Hindus, venom against caste-system and the Brahmin community. Caste
system, to them, was responsible for treating them as lesser human beings; engaging them in forced labour,
unsavory jobs imposing many restrictions on them; preventing them from joining the mainstream of the society;
and the subjugation of lower castes with the help of religion.

Suggestion to exclude Untouchables from Hindu-fold The suggestion of Census Commissioner to exclude
untouchables from Hindu fold in the coming 1911 census immediately increased the importance of
untouchables in political circle, in social circle, and in their own eyes too. Around 1909, the non-Brahmin
Community, which resented the Brahmins hold in modern occupations, was divided into two Backwards and
untouchables. For the first time, the lowest layer of Hindu Community was conceptualized under the name of
untouchability in the political circles.

The leaders vehemently criticized its hierarchical structure based on caste, and regarded untouchability as an
inevitable concomitant of caste system. Dr. Ambedkar made it abundantly clear that, it was through political
power that untouchables were to find their solution, not through acceptance by Hindus. Eradication of caste
system became the major plank of backward castes and untouchable castes.

Introduction of Electoral politics


o

The introduction of electoral politics, in the beginning of the 20th century gave rise to Power in numbers. It
gave political leverage to the non-Brahmin castes on account of their numerical strength. It started cut-throat
competition for scarce positions of power and prestige under British Raj.

Granting of separate Muslim Electorate by Minto Morley Reforms Minto-Morley Reforms, known as Government
of India Act of 1909, brought the idea of communal electorate to the forefront in the minds of all the castes and
communities, which led successfully to divide Hindu population also into two uncompromising groups, viz. `We
Non-Brahmins vs. `They Brahmins and caste Hindus.

Communal Award, Poona pact of 1932 Communal Award of 1932 created a permanent split in Hindu Society
and perpetuated casteism further. It made impossible the assimilation of different castes under one fold. Dr.
Rajendra Prasad said, the principle of dividing population into communal groups, which had been adopted in
the Minto Morley reforms had been considerably extended, even beyond what had been done by Montagu
Chelmsford Reforms The electorate in 1919 was broken up into 10 parts, now it is fragmented into seventeen
unequal bits Hindu community was further weakened by giving separate representation to Scheduled castes.

Division on the basis of religion, occupation and service were made. Every possible cross division was
introduced by the British. The Communal Award strengthened the roots of casteism in politics.

Policy of Reservations

Resentment against Brahmins domination Muslims and non-Brahmin castes resented dominance of Brahmins in education
and administration. To restrict Brahmins entry in Government jobs and make it available to non-Brahmins communities,
British rulers started practice of Preferences by giving them financial assistance and preferences in education and
Government employment at local and provincial level. It served double purpose for them getting credit for amelioration and
protection of downtrodden and keeping natives busy in their in-fights.

Privileges bestowed on preferential-basis by the rulers British rulers devised a novel method to distribute and balance
the domination of Brahmins in education and employment on preferential-basis. The patronage of British rulers to nonBrahmin castes and Muslims led them to emerge as powerful pressure groups. The powerful voice of Non Brahmin leaders
made government to pursue the principle of special attention on the basis of caste. It was strongly established in the South at
provincial level, which ultimately gave birth to the policy of reservation. 1905 to 1940 was the period, when idea of
Reservation/positive discrimination was conceived, experimented and established firmly. It opened up various channels of
confrontation.

Many traditional occupations becoming obsolete This very change in occupational pattern had scattered efforts, sense of
direction and manufacturing skills of millions of artisans, craftsman, weavers etc. Very few of them could join modern
occupations. Majority belonging to different castes could neither enter modern sector, nor could stick to their traditional
occupations considering menial work derogatory and lost their creativity, sense of achievement and pride. Such people added
the numbers of poor agricultural laborers, industrial workers or marginal labors or unemployed. Outcome of such a
development has been casualty of workers first, afterwards their work style, commitment, motivation and culture.

After Independence

The Nature of caste system has been different during the periods of industrialization, modernization and now the period of
globalization. Modernization, industrialization and urbanization have lessened the rigidities of caste system in social arena.
But in politics of independent India, the seeds of divide and rule sown by British imperial rulers have blossomed in full.
Casteism, corruption, criminalization etc. are some of the direct consequences of political expediency and opportunism.
Present-day politics encourages sectional forces, which are vocal and demand enough space for themselves in job-market
and higher education aggressively. There is no respite from casteism.

Weakening of caste system in social arena and its growing politicization has made life difficult for all sections of society.
Aversion of people from traditional and moral values has created confusion in the atmosphere. Their total concentration is on
pursuit of money and materialistic pleasures by hook or crook. Erosion of basic moral and human values has turned life of
men, nasty, brutish and short. Favoritism, in-discipline, violence, corruption, and chase of materialism based on ruthless
competition have weakened the social fabric beyond repair. Scientific progress has endowed man with tremendous power

both to preserve and destroy, but at slightest provocation, he does not hesitate to unleash destructive powers accessible to
him. There are alarming disparities of power, wealth and culture amongst different sections of society.

There is complete centralization of control systems in the hands of a few Individuals and groups with political, money or
muscle power, who control destiny of millions and have say in almost every walk of national life. Attempts for social changes
make a virtue of narrow loyalties of caste and religion, generating sub-cultures like favoritism, lure for easy money, nepotism
and, in-discipline in the society. Caste and communal conflicts are increasing. There are sectarian and regional imbalances
generating social and psychological tensions. The work culture has been degenerated. Under-currents of caste politics have
made the task of governance difficult, making the governance of the nation difficult and ineffective. The administration has
become incompetent to solve the burning national issues. It has turned the vision of national development into an empty
dream.

Vivekanand said, It is we, who are responsible for our degradation. Each nation like each individual has a theme in this
life, which is its center, the principle note, around which every other notes, comes to form the harmony. If any nation
attempts to throw off its national vitality or the direction, which has become its own through the transmission of centuries, it
dies. The main reason of our economic and spiritual degeneration is that we have not correctly followed the Varna
System. This is the main reason of poverty and unemployment and one of the main reasons that there is un-touchability.
He suggested that for the growth of a self-contained and self-regulated society, it was necessary to encourage education
amongst the masses, all the occupations be given equal importance, people no be forced to adopt their hereditary
occupations and difference of income derived from various occupations be narrowed down to the minimum.

Winding up

Empowerment of masses depends on inculcation of knowledge and awareness through education for all. Usually Power rests
with those having either knowledge or physical strength or wealth. Knowledge brings in both force and wealth. Instead of
putting blame on caste-system, it would be more desirable to make arrangements for sound system of education for
empowering the submerged sections of society.

Despite all the undesirable developments taken place in the system, caste system is still quite popular amongst Indian
masses. Not only Hindus, but other sects living in India, with all their egalitarian faith, whether foreign or indigenous, like
Muslims and Christians, Sikhs or Buddhist, have not remained immune from its caste system. They have also absorbed many
of its practices and systems.

Change one must. Past should not be idolized. Any system, which in light of modern times appears to be ineffective or
inefficient should be replaced by a better one. But it will be suicidal to sacrifice something to an increasing passion for
change. Changes must be based on constant interpretation of past experiences and opinions.

Caste system past and present

Caste was the system of social life, in which Hinduism was expressed. Hinduism was the ideological and emotional
buttress of caste. Caste and Hinduism succeeded in doing in India, what no state, no conqueror and no economy was able
to do the establishment of a single unified system of society throughout the whole of India (accommodating numerous semiautonomous communities arising at many times and in many places), a system of society, which was able to comprise a
greater range of local differences in a single system than any society has previously accomplished.

Through caste system, India has simultaneously accommodated it to an almost endlessly varied system of semi-autonomous
community and at the same time, it brings considerable unity, harmony and condition of peace. It succeeded in wielding an
enormously varied plurality of semi-autonomous communities arising at many times and in many places and adopting
themselves to many different conditions into a single system of society

Don Martindale

Introduction

Caste system has always been a centre of attention for Westerners, politicians, intellectuals, activists or reformers from other
faiths. It has been both defended and opposed vehemently in the political circles of modern India. Many assaults have been
made on caste-system, especially because of the deformities and rigidity developed into the system during a very long period
of its evolution and its being under alien rule. However, after each assault, caste system has re-emerged with greater force.

In the past, British Imperial rulers and missionaries had criticized caste-system vehemently.In recent past, caste has become
more of a politician crutch. It is often misinterpreted as an exploitative social system for retaining economic and social status
of certain vested interests of ruling class. Indian caste system, which has evolved an answer the requirements of
civilization at a later phase of development of culture, was integrated with Varna system as enunciated in the ancient
scriptures and Dharmasastras. (Quoted from Ancient caste system worked well: ICHR head, p.1, TOI July15,2014)

Many activists, academicians and writers condemn caste system saying, Vemula (a student of Hyderabadad
university) committed suicide (in 2016) against an ugly caste system in India. It shows the treatment being meted out to
Dalits in educational institutions and other fields of daily life. (Quoted from TOI, p. 13, March 28, 2016)

Deep roots of caste system in India Positive aspects of Indian culture and its caste system are so deep that it is almost
impossible to bring caste system to an end and create a casteless society in India. The caste system had worked well in
ancient times and people do not find any complaint against it even now. To a great extent, Don Martindale is right in
saying, Caste was the system of social life, in which Hinduism was expressed. Hinduism was the ideological and
emotional buttress of caste. Caste and Hinduism succeeded in doing in India, what no state, no conqueror and no economy
was able to do the establishment of a single unified system of society throughout the whole of India (accommodating
numerous semi-autonomous communities arising at many times and in many places), a system of society, which was able to
comprise a greater range of local differences in a single system than any society has previously accomplished.

Through caste system, India has simultaneously accommodated it to an almost endlessly varied system of semi-autonomous
community and at the same time, it brings considerable unity, harmony and condition of peace. It has succeeded in
wielding an enormously varied plurality of semi-autonomous communities arising at many times and in many places and
adopting themselves to many different conditions into a single system of society (Don Martindale, India since 1947, p 39)

Indian culture and caste inseparable Indian culture and caste are inseparably related each other by traditional customs.
It is virtually impossible to think of one without another. Being a very old and indigenous system, conceptualized, developed
and practiced exclusively in India, it is difficult for Westerners and non-Indians to understand what caste system is and what
caste means to a common man.

Mystified Western World Western world is mystified by amazing pluralities and unique social structure of India. It is
difficult for the western world to understand role of caste past or present in Indian society because

Complete localization and unfamiliarity makes it difficult to understand caste as a system in its totality and to know the
nuances, the nature, role) and value of caste as a system.

Caste not class basis of stratification Stratification of a society becomes necessary for organizing human and social
behavior in tune with the objectives of a society. While in Western world, usually anthropologists, historians and
sociologists identify class, as universal basis of stratification within a society, Indian society has been stratified socially
on the basis of Varna/caste-system.

Power associated with wealth In materialistic Western societies, wealth has always been associated with power,
authority and social status. In India, its Caste system has separated wealth from status, power from authority, pursuit and
achievement in knowledge from temptations of worldly comforts. The greatness of a state is judged on the basis of the
degree of righteousness and justice, with which the administration governs lives of the people, and not on the basis of the
size of a state or its treasury. Similarly, in the society, status of a person or a caste is ranked on the basis of knowledge,
discipline and moral standards, and not on the basis of material success, or control of power.

Stress on duties rather than rights Whereas, Western cultures have grown around the idea of `rights , forming the
natural foundation of human relationship, caste system evolves around the concept of duty, tolerance and sacrifice.
Emphasis on duty usually makes a person or a group humble and tolerant. Its value-system helps people to adjust
themselves, without much difficulty, to most drastic changes. India has achieved its freedom in a peaceful manner under
the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi. Common men, here, are filled with a sense of duty.

No conversion Unlike Christianity or Islam, Hinduism has made new groups its integral part without any conversion and
brought them under one umbrella without annihilating their own faith.

Truth, Ahimsa, peace and non-aggression Truth, Ahimsa, peace and non-aggression have always been the part of Indian
ethos. Indians had accepted oppression and exploitation without much protest.

Indian way of life and tolerance of its people has prevented the masses to exercise coercion so far. While in the past,
intolerance of people led to bloody revolutions elsewhere in the world, India kept on adapting itself to changing times.
Whereas in ancient Greece, Rome or other European countries, people were made to work under the threat of a whip, it
stopped people from doing that.

While other nations have passed through many bloody revolutions, India kept on adapting itself to changing times and
the nation entered the modern era without any cultural break.

What is caste system?

Stratification of a society, a natural phenomenon

Individuals differ from each other in natural endowments, intelligence, aptitudes, attitudes, skills, personal needs and other
innate characteristics. Such differences are apt to give rise to the formations of different social groups and systems. It is quite
natural that in every society, anywhere in the world emerge different groups out of functional necessity. Each society devises
its own principles for stratification, for coordinated functioning of all parts together, for keeping its whole system fit and
functional as well as for taking care of the interests of its people as a whole. Its basis may differ from place to place. It may be
on basis of class, caste, religion, region, language or occupation.

Stratification of a Society

Usually, class stratification begins with individuals. Division of society along Class lines forms different groups on the basis
their economic and cultural level. What determines class varies from one society to another. Usually possession of wealth
determines hierarchical distinctions between individuals or groups within a community . Distinction between two groups
depends on their being powerful and powerless. Social classes with more power usually subordinate classes with less power,
which Power was closely linked to ability to assert ones status through physical strength. Usually different variables are
adopted to decide status of different groups within a society, like occupation, education and qualifications, income, wealth,
ownership of land, property etc.

Besides, there are other factors as well considered as important as ones wealth in determining class status, at least at higher
levels, like costume and grooming, manners and cultural refinement (tastes and sensitivities of different groups). Political
standing vis--vis church/temples/ mosques, government, and/or social clubs, as well as use of honorary titles, reputation of
honor or disgrace, language, race determines degrees of influence on class standing.

Western societies stratified on basis of class Western societies are stratified on basis of class. Its focus is on
individual. Individuals of same economic and cultural level form one social group/class. Social status of a person depends on
material success and control over power/authority. Wealthy class usually rules over poor classes in such societies. Broadly, a
society
Upper

is
class

includes

usually
those

persons

divided
with

great

influence,

into
wealth

and

prestige.

Lower class/Working class includes poor, alienated and marginalized members of society. This class constitutes majority of
people

in

any

nation.

Middle Class In between comes Middle Class.

Caste as basis of stratification of Indian society In India, stratification begins with a social group, called caste. Castesystem is different from class on some points. It is not concerned with persons individually, but with persons belonging to
different social groups.

Caste-system separates wealth from status, power from authority and knowledge from temptations of worldly comforts. All
individuals within a caste group irrespective of ones financial position are equal having similar rank, rights and duties. Its
constituent members are supposed to be independent, yet their roles complementary.

Caste, an oldest social institution Caste system is one of the oldest social institutions in the world. Caste-system
gives Indian society a distinguished identity and a solid social structure with a system of thought, way of life, and sense of
direction.

Covers entire social fabric of India It covers almost the entire social fabric of India. Not only in the past, but at present
also, caste system commands respect and attention of a common man in India as a natural, valid and inevitable unit of
society. It is popular not only amongst Hindus, but amongst other sects as well living in India, whether foreign or indigenous.
Muslims or Christians, Sikhs or Buddhist could not remain immune from its caste system for long. They also have been
influenced and absorbed many of the systems and practices of caste-system.

A natural social institution An individual is a natural member of a family, which is the unit of an extended family,
extended family of Kula (clan), Kula of a tribe (Vish) and a tribe of a Jana or Jati (Caste). Caste is second only to the family and
is a natural, valid, useful and inevitable unit of Indian society. Family, extended family, Kula, and Caste are fundamental social
institutions. Caste is nothing but a large extended family bonded by same language, customs, thinking and way of living and
occupation. Rules of endogamy, ritual purity, interdependence, specialization and hierarchical order of social units were its
important traits.

Closer relations amongst caste-fellows A persons relations with members of his caste are closer than with those,
belonging to other castes. Caste values, beliefs, prejudices, injunctions as well as distortions of reality are the indivisible part
of a persons psyche and conscience. Internalized caste norms define an individual role in the society. It makes one feel good
and loved, when he lives up to these norms, and anxious and guilty, when he transgresses them. In a way, caste is still
second only to the family in widening a persons social radius and in getting importance in his/her private and occupational
life.

Varna system developed into caste-system gradually How small and primitive tribal

in India transformed into Varna system and finally into caste system has been as following

Start during ancient pastoral society The beginning of the system can be traced from the times of pastoral tribal
society, when people started forming small groups mostly living in hilly areas, not far from rivers. Tribal communities were
nomadic or semi nomadic and egalitarian. They depended on nature for its subsistence.

Developed during Agricultural society Gradually pastoral tribal society transformed into a settled agricultural society,
confining its activities and life within a small area or territory. Agricultural society leisurely evolved its structures and systems
over about 2000 years (roughly between 2000 BC to about 600 BC) and kept on coping with the changes slowly, time had
brought in. As reflected in Rigveda, when people ceased to be a wandering people, started the early stages of Vedic Age.

Clans and tribes settled permanently in different parts of the country. Possession of land, slaves and hired laborers started.
People hardly possessed more than what was needed for their subsistence/survival. The practice of cultivation, rise of crafts
and iron tools transformed the egalitarian society into fully agricultural and stratified society sometime during 6th century BC.

Beginning of settled life After entering into India, first Aryans conquered Indias original inhabitants of Northern part of
India, colonized and established kingdoms. Most of original inhabitants moved to Deccan and then south. During the period,
it was possible to have high ranks, but not high social classes. Initially a simple class division was seen in the social structure,
i.e. nobility and the ordinary tribesmen. The units of social-political organizations were family, clan, village, tribe and Jana.
Family was the unit of society headed by father. Three or four generations lived together, and probably owned property in
common. A number of families living in one locality formed grama (village). A number of such fighting units dwelling in a
particular region constituted a vis (canton), Jana (a group of tribes) consisted of a number of such cantons, with a king as
their ruler.

Mixing up of their culture with native culture of the land Starting with arrival of Aryans in waves and mixing up of
their culture with native culture of the land evolved a social structure based on the principles of Varna (giving birth to caste
system), Dharma and Karma, which together distributed, organized performance of various functions and contributed to
the growth of Indian society. In the beginning, Varna meaning color guided the division of the society. These principles
gave Vedic society a distinct character, defined roles and organized inter-relationship of various sections of society. Fair
skinned Aryans, being the conquerors, kept themselves on the top. They spread their language and culture allover the North.
Many changes started taking place in the life, manners, religion, language and literature of people.

Social structure bases on Varna Principle of Varna had stratified Vedic society into four groups Brahmins
(intellectuals), Kshatriyas (warriors), Vaishyas (Businessmen) and shudras (service providers) according to aptitudes,
occupation and location of people. Aryans dependents of Brahmins and Kshatriyas were the subject class. Vaishyas followed
the profession of agriculture or cattle raising and formed also the armed forces of their princes. The three classes were not
rigidly separated. People, who were conquered and admitted into the fold of Aryan society, were looked upon as the lowest of
the four classes. Conquered Kols and Dravid tribes formed the fourth class of Dasas or Shudras. Aryan princes did not
regard Dasa princes as inferior, for they made alliances with them.

Possession of land, slaves and hired laborers started. People started producing and possessing more than they needed. The
kings collected their surplus yields. The power of kings gradually increased. For regular collection, administrative and
religious methods were devised.

Rise of caste system As more and more indigenous and foreign groups were merged into the Hindu-fold, Vedic Varna
system gave rise to caste system. For making place for new groups, caste system provided a mechanism. Through it, the job
of assimilation of different tribal, local and immigrant groups was done cordially, at different points of time. Each new group
joining it was given a separate caste identity. It neither disturbed the existing internal social order nor any new group was
prevented from joining it and still allowed new groups to preserve its specialties and indigenous culture. It gave each one
opportunities to develop within its own parameters. Thousands of endogamous groups were included into it. Each group was
allowed to maintain its own rules, regulations, customs, way of life and power to control conduct of its members. However,
principles of Varna, Dharma, and Karma remained the foundation stones of caste system and contributed to its growth in a
systematic way.

Natural response As Basham has pointed out, Caste system may well be called a natural response of many small and
primitive groups of people, who were forced to come to terms, with a more advanced economic and social system. It provided
a mechanism, by which numerous discrete tribes, all sorts of groups and associations arising for political, sectarian or other
reasons could be internalized and preserved within the whole.

Development of thousands of years Caste is the development of thousands of years of the association of many racial
and other groups in a single cultural system. The arrival of Aryans hereditary kinship and tribal groups in India in waves, from
different parts of the world and their mixing up with the indigenous people (popularly known as Hindus) gave birth Varnasystem of Vedic culture.

Caste-system evolved in a natural way The origin of Caste-system can not be found in one single authoritative text, nor
can it be attributed to one single founder. It evolved in a natural way over thousands of years. The experiences and deep
thinking of many learned sages and intellectuals belonging to different communities at different points of time have
contributed to evolve this system. It is a very old and indigenous system, conceptualized, developed and practiced
exclusively in India. It suggests a shared membership in a homogenous social group as contrasted with the individual or with
a selected class.

Provided a Mechanism to assimilate small and primitive groups As Basham has pointed out, Caste system may well
be called a natural response to many small and primitive groups of people, who were forced to come to terms, with a more
advanced economic and social system. It provided a mechanism, by which numerous discrete tribes could be, all sorts of
groups and associations arising for political, sectarian or other reasons could be internalized and preserved within the whole.

Formed a single cultural system Caste is the development of thousands of years of the association of many racial and
other groups coming into terms and forming a single cultural system. The arrival of Aryans hereditary kinship and tribal
groups in India in waves, from different parts of the world and their mixing up with the indigenous people (popularly known as
Hindus) gave birth Varna-system of Vedic culture.

Connection between Varna and Caste -Castes had its ethnic roots as denoted by Jati, and a ritualistic and symbolic
significance in its Varna aspect. Different castes found their place under a Varna on the basis of their being ritually clean or
unclean, nature of work and amount of self-discipline they exercised. Numerous castes and sub-castes emerged within each
Varna. Four Varnas remained the same. These were never more or less than four. For over 2000 years, their order in
precedence remained the same. As far as castes were concerned, they rose and fell in their social order, some died out and
new ones were formed from time to time.

Castes in the Making around 5th century Perhaps, the first faint trace of caste is to be found in the careful cataloguing
of traders and professions in later Vedic literature. Many traders were organized into guilds around 5th century AD, in which,
some authorities have seen the origin of commercial castes. These can be seen as the castes in making. Even up to 7th
century AD, people showed no clear knowledge of the existence of castes. Huan Tsang, in the Seventh century was well
aware of the existence of Varna, but not of castes.

Salient features of Caste System All the strength of caste system comes from its basic principle of Varna, which gave
Indian Society a stable, sustainable and a solid social structure with a system of thought, a way of life and sense of direction,
accompanied by principles of Dharma, and Karma, The principles which ensured the continuity despite numerous foreign
invasions, migrations and assimilation of various groups. Caste system could survive for such a long period because

Principles of a good organization Almost all principles of a good organization are found in caste system. It provides
strong structure based on principles of Varna, Dharma and Karma, keeps its members comfortable and satisfied, assigns
duties to different sections of society according to their natural instincts and qualities and instills amongst people feeling
of interdependence and team-spirit etc. Caste-system believes in lofty principles like Vasudhaiv Kutumbkam (whole
world is one family), live and let live, Self restraint, automatic checks and balances division of labor along with to
each according to his needs and from each according to his capacity etc. etc.

Assimilation without conversion- Caste system is a natural response of mixing up of numerous social multi-ethnic groups
with indigenous groups of the land into a single cultural system. Beauty of caste system lies in the way; it assimilated
numerous social groups coming from different parts of the world at different points of time in waves. immigrants, locals,
tribal, professionals or others into its mainstream. Unlike Islam or Christianity, it has brought them under one umbrella
without any conversion.

Caste as a mechanism for inclusion of other groups Caste system worked as a mechanism, assigning each incoming new
group a separate caste identity. Society remained stable, while offering a place to a new community. The system neither
disturbed its existing internal social order nor prevented any new group to develop itself. Without any conversion, caste
system made new groups its integral part. It never tried to annihilate their faith, originality, internal order, customs,
culture or language. Instead, it gave them freedom to prosper/make changes into their systems according to their internal
rhythm.

Based on the vision of an organic society Caste-system is based on the vision of an organic society. Society as an
organic body needs services of all its constituents equally. Each part has been assigned a particular function. All the parts
are equally important and indispensable, need equal attention for its growth and care for balanced growth of the whole
system. Coordinated functioning of all parts together keeps whole system fit and alive.

Employment, dignity and honor for all The unique feature of caste system was that it provided work and employment to
everyone. There was no dearth of employment opportunities for persons willing to work or wanting to become soldiers.
Caste system inspired people to do their jobs well, as all worldly honor and spiritual happiness were vested there. It
assured the people that proper performance of ones work, whether high or humble, whether of a priest, warrior, Shudra
or yogi were equally important for the society and were, therefore, right, respectable and worth pursuing. It provided the
whole society a quality of life.

Basis of segmental-ranking Though the caste system believed in segmental ranking of different caste groups, according
to their knowledge, relevance and contribution to the society, it placed all the individuals, within a caste group rich or
poor on the same footing. All members of a caste had similar rights and duties, similar thinking process, similar

customs, language, food habits, domestic routine, and style of dress. Elders took care of maintaining discipline within the
caste and helped the members, who were weak and helpless.

No caste group in a more advantageous position Varna system was so conceived by the genius sages that there was
hardly any room for any Varna to consider itself, as being placed in greater or lesser disadvantageous position with
reference to another. The ranking of different castes was dependent on the nature and social relevance of their work,
contribution of their work for social subsistence, efforts required to perform their duties and amount of self restraint/self
discipline, they exercise, their relative purity, morality, knowledge and spiritual standards. Considerations of selfdiscipline, hygiene and cleanliness on the basis of climatic conditions of the region were also given importance, while
ranking different castes.

Stress on self-restraint and self-discipline The higher the caste within a Varna, the purer it was considered, and greater
was the self-restrictions on its behavior through rituals. The system of each caste having a specific position in the society
and a specific work to do with its rights and duties boosted the morale of the people and promoted social equilibrium and
solidarity. Every caste was supposed to lead a self restraint and self disciplined life in all respect, be it in the matter of
daily routine, occupation or inter caste relationship. Brahmins, occupying the highest place in the society, were put under
maximum restrictions and were denied accumulation of wealth. They were directed to lead a simple life, devoted to the
spiritual and intellectual pursuits.

Inter-dependence All the activities of urban or rural areas were confined within a small area, having very little links with
the outside world because of slower means of transport. Only merchants visited different distant places. The local
societies used to be self-sufficient mutually `supporting and caring for each other. No caste took an all India character.
There was no nationwide hierarchy of castes. However, in a local area, the relative standing of castes was more or less
fixed. All local castes, whether high or low, living in an area mutually depended and supported for fulfilling different kind
of needs and cared for each other. All people living in a village or city, were bound together by economic and social ties
and had a strong bond of mutual dependence. Rituals required the participation of all castes.

Not much disparity There was not much disparity between different castes or between urban and rural people. The
concepts of forward castes or backward castes, disparities between different sections of society and exploitation of the
weak were almost non-existent earlier. The tropical climate of the country compelled the people to the distribution of
surplus, as it was difficult to store anything for long.

Automatic checks and balances Decentralized self-regulated systems managed various activities in social, intellectual,
political, and economic life and controlled its malfunctioning or dis-functioning. There was hardly any question of all India
tyranny of any caste group. There was not a single group identifiable as very strong-dominating all the others, or as an
enemy to defeat. Laws remained unmodified and flexible with the capacity to adapt to local customs and situations.
People in power and position cared for the lower castes in order to acquire and retain local followers. The system made
upper castes generous in matters of food, drinks and loans, when required. The plurality of society provided automatic
checks and balances and controlled the arbitrariness or unbalanced growth of power of any group.

More stress on duties The system clearly specifies duties, privileges and restrictions of each role separately and
managed relationship with others. It encourages self-discipline, self-control and self-direction. Sprees on ones
responsibilities/duties rather than on rights, combined with principle of inter- dependence provides its own system of
checks and balances over arbitrary use of ones authority and leads to automatic decentralization of authority.

Flexibility and adaptability Caste system took different shades and meaning with the changing times and places. Once
changed, it never returned to its original form. Its adaptability and absorptive nature has pronged its life. The system
evolved its structures and systems leisurely and kept on coping with the slow changes, time brought in. Its character
during Indus Valley Civilization was altogether different from what exists today. It is still in a transient phase. It is different
in context of village, locality, region or religion.

High level of intelligence and specialization Caste-system worked so well and efficiently in ancient India that when the
world was passing through Dark Age, India was full of light. First few centuries are recognized as the golden period of
Indian history. Caste system had wisely organized all activities of society properly.

When the world was passing through the Dark Age, India was full of light. The first few centuries are recognized as the golden
period of Indian history. During this period, arts, commerce, crafts, philosophy and knowledge flourished magnificently. Its
people reached a high level of intelligence having specialization in different areas. Many travelers visiting India, from alien
lands at different points of time, confirmed that India possessed huge wealth, knowledge, and quality of life. It was a cheerful
land. Each person found a niche in the social system. Its people reached a high level of intelligence having specialization in
different areas. It was a cheerful land.

Caste system has travelled a very long distance since then. Many changes have taken place in the system especially during
centuries of foreign rule in the country.

Caste system before census of 1901

Before Census operations began in 1901, there were many floating communities like Kayasthas or Gujjars, Bhattis, Rajput
rangers, which did not belong to any Varna and remained outside Varna/caste system. The governments attempts to label
and pigeon-hole all such communities along with others into one or the other group had led to a crystallization of the caste
system, which till now was really very fluid under indigenous rule.

No fixed hierarchical order till 18th century As late as the eighteenth century, there was no fixed hierarchical social
order over large parts of the sub-continent. Ranking of different castes was not based on wealth or material gains, but on
cultural endowments. Intellectual and spiritual attainments, aptitude, ritual purity and contribution of their work to the
welfare of whole of the society formed the basis of their social status.

Not much disparity between forward and lower caste economically Usually the position of Brahmins was at the top
and that of Shudras at the bottom, but in between the two, there was an ambiguity about the status of several castes, which
was acceptable to all concerned. This, itself, gave a large element of fluidity in the system. There was not much disparity
between forward or lower castes. Ranking of different castes was independent of the government.

Close association of caste with occupation Despite a close association of caste with occupation, no caste group
exercised monopoly over a profession. It is an established fact of Indian History that Brahmin or even Shudras sometimes
became the kings. Khatriyas and Shudra were accepted and revered as philosophers or spiritual teachers. As leading
sociologists pointed out, in addition to their hereditary occupation, agriculture and army were accessible and open to all
sections of society. It had accommodated many groups indigenous or alien. The recruits in Military came from all strata of
society including the lowest in the ritual terms. Once recruited, there was no discrimination in treatment of soldiers on the
basis of caste. Rajput status was given to soldiers.

Local character of caste Influence of caste was immense on public minds before census operations. The local character
of caste made close interaction and cooperation between different castes a reality. All castes, living in a village or city, were
bound together by economic and social ties and had a strong bond of mutual dependence. Rituals required the participation
of all castes. Still each caste group enjoyed freedom in respect of their internal customs, rituals and life styles. Decentralized
self-regulated systems were the mode in the social, political, and economic life of the country.

Close interaction between different caste groups Local character and semi-autonomous nature of caste system made
close interaction and cooperation between different castes a reality. Inter-dependence in social life and self-reliance in

personal life were the intrinsic features of caste system making each local area self-sufficient and capable to fulfill all the
needs of its people. People living in a local area shared moments of joy and sorrow with each other.

Duties assigned for each caste group All castes including untouchables were assigned important social duties. Harijan
women helped all castes at time of child-birth. Harijan males beat drums in front of Hindus houses or in front of a procession
on important occasions/ceremonies. Village barber spread news, arranged marriages and served food during celebrations.
Occasionally non-Brahmins or Harijans served as priests of temples of goddesses like Sita or Kali, where all castes made
offerings.

All the activities of urban or rural areas were confined within a small area, having very little links with the outside world
because of the slower means of transport. Only merchants visited different distant places. The local societies used to be selfsufficient mutually `supporting and caring for each other. People in power and position cared for the lower castes in order to
acquire and retain local followers.

Different castes as a series of vertical parallels The key, to understand the caste system, was not in seeing it as a
framework of hierarchical layers of social order, each fitting neatly below the other, but as a series of vertical parallels. Each
caste was an independent entity, with its own hierarchy, based either on a tribal identity or an occupational identity. All the
castes were independent, yet their roles complementary.

Caste as a major force to retain Hindu identity Caste acted as a major force, through which Hindus retained their
cultural identity, while living under an alien political order for centuries, whether it was Mughal, Portuguese or British. It was
the major force for the failure of Islam, Christianity and other religions to make headway in India even after mass conversion.

Almost free from caste rivalries and clashes The nation was more or less free from caste wars or class clashes. Not a
single caste group was identified as very strong, dominating all the others, or as an enemy to defeat. Laws remained
unmodified and flexible enough to adapt to local customs and situations.

Plurality of Indian society during medieval period Alternative ideologies and styles of life were available in India. The
plurality of society provided automatic checks and balances and controlled the arbitrariness or unbalanced growth of power
of any group. Non-Kshatriya peasant community provided leadership to many armed bands, which were numerically
predominant and economically and politically strong at the village level.

The monopoly of powerful peasant was a reality of the rural life of Medieval India. Indian peasantry in UP, Bihar and MP were
armed. In fact, non-Kshatriya peasant provided leadership of most armed bands, which were numerically predominant and
economically and politically strong at the village level.

Position of Brahmins The Brahmin strongholds were the centers of learning. From time to time, and place to place,
different castes rose and fell in their social order, some died out and new ones were formed.

Floating communities in India before British Rule The floating population, consisting groups like Gujjars, Bhattis,
Rajput rangers, remained outside caste system. They terrorized settled agriculturists and kept a check on settled
agriculturists for centuries. Forests, which competed with arable land in size and importance, till the 18th century, gave
shelter and food to large sections of society and served as havens for those in search of escape from society.

Contribution of Sufi saints The Brahmin strongholds were the centers of learning. The learned community of Kayasthas
gave a tough competition to Brahmins, which helped in controlling the arrogance of Brahmins. Teachings of Shri Chaitnya,
Nanak, Kabir, Bhakti and Sufi saints gave some breathing space to people from the rigidities of caste system, whenever it
suffocated the society during medieval India.

Acted as a shield During medieval India, caste system was a major force for failure of Islam, Christianity and other
religions to make headway even after mass conversion. Though many evil practices developed in the system during this
period, but it acted as a shield for Hindus to retain their cultural identity, while living under alien rule, whether it was of
Mughals, Portuguese or British.

New Changes Done by British Rulers After Census Operations, British rulers codified all the castes and standardized the
system by placing them into four Varnas or in the categories of outcastes and aborigines. So far, Hindu Society was classified
into four Varnas embracing numerous castes and sub-castes within its fold. Later on, earlier British rulers and now politicians
of Independent India have divided it into five new unbridgeable compartments by census operations Backward caste,
forward caste (caste Hindus), untouchable or scheduled caste, scheduled tribes and minority. Through legal process, they
gave each one a new separate and distinct identity.

Changes in caste system through Census Operations It changed the older system drastically, giving rigidity to social
stratification and hierarchical ranking. All this was done in a piece-meal and with due regard to the safety and perpetuation of
British domination as long as possible. The process of Census enumeration was far from neutral. The British retained the
distinctions between different sub-castes, relevant to them for organizing labor and homogenized all those sub-castes, for
which they had no use, therefore, no interest. All the floating population like Gujjars, Bhattis, Ranger Rajputs, who remained
out-side caste system were fused into one. The Census operation kept Brahmins on top of hierarchy. British administrators,
Christian Missionaries and Orientalists, pinpointed them as the potential threat to the British and instigated other castes
against them.

Pigeonholed everyone by caste and community Middleton, a Census Superintendent remarked, We pigeonholed
everyone by caste and community. We deplore its effect on social and economic problems. But we are largely responsible for
the systemOur land records and official documents have added iron-bonds to the old rigidity of caste. Caste, in itself, was

rigid among the higher castes, but malleable amongst the lower. This way, the Census operations destroyed the flexibility of
caste system, led to an all-round hardening of social-system and to frantic effort by each group-for upward mobility.

Like modern Manu, The census operations divided all the castes and communities into following groups Brahmins, NonBrahmins, Muslims, Anglo-Indians, untouchables, non-Hindu Communities and backward castes. This division remains a byword even for the present leaders of Independent India.

Caste-system after Independence

BR Ambedkar has said By independence, we have lost the excuse of blaming the British for anything going wrong
Ambedkar, (quoted from TOI, P.20, Jan 26, 2010)

Post Independent India From 15

th

BR

()

of August 1947 onwards, Independent India is committed to democratic, secular and

egalitarian principles as enshrined in the Constitution of India. Preamble of the Indian Constitution promises to secure to all
its citizens: JUSTICE, social, economic and political; LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship; EQUALITY of
status and of opportunity; and to promote among them all FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity
and integrity of the Nation. Article 15 of the Constitution prohibits any kind of discrimination on grounds of caste, race,
religion, gender or place of birth; Article 16 gives equality of opportunity in matter of public employment, Article 338 creates
National commission for Scheduled Castes to safeguard their interests etc.

Concern of Government for the protection of underprivileged-castes A number of amendments in the Constitution
and legislations have been passed to remove the disabilities of backward castes. Untouchability has been declared a crime.
Bonded labor is abolished by law. Civil Rights Act, 1955, aims to eliminate injustice against weaker sections. Amendment to
Prevention of Atrocities Act (SCT) 1989 provides for stern punishments for offenses committed against SCT by Upper Castes.
Special Courts, under SCT Act, have been established for punishing officials, if found guilty.

Caste more liberal in social sphere In modern India, spread of literacy and growing awareness among masses has
already brought to an end slowly but steadily many of the discriminatory practices and deformities developed in Caste
system, while living under alien rule. It has become more liberal and less restrictive in social life of the people. Castes no
longer enjoy legal or religious sanctions.

Castes Less restrictive Expulsion from castes means little, while earlier it meant complete social ostracism. Old style of
authority and power exercised by caste-elders has already diminished except for a few rural areas especially in Haryana and
Rajasthan. Restrictions or interactions between different castes arising due to considerations for purity and pollution are
fading away from public life even from rural areas. Traditional barriers on marriage, hereditary occupations and commonality
are loosing its importance.

Poor governance Despite all the above mentioned efforts, there is no respite to a large number of people
from discriminatory practices. Even now after 70 years of Independence, millions of people suffer from poverty, disparity,
discrimination and deprivation. They are still exploited mercilessly by strong men of society. Why?

It is not the caste-system, but the bad politics and poor governance, which is responsible. Modern India is sharply divided into
two haves and have-nots. The most important factors responsible for disparities are vote-bank politics, irrational and
corrupt ways of pursuing the paternal policies and governments failure to address real issues at central and State levels.

Caste, the most powerful tool for creation of vote-banks Caste has become a bye-word for Indian politicians. For
the present-day political leaders caste is the easiest and most powerful tool to sway public opinion emotionally and to create
a larger vote bank for them. It may be called ossification of caste-system fallen into the hands of power brokers and vote
guzzlers.

Emergence of political identities For political and governance purposes, modern Indian society has been stratified in
most insensitive manner. For grabbing the political power, the modern Indian society has been divided into the following
unbridgeable groups Upper castes, Scheduled Castes, Scheduled tribes, Other Backward Class and Minorities. Sectional
interests are being promoted on caste or communal basis shamelessly.

Narrow loyalties of caste and religion Narrow loyalties of caste and religion are encouraged in political arena. It has
generated sub-cultures like caste-ism, favoritism, and lure for easy money, nepotism, parochialism, communalism,
regionalism etc. Bigoted sentiments and irresponsible comments are spreading in-discipline in the society. The rising
aspirations and demands of people, with the spread of education and awareness, has created added problem for the
government.

Under-currents of caste politics Under-currents of caste politics have made the government incapable to solve the
burning national issues. It has made to maintain law and order difficult. Inter-caste and intra-caste, inter-community and
intra-community and inter-tribal and intra-tribal conflicts are increasing day by day in order to get more space in the corridors
of power.

Real issues pushed into the background Real issues like mass-scale illiteracy, poverty, unemployment, inflation,
deteriorated law and order situation, increasing violence or general coarsening of moral fiber of the Indian society etc. are
pushed into the background. the voice of upright and honest people belonging to middle class is being continuously throttled
mercilessly. They are being punished for following sincerely family-planning norms, which has decreased their numbers. In
present day vote-bank politics based on game of numbers, it is very easy now for the pursuers of political power to sideline
them.

Winding up

Caste inseparably inter-twined with Indian way of life Caste-system has became a dominant factor, a natural
institutions for all Indians. It is running through the entire fabric of the social structure of India. Slowly but steadily caste
identity has been inseparably inter-twined with Indian way of life. So much and so that that, Muslims and Christians, Sikhs
and Buddhist, living in India could not remain immune from it for long, though their respective religions believe in egalitarian
society. They have, with all their equalitarian faith, formed caste groups within themselves.

Caste still a strong social institution Not only in the past, but at present also, caste system appears to be a valid and
useful, a natural and inevitable unit of society. It is popular and commands respect and attention of majority of Indian masses
of all sects present in India, whether foreign or indigenous. For them following four are fundamental social institutions. An
individual is supposed to be a natural member of a family, which is a unit of an extended family, extended family of Kula, Kula
of a tribe (Vish) and a tribe of a Jana or Jati (Caste).

Caste second only to family A persons relations with members of his caste are closer than with those, belonging to
other castes. Caste values, beliefs, prejudices, injunctions as well as distortions of reality are the indivisible part of a persons
psyche and conscience. Internalized caste norms defines an individual role in the society. It makes one feel good and loved,
when he lives up to these norms, and anxious and guilty, when he transgresses them. In a way, caste is still second only to
the family in widening a persons social radius and in getting importance in his/her private and occupational life.

Developed some deformities as time passed on While marching ahead during its travel to a very long distance, many
changes, desirable as well as undesirable have taken place in the caste-system especially during centuries of Muslim and
British domination in India. As time passed on, vested interests in each era had distorted or interpreted the original concepts
in the manner, which suited to their purpose. Many deformities and rigidities had developed into system to preserve its
indigenous identity and culture.

Politicians blaming Caste for all evils In political circles, caste is blamed for all the agonies of submerged sections of
Indian society it could vary from illiteracy to creating disparities of power, wealth and culture, escalation
of violence, crimes and corruption leading the nation towards disintegration and discrimination and exploitation of
weaker, unprivileged sections of society, forcing destitution on vast number of people. But the fault for it lies
somewhere else.

A continuous and uninterrupted living System/Culture Still, even now caste-system presents one of the oldest social
institution and a continuous and uninterrupted living culture and system of stratification of Indian society, still existing in the
whole world. The strength of caste system has been proved by the following facts:

Despite centuries of foreign rule over 75% of Indian population remains Hindu and have strong feelings for caste-system.

Had caste system become obsolete, it would have given place to other system.

Caste system has influenced all other communities living in India.

Acted as a shield to keep Hindu religion alive Systems and values of caste-system have acted as a shield. During
medieval and initial period of modern India, caste system has been a major force for failure of Islam, Christianity and other
religions to make headway during the Muslims or British rule. Even after the mass conversions of Hindus into Islam and
Christianity, more than 75% population have faith in Hinduism.

C. Rajgopalachari points out If there is honesty in India today, any hospitality, any charity- any aversion to evil, any love to
be good, it is due to whatever remains of the old faith and the old culture.

Conclusion Allover the world, many systems, institutions, structures, principles, and cultures have been developed from
time to time, which created a wave sweeping the entire world with it for some time. But soon, they became obsolete and
were replaced by anti-waves which replaced them and wiped off the previous influence. Caste system, on which Indian social
structure is based, has proved to be an exception. Its character is different in the context of village, locality, region or religion.
Its absorptive nature has internalized alien influences

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