Caste system in India
Indian subcontinent which inhabits 17.5% of the world’s population is also the abode of numerous groupings within its population. Caste System in India has a pen name the Hindu Varna System, the mother of all caste divisions prevalent today. It differentiated the people following Hinduism, the only prominent religion at the time into four groups namely Brahmans or the priestly class, followed by Shatriyas or the warrior class and the vaishyas or traders Shudras or the working class. Vedic caste system was based on one principle, suppression of a group of people by another set based on birth and occupation.
Shudras were expected to do chores of all the above classes and lay below all the other people. Discrimination faced by them on all fronts, had to be eliminated from the society after an arduous struggle by various quarters. Caste System in India during the Rig Vedic period was a burden to the lower masses in the form of stringent procedures and rituals. Victimized people backed the rise of new philosophies which were simple and easy for them to follow .Ideal of oneness , freedom from rituals and discrimination imposed by the Varna system were the other reasons for the wide spread of Buddhism and Jainism during those days.
Advent of many ethnic and religious groups of people into the sub continent concreted the caste system prevalent. The newcomers mainly Turkish had distinctions among themselves. It became even harsher through practices of Sati and child marriage. Women were the most affected and relief came about as reform movements of 18th century. Deteriorating conditions of Dalits, untouchablity, upliftment of women, minorities had all been crucial issues of the national movement and is treated with same essence even after six and half decades of freedom. During the national movement their cause was taken up by Mahatma Gandhi, the father of our nation and Dr. B.R Ambedkar, Father of Indian Constitution, two contemporaries with contemplating ideas. Gandhiji’s harijan campaign brought into light the miserable conditions of downtrodden people, but little did he know that apart from colonial administration it was the suppression of higher caste people the reason for their poor situation and that it could be changed only if power was given to them for their well being.
This is exactly what Ambedhkar advocated, empowering lower castes people. What Gandhi resented through this hunger fast in Yeravada Jail is what we do till today. He didn’t want to create a minority within Hindus, a noble thought. Ambedhkar signed the Poona pact and gave in to Gandhiji’s. Reservation was the only antidote to improve the conditions of Harijan.
Enactment of our constitution ensured protection and granted rights to all Indian citizens, yet the implication of caste has been a debated topic till today.
Reservation, under various categories for the upliftment of scheduled castes and backward castes has indeed been helpful for economic development of these people. Protection of Civil Rights Act criminalized untouchablity but there was an incident in Bengaluru where the teacher separated two Dalit students from the rest of the class. Such incidents set a bad example for future Indian society. Honor Killings, Khap panchayats etc., prevalent throughout India are direct reflections of caste discrimination. Fleeing of an UP family to escape such a trauma of Khap panchayat is one such frightful example. In states like Tamil Nadu women of higher castes are often seen as a symbol of progeny and they considered polluted if she is involved with a guy from a lower caste and very often it is the boy who is killed. But these situations are reversed if an upper caste boy marries a lower caste girl.
Problems faced by women like female infanticide, harassment, sex assault, female and child trafficking are due to their suppression and it was unanimous in all castes. This mindset is found even today in majority and domestic violence often goes unreported but it is the women who suffer in spite of her position and educational status. Lynching of an upper caste woman who was the daughter-in-law of an ex-MLA along with her children in Telengana shows that though protected from assaulters outside they are vulnerable in their own home.
Vote bank politics and criminalization of politicians all work on the caste equation. Diversity is the identity of our country but that should not come as a slaughter of humanity. Inclusive development cannot be possible with caste playing its havoc. Government should understand that enacting laws in no way would change the problems but only an individual evolution has the power to do it.
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