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Casteism in Indian Society

The caste system in Indian society finds its roots in the ancient India and has evolved during the different centuries. It basically divided the society into four categories i.e. Brahaman, Kshtriyas, Vaishiyas and Shudras. The Brahamans are the top in the hierarchy and the Shudras are the lowest among all. The notion of Caste System is of two types, Jatis and Varnas which are observed as different level of evaluation of this system. It is a socio-political hierarchical structure of the Indian Society[1].

The caste system in India is still prevalent today and is visible in educational institutions, government and private jobs and is severely followed by a majority of people when it comes to marrying in the same caste. The caste system was a development of the outcomes of the Gupta Empire (existing from the mid-to-late 3rd century CE to 543 CE) and the rise of the British Raj after the collapse of The Mughal Era in India[2].

Research Objectives
  • To understand the history and origin of casteism in Indian Society.
  • To understand and analyze the problems that are prevalent in India due to Caste System.
  • To understand the change that has been since the ancient times in the Caste System

Research Methodology
The author has used the Doctrinal and the Descriptive method of Research in which the author has to read various literature written on the topic of research from various sources which include Newspaper Articles, Journals, Books and Online Sources as well. By doing this, the author gains an insight on the topic and gets to have more perspectives about the same which further helps the author present a reliable research project.

Research Scheme/Chapterisation
The research project starts with Introduction and is divided into four chapters:
  • The first chapter is about the origin of Casteism in Indian Society
  • The second is about the need of the caste system in India and how is it discriminatory in nature.
  • The third is about suggesting ways to overcome the caste system in India
  • The fourth chapter is the conclusion.
  • Lastly, there is bibliography mentioning all the sources which have been used in the making of this research project.

Emergence of Casteism (History of Caste in India)

The Caste System in India is a combination of upper and the lower strata of the society which are divided on the basis of their occupation and the position that they have held in the society. The caste system is hereditary in nature and the caste one is born within is the one he/she has to live with. Varna and Jati are often used as interchangeable terms but there is a huge variation between the two. The varna traits are assimilated by a person and group as class label.

People are not born with varna traits and characteristics. It is a type of cultural episode having ethics, mindsets and conduct derived variously from one's profession, faith, religion, trade and so on. Jati characteristics on the contrary are hereditary as they signify racial' and sub-racial ethnic features related to ancestry and background[3].

The Caste System in India emerged with the invasion of the Aryans on the Indian subcontinent which made the Dravadians i.e. the native people as the inferior class due to their dark skin and the Aryans who were fair skinned people as superior to them. This class suppressed the Dravadians (the people of the south).
  The casteism in India is often simultaneous with the Aryan Invasion Theory. The Aryans often 'overwrote' the already existant social order and placed themselves at the top of this social hierarchy. They set their own set of system which they made full use on the conquered people[4].

The caste system in India is basically a Four-Rank System (chaturvarnasamstha). The term varna has been coined by the anthropologists which correctly means class. It doesn't mean class without the association of rank. This four-rank system has been very clearly laid down by the Manusmriti which says that Jati's are countless but Varna's are only four in number and these four are:
  1. Brahaman
  2. Kshtriya
  3. Vaishiyas
  4. Shudras.
The first three categories are known as Dwija which elucidates twice-born and these three are the class which are permitted to perform the thread ceremony which is a Upanayana i.e. the acceptance of the person by a Guru but this was not on the cards of the Shudras as even their touch was considered as polluting by the above three varnas. The jatis which were created later have been consequential from the marriages of the people from the distinct varnas.[5]

In ancient Indian society, the marriage was to be between the members of the same varnas and this was laid down by Manusmriti. The men could marry a woman of a lower varna and this was accepted by the society. This type of marriage was anoloma and in the modern anthropological terms it is called as a hypergamy.

But if the women married a man of a lower varna, they were glowered upon. The Manu's rule of marriage was not based upon the jati-endogamy but varna-endogamy. The anuloma's rule laid down by Manusmriti was also contradictory to its attempt to derive jatis because if the varna of the child is that of a father then how can numerous jatis comes into being from the original four varnas itself?[6]

Among the four categories in the Varna System, the first in rank were the Brahmanas. This was the varna from which the priests/pandits who were accountable for teaching and preservation of the sacred knowledge. They were the educated class. They were often commissioned as the mentors of the ruling class. They had the knowledge of the vedas and the religious texts as well as the holy books.

They were the spiritual directors of the second class i.e. the Kshtriyas. According to the Manusmriti, the Brahmanas were to remain vegetarian throughout their lifetime but there was an exception in the Bengal region and the Brahmanas were allowed to have fish. Their main job was to teach, study Vedas, offer the ritual sacrifices, solemnize at rituals for others, give as well as accept gifts. [7]

The second category is the Kshtriyas, the warriors as well as the ruling class. Majority of the kings belonged to this varna. Their paramount was to become learned in austerity, weaponry, penance, warfare, moral conduct, administration, ruling and justice. To be equipped with mandatory knowledge, most of them were sent to the ashrams of Brahmanas at an early age.

Their ultimate duty was to protect their region, govern virtuously, deliver justice, defend against attacks and to extend happiness and peace to their subjects without any bias. In this varna, even the females were figure of masculinity and were aware of the warfare and they discharged the duty of the kings in their absence from the kingdom. [8]

Vaishyas is the third category and includes the population which was involved with commerce represented by traders, agriculturalist, money lenders, merchants etc. The Vaishyas also went to the ashrams of the Brahmin Guru for the learning the rules of an exemplary life and to refrain from any sort of accidental or intentional delinquency or felony.

One of the venerate profession in the Vaishyas was cattle rearing. They worked closely with the administration and coordination of the kingdom. The business of the men was supported by their wives and they had an active involvement in the sharing of the burden of work with the men. There were no restriction on the women of this varna in marrying men from other varnas but marrying a Shudra man was highly resisted. The Vashiya women had equal right in the ancestral property. [9]

The last in the category of Varna and the lowest in the rank are the Shudras who represent the mainstay of a booming economy in which they are appreciated for their submissive conduct towards life duties set out for them. This was the Varna on which most restrictions were placed and they were not free to do what they pleased. There were subcategories within Shudras as well and the lowest were treated as 'untouchables' and the people were afraid that if their shadow is cast upon them, they would have to take to the ritualistic bath to purify themselves.

This category was not allowed to lead a normal life like the other three and had no right to education. [10]They had to live on the outskirts of the village and were mostly associated with jobs like cleaning, butchering, dealing with dead bodies of humans as well as animals, garbage handling and sewage work.

There are not enough accounts about the lives of these people but the accounts left by the international travelers like Fa Hsien from China wrote in his journal that the untouchables were housed outside the village and when they came to the village, they had to ring a utensil while coming to the village so that the others people moved out of their ways and avoided any contact with them. Another Chinese traveler Xuanzang wrote that this Varna people were not allowed to drink water from the common well.

This was the class which was most discriminated against as it believed that they came out from the feet of God, thus their link with work of dirt. This category people could not become a king but the famous Chandragupta are traditionally known to be Shudras. [11]

Despite the fact that Manusmriti had clearly laid down the occupation of all the four varnas and how they were to be governed, there were a lot of changes that took place around 1000 BCE and 500 BCE when there were new challenges for Varnas in form of economic and social intricacies which in turn came out as a challenge for the allocation of the duties of the four Varnas.

There was a growing disunity among the people with the increase in population as there were many who were against the idea of the Varna system and had faith elsewhere[12]. This led to the emergence of new religions like Jainism and Buddhism. Many people were pro to the idea of conversion due to which many converted to Christianity as well as Islam.

There were many who followed the new religions as their principles were against such hierarchical discrimination and treated everyone at par irrespective of their social, economic or political status. People from all the Varnas were attracted towards these teaching and not just the Shudras. King Ashoka is known to be the greatest advocate of the Buddhist religion and he was one of the major reasons for the spread of the religion not just across India but the entire world. [13]

The divisions have been in our society since a long period of time and this has been the basis on which the life of the people was based and this was also the basis of governing the society. The one at the top of the hierarchy were the most privileged and the ones at the bottom were the most prejudicial groups. But we witness change in this system with the changing decades as well as the rulers.

The ground rules were changed and people from all sections of society started drifting away from the caste system. This was the marking of the breakdown of this hierarchical system and in my opinion, this was a necessity as all people should be treated as equal and caste can never be a basis on how someone should be treated in the society and what their place should be in the society. All groups of people should be given equal opportunities and the changes were the beginning of this equality among all.

Caste in Modern Era (Present Day Scenario)

In the modern era, instead of the Varna System there is division of people in categories named General which is inclusive of the people from the top three categories, Schedule Caste which includes Shudras, Untouchables and Dalits, Schedule Tribes includes the tribal people and Backward Classes as well. Apart from the general category, the other are the disadvantaged groups and there is positive discrimination in form of reservations for them for their upliftment and to make up for the past discrimination. During the British Raj, these were known as the Depressed Classes. [14]

In present day India new pressures were made in view of these positive discrimination for certain backward categories including the schedule caste and schedule tribes which is inclusive of the untouchables (in modern terms known as Dalits) and the shudras. The higher castes feel separated by the administration approach to save positions for the Backward Classes. As a rule countless high position individuals vie for a couple of spots held for them.

While the Backward Classes individuals don't need to contend at all in view of the huge number of held spots for them contrasted with the competitors. Some of the time so as to fill the quantity, competitors from the lower classes are acknowledged despite the fact that they are not appropriate. Now and then some saved positions stay unmanned in light of the fact that there were not many applicants from the lower classes causing increasingly strain between the ranks. Between the lower classes, there are additionally strains over reservation. [15]

In the request for need for a reserved spot of the Backward Classes, applicant from the Scheduled Caste is given preference over a competitor from the Scheduled Tribes who is favored from the other Backward Classes. As expressed before Other Backward Classes (OBC) are about half of India's populace yet just 27% of the Other Backward Classes (OBC) are entitled for positive separation as per Central Government strategy. Some Other Backward Classes (OBC) people group are sorting out politically to be perceived as Backward Classes (BC) entitled for constructive separation i.e. positive discrimination. [16]

The Scheduled Tribes who are viewed as the aborigins of India got possession and certain rights over Indian land. Numerous people group in India guarantee likewise to be aborigins of India and they are asserting indistinguishable rights from the Scheduled Tribes[17].

The standing character has rolled into a subject of socio, political and legitimate indulgent. Networks who get recorded as permitted for positive discrimination does not escape this regardless of whether their .social and .political conditions show signs of improvement. Much of the time the lawful framework is included to choose if someone in particular is entitled for optimistic discrimination[18].

Be that as it may, with this positive discrimination approach, the vast majority of the networks who were low in the hierarchy of importance stay low in the social environment even today. What's more, networks who were high in the social hierarchy of authority stay even today high in the social progressive system. The vast majority of the cleaning and menial occupations like sewage cleaning, dealing with dead bodies etc are even today done by the Dalits, while the Brahmans stay at the highest point of the progressive system by having the best occupations in the country.[19]

The Constitution of India protects the rights of Schedule Caste and Schedule Tribes. Articles 17 of the Constitution abolished Untouchability and it is an offence punishable in accordance with the law[20]. Article 46 requires the State 'to promote with special care the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of the people, and, in particular, of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes, and to protect them from social injustice and all forms of exploitation.[21]

Article 335 provides that the claims of the members of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes shall be taken into consideration, consistently with the maintenance of efficiency of administration, in the making of appointments to services and posts in connection with the affairs of the Union or of a State[22]. Other articles which protect the rights are Article 15(4), Article 16(4A), Article 338, Article 330, Article 332.

The caste system presently has evolved to a huge degree and it has moved from treating people on the basis of their caste to treating people with equality and providing them equality of opportunity to grow up to their maximum of aptitude. This is ensured by the Constitution of India and according to me, it was a necessity to provide a backup to this by some authority for making it an obligation.

Overcoming the Caste System (Solutions)

Caste System is an evil that is still prevalent in our society and there is a need to annihilate it from the root itself but while doing this the fact that the lower caste has been the most affected (in a negative way) in the past due to this and we cannot turn a blind eye towards that. While dismantling the hierarchy of the caste system, to create a sense of equality and as a compensation for the past discrimination, the needs of the depressed and backward as well as the lower caste need to be kept in mind[23].

Ambedkar was himself a victim of the discrimination of the caste system due to his lower caste and he suggested three major ways by which eradication of caste can be done. The first one was that Brahmins should condemn the Shastras. He was of the opinion that even if this is done then the hierarchy which has been created since the ages would break down and the very root cause would be eliminated. But Ambedkar believed that the good intentioned Brahmins cannot liberate the Dalits as this has been witnessed in the past itself as they would not allege themselves to go against the norms of the Vedas[24].

Second, he suggested that there should be Inter-caste dining but this suggestion does not hold much importance in the present day scenario as this was a concept of the past where the people of different caste had food together at different occasions but the lower caste were not allowed to do the same and this was done the time of the various round table conference and other meetings held by Congress when independence was to be gained by India.

Instead of this suggestion, to have it in a modern-day context, we can check the temples where the Shudras are yet not allowed to enter and the reservation at various levels of educational institutions as well as the occupational places should be maintained as to provide them a sense of equality as well as a compensation for the past discrimination which did not allow them to exercise equal rights as the other three Varnas enjoyed[25].

The third and the final solution given by Dr. BR Ambedkar was inter-caste marriage by which there is a formation of new jatis which is in actuality contradiction of the varna system and defeats its own purpose. By this system, the very purpose of varna system is not adhered to which leads to dissolution of the system by intermingling of the Varnas further leading to formation of new Jatis.

But this solution would only be implemented if the thinking of the people in regard to caste system changes and they treat every person as one but it is quite evident in the matrimonial section of the newspaper where there are different sections for different jatis and preference is given to endogamy marriage and not exogamy despite the fact that people in the present-day society are well aware about this system and yet are not ready to overcome it. For this, knowledge needs to be provided to them.[26]

The inter-caste marriage is not against any faith and it would promote socialism. It would be good since the caste division would be done away with. But even today there are societies which are against the concept of inter-caste and love marriage. There should be no discrimination on this basis and it should be upto the preference of the individuals. Caste should not be a criterion to be considered in marriage.

It should not be termed as unethical if there is exogamy marriage. Inter-caste marriages have been a major reason for the honour-killings in our country which clearly shows the mindset of our society. There is a need to promote incentives. There have been Supreme Court cases which support this concept of inter-caste marriage like Lata Singh v State of Uttar Pradesh [27]where the SC ruled that anybody can marry whomsoever they want and the police should provide protection to them. [28]

The General category people have often argued about the unfairness in the reservations and they often say that the admissions and selections in educational institutions as well as jobs should be merit based and priority shouldn't be given to a certain section of people because of their gender but in my opinion, this is not acceptable because certain castes have been deprived of their basic rights for such a long duration of time that for their upliftment such steps are necessary because the Schedule Caste (SC), Schedule Tribe (ST), Other Backward Class (OBC) did not have active involvement in educational institutions and there was a huge drop out rate.

To curb this and ensure their involvement, reservations are necessary. They cannot be taken away so quickly till the time it is ensured that there is no disparity in any caste. Nowadays, there is emergence of a new category i.e. the backward class. This is the category which was not discriminated against but they never got a chance to grow and have lived in poverty since a long time. This includes the Jats of Haryana. After few years, reservation should be based on the economic status of the person.

The Caste System is a curse for the Indian civilization as it is a division on the basis of the economic, political and social structure of the population. It divides people into castes and classes which further leads to a discriminatory and prejudiced society. It is an essential part of the Hindu tradition of India. The past concept was that the Brahmins who were preist and teachers came from the head of Lord Brahma thus they were the most superior among the hierarchy and the Sudras come from his feet therefore justifying their low status in the society.[29]

This system was first observed with the Aryan invasion which but the way it was adhered to in the beginning has changed a lot and it is quite liberal and the basic concept is itself changing.
The Varna system was the beginning which further turned into jati system and nowadays it is in form of categories such as General, SC, ST, OBC etc and these people are given reservation for their upliftment but there have been many conflicts related to this. There has been a huge difference in the nature of the caste system from what it was in the past and what it is now. The discrimination which prevalent because of caste hierarchy has reformed to become positive from negative[30].

The Indian, Caste, System has presumed a critical job in establishing the occupations and jobs just as approximations of Indian culture. Religion has been the sturdy push towards this stratification Indian Caste System for a substantial length of time, starting with the Aryans and continuing down. a protracted, .difficult capabilityof tragic separation, isolation, fierceness, and disparity.

Hinduism. was the basis of the impeccability contamination. complex and it was the religion that exaggerated the everyday lives and persuasions of the .Indian personalities. Indeed, even .following sixty-three years of autonomy, Indians keep on being in the hold of station responsiveness.

Generally, India has been making due as a country for eras with shut congregations isolated by standing, belief and language. Work was segregated and each had his allocated undertaking since birth, and inheritance of employment was a standard that presumed a major job in the financial aspects of urban and rustic life.

Portability of occupation or rank was limited, and an discrete leaving the control of his descendants so as to pursue their own way was once in a while seen. It very well may be seen that rank. keeps on assuming .a. momentous job in the dynamic of social and .political communications .inside India. [31]

Nevertheless, .the association among standing and inherited professions has .turned out to. be less remarkable now, and there are.less captivities on social association among. ranks, particularly in urban zones. The present Indian culture is poignant from its shut agendas towards a condition of progress and crusade set apart by the declaration of the human soul irrespective of standings and ideologies. Various expansions testing the disloyalties related with the standing background have urged.people in India to be increasingly thoughtful towards other position. individuals.

A huge. number of the lower castes have gained a lot from the intermediate disposal. of the position framework, and India ought to be much-admired for its steady application to kill this. arrangement of stratification. from its way of life. It .is, be that as it may, essential to take a glimpse at the significance of how position status has influenced the personal .satisfaction and .social compactness in India. today.

  1. History of India's Caste System by Kallie Szczepanski
  2. Varna and Jati Some New Thoughts by Harshad R Trivedi
  3. The Problem of Caste by Satish Deshpande
  4. Who are the Brahmins? by Kallie Szczepanski
  5. Caste System in Ancient India by Nikul Joshi
  6. Continuous Hierarchies and Discrete Castes by M.N. Srinavas
  7. Phenomenology of Untouchability by Sundar Sarukkai
  8. How Ambedkar's Solution Can Solve Caste Problem Today by Sahil Verma
  9. Justice for Dalits among Dalits by K Balagopala
  10. Inter-Caste Marriage the Way Forward to Eradicating Caste System by Sahil
  11. Who are Other Backward Classes by Marc Glanter
  12. Who are the Schedule Caste, Schedule Tribes, OBCs and EBCs? By Vishnu Gopinath
  13. Reservation: Experience as a Framework of Debate by Kancha Ilaiah
  14. History of the Indian Caste System and its impact on India Today by Manali S Deshpande
  1. Dalits in Modern India: Visions in Modern India by S.M. Michael
  2. NCERT: Themes in Indian History Part 1 (Class 12)
  3. The Problem of Caste by Satish Deshpande
  4. Caste in Modern India by Sumit Sarkar and Tanika Sarkar
  1. Lata Singh v State of UP and Anr 2006 5 SCC 475
Newspaper Report:
  1. Inter-Religious and Inter-Caste Marriage are Good for Socialism, not Averse to them: Supreme Court by Utkarsh Anand (News18)
  2. What is India's Caste System? BBC New
  1. S.M. Michael, 'Dalits in Modern India: Visions in Modern India' (Edn 2-2007
  2. Kallie Szczepanski, 'History of India's Caste System' (August 11, 2019)
  3. Harshad R Trivedi, 'Varna and Jati Some New Thoughts' (March 1977)
  4. Sahil Verma's 'How Ambedkar's Solution Can Solve Caste Problem Today' (June 17, 2017)
  5. Satish Deshpande's 'The Problem of Caste' (2014)
  6. Harshad R Trivedi, 'Varna and Jati Some New Thoughts' (March 1977)
  7. Kallie Szczepanski's, 'Who are the Brahmins?' (July 08, 2019)
  8. Nikul Joshi, 'Caste System in Ancient India' (20 November 2017)
  9. M.N. Srinavas, 'Continuous Hierarchies and Discrete Castes' (24 November, 1984)
  10. Nikul Joshi, 'Caste System in Ancient India' (20 November 2017)
  11. Sundar Sarukkai, 'Phenomenology of Untouchability' (12 September 2009)
  12. Nikul Joshi, 'Caste System in Ancient India' (20 November 2017)
  13. NCERT, 'Themes in Indian History Part 1' Edn 11 (January 2019)
  14. Kancha Ilaiah, 'Reservation: Experience as a Framework of Debate' (13 October 1990)
  15. Sumit Sarkar and Tanika Sarkar, 'Caste in Modern India' (Edn 3 2016)
  16. Marc Glanter, 'Who are Other Backward Classes?' (October 1978)
  17. Vishnu Gopinath, 'Who are the Schedule Castes, Schedule Tribes, OBC's and EBCs? (12 June 2018)
  18. Kancha Ilaiah, 'Reservation: Experience as a Framework of Debate' (13 October 1990)
  19. Vishnu Gopinath, 'Who are the Schedule Castes, Schedule Tribes, OBC's and EBCs? (12 June 2018)
  20. Article 17
  21. Article 46
  22. Article 355
  23. Sahil Verma's 'How Ambedkar's Solution Can Solve Caste Problem Today' (June 17, 2017)
  24. K Balagopala, 'Justice for Dalits among Dalits' (16 July, 2015)
  25. Sahil Verma's 'How Ambedkar's Solution Can Solve Caste Problem Today' (June 17, 2017)
  26. Utkarsh Anand, 'Inter-Religious and Inter-Caste Marriage are Good for Socialism, not Averse to them: Supreme Court' (News18- September 11, 2019)
  27. Lata Singh v State of UP and Anr 2006 5 SCC 475
  28. Sahil's, 'Inter-Caste Marriage the Way Forward to Eradicating Caste System' (June, 2019)
  29. What is India's Caste System? BBC News (19 June 2019)
  30. Daniel Aharon. "Caste System in Modern India." Adaniel's Info Site. Web. 4 Nov. 2010.
  31. History of the Indian Caste System and its impact on India Today

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