History

Caste system in India is very old, oldest of all in the social order, existing since 2500 years (experts have yet not verified it), where classes were divided into “jaatis” which is casts in Hindi, and these jaatis comprised of individuals whom were arranged in a hierarchy or varnas ( a Sanskrit word for “colours”): the Brahmans (high priests) highly educated and top in the class, superior in every field ( were positioned higher in the caste system), the Kshatriyas who were the worriers, fought numerous battles, well built and fierce worriers, owned lands in return to the service to the kingdom, the Vaishyas, traders and the lowest, the Shudras, who were labourers. There was a fifth class; the class however was not included in the Verna’s. The fifth were the “Untouchables”, these were the people who did the most “impure” job like toilet cleaning and garbage removal, and because of their workings, and they were named as “untouchables”. Being the least in the cast they were prohibited from entering into temples and public areas. This changed however in the 1950, when a new legislation was created.

As the time pasts, the castes and the sub castes were predominated by the British Empire especially after the establishment of British East India Company. This is where it all began. After the establishment of British East India Company and almost half of the nation still in its grip, the first population census took place in the year 1872. The hierarchy was set up depending upon the type of work, which means if a person is working well, he should be on the top. Sometime later, it became hereditary, something which was socially unalterable, the unchangeable thinking which explained us the methodologies of who and what we are. The caste defined us. If we were good, we could go up, if we were bad, we could go down. Ideology such as where were you born, what were you in the previous birth confined our thoughts. This is where caste was born.

Current Situation

Looking at the last two decades, India has changed, economically and socially, creation of jobs stabilized the middle class and displaced most of the hierarchy and the “old social thinking”. Many policy experts think that today the caste system doesn’t exists, with inter-caste marriages and increased private sector jobs that doesn’t value who you are, especially in the large cities, but rural India still follows the same system and defines the caste based marriages on superior social status and economic stability. M.K Rajaraman (1993) states that in the 90’s caste based marriages were prominent but as younger generation evolved, inter-caste marriages began in the mid of the 20th century, and those having an intercaste marriages in the 70’s had a very hard time. Looking at the ground roots, India is an actively democratic, socialist and a secular nation, banning all forms of untouchability and racism; assisting the lower ranks to have equal status and evolving them socially. Gandhi once referred untouchables as the “Children of God”.

Involving the Scheduled Tribes and the Scheduled Castes in government agenda’s, providing employment and stability is again a debatable issue. You have to understand that “god does not choose your parents” Hence Government’s plans to reserve seats in technical and non technical sectors have opened up doors.  Coming now to the backward classes and those who have converted their religion other than Hindu, government has provided them rights , legality, land and their identity in the society. The issue again remains the same, the government will do what it must to increase the level of involvement in the society but will we be able to accept them? Today most of the degrading jobs are done by Dalit’s as priests remain on the top seat. Every politician, every bureaucrat goes to his/her worship place but never a politician or a bureaucrat manages to hold a dustbin and clean his surroundings. The fact remains the same, we have never learnt acceptance.

If we talk about India extreme neighbour Nepal, nearly half of the entire population is below caste, which is stated in the 2011 census, mentioning over 13.6% of the entire 3.6 million populations are dalits, some experts believe that by the end of 2015 the percentage can exceed to 20% of the entire population. The factors most alert in this country and affecting the untouchables are: The living conditions of women, human trafficking, prostitution, slavery and limited participation in political life.

So, what can be done?

It is not the first time that caste system is being discussed at a forum. The United Nations recognizes equality, religion, and freedom for all, especially when it comes to regional diversification. Government of India has been tackling the issue of caste based system in India but, you, me and all of us are so busy in our work we tend to ignore it always when it hit the online and mainstream media. Just because he or she is a Dalits, doesn’t mean he or she will pick up rags the rest of his life. Empowerment is the key. “The Dalits are considered to be dirty or impure by the Brahmins (highest rank in the caste system), even their shadow is considered to be “polluting” to the environment, and many Dalits have been badly beaten or killed for drinking from the same wells as the Brahmins.” The incident is as alarming and here we are discussing Digital India.

Conclusions

The issue needs to be resolved, and India needs all of us. Indian government has to realize that the solution would after all come through the bureaucracy door and needs to be discussed among the public before any actions taken. The issue is not very sensitive, the sensitivity is itself created by us. Basic pay on the basis of caste and caste based discrimination in a sovereign country was not imagined by our forefathers, who gave their lives so that we can breathe the air freely. Awareness among the people has to be created. Public discussions and talks in public domains will unite us and then only a citizen irrespective of his caste will be benefited, we need to make a stand because, “united we rise, divided we fall”.

 


Article Contributed By: 

Anant Mishra is former youth representative United Nations. He has served in number of committees including United Nations Conference for Trade and Development and United Nations General Assembly primarily focusing on international trade, middle east crisis, education, finance, economics. He can be reached on anantmishra92@gmail.com

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