Casteism In India – It’s Origin and Impact Today

Almost everyone knows what is the caste system in India and how is deep rooted its in India. Well it defines who they sit with , eat with , socialize with and how are the individuals of the family  treated in the society .The origins of this caste based system is from the ancient Hindu literature and texts – The rig veda and the brahmin textual’s from the which the concept of the Hinduism is originated as well.

caste system in India

Caste is in the Indian terms is called ‘Jaat’ which is originated from the root word ‘jana’ which means birth in Hindi and hence caste in India is related to birth. Similarly people are treated after viewing their family line in India , there are many social, political , economical , racial, occupational, evolutionary etc which try to explain the caste system in India.

Let’s first know what castes –

  • Traditional theory ,IIt says the caste system is an extension of the varna system, where the 4 varnas originated from the body of Bramha. Brahmins who were considered as intellectual teachers and came from brahma’s head , Kshatriya’s, the warriors who fough and protected were created from the Arm , Vaishyas the businessman – traders were created from the thighs and shudras who were created from the feet were to support the whole body through doing the labour work .  The sub-castes emerged later due to intermarriages between the 4 varnas.
  • Political theory – According to this theory caste is clever system invented by the brahmins to be on top of the social ladder.
  • Racial theory – In Sanskrit caste is called varna which means colour. Now the caste system was practiced or started only after the Aryans arrived in India . Rig Vedic literature stresses on the significant differences between Arya and Non Aryan’s . During the vedic period the varna system prevalent was only based on the division of labour and occupational.

Some also say that the caste system did not appear one day out of a sudden but it’s evolution from the things like – hierarchy prevalent in the society , The intellects and privileged wanting to keep their status (brahmins). The karma-dharma theory that if a person does not do good deeds(karma) , he is been punished and that’s the reason he’s been born in the lower class , Dharma is the man confirms to the caste he is born into and its tradition and follow it avidly and hence if a man is an avid follower of it’s castes’ dharma is been born into a high caste but if he violates he’s been born into lower caste.

The ‘Sudra’, occurs only once in the Rig Veda. The Sudra class represented domestic servants. Now that there are many divisions over the period of time .

Now that you have a rough idea of caste system in India lets know what are the principle’s of casteism in India

Division in the society – the society had been stratified into small groups called as caste and there were a lot of ways in which people would exclude other people from their groups.

Hierarchy – Now of course the caste system was created as hierarchy being one of its reasons , with the brahmins being on top and the bottom of the line included the untouchable caste and the middle had some working classes that are still not defined very clearly .

Endogamy , Hypergamy ,Hypogamy – The first one is not allowing the inter-caste or inter sub-caste marriage’s   and if done would led to ostracism lost of class, hypergamy (the practice of women marrying someone who is wealthier or of higher caste or social status.) and hypogamy (marriage with a person of lower social status) were also prevalent.

Along with this there was also hereditary occupation (what your fore father’s are practicing you have to practice the same ) . Food and drinking restrictions like who’s to cook who will sit to eat with whom other taboo’s related to a higher caste person would not eat from a lower caste house or even drink their water, the women are not suppose eat before men  and various other discriminatory things .

The difference between the varna’s and caste

Literally ‘varna’ means colour as mentioned above hence varna is concerned with one’s colour or occupation. Varna’s are only four in number i.e Brahmin , Kshatriya , Vaishya and Sudra , it is an all indian phenomenon . Mobility pattern Varna’s are relatively flexible with one’s talent and knowledge ,compared with the castes .Varna system is free from socio-economic and political disabilities.

Where’s on the other hand Caste system is concerned with both. Casyes are very large in number . Castes also have many subdivisions known as sub castes. Presence of regional variations mostly based on linguistic differences . Imposes many restrictions on the members

Neither is castiesm a unique phenomenon to India as there are many other countries in which castiesm is equally prevalent like Yemen , Africa , China , Korea etc

We can see the diversity through its arts and films like parasite , ‘do the right thing ‘ , ‘gook’ etc . Nor is castiesm a unique thing to Hinduism at specific , religions like Christianity , Islam all practice castiesm and equally have discriminated opinions towards the lower caste.

The caste system however us going into a change due to the development and increased awareness through education teaching people what is correct and incorrect and how the politicians and other privileged sectors are looting the lower class and people who aren’t available to voice their opinions or needs clearly . Removing the stereotype and prejudice against people is very important as it leads to a complete denial of basic rights to a whole section of the society not only in India but the world as a whole . Changing the mindset is the utmost priority for all the ‘ism’ that are there today – sexism , racism , casteism , communism etc .

Communism and casteism in India –

For a better understanding of both these terms and how they are interrelated read -‘The Annihilation of Caste ‘written Dr. BR Ambedkar who was independent India’s first Minister of law and justice , and the chief architect of the constitution of India but the important thing to note here is that he was born in the family of Untouchables caste aka Dalits . Untouchables are a socially ostracized and economically downtrodden social group . He sees indian economy through the lens of the poeple who have been historically exploited of their resources and labour. The Independent labour party formed by Dr.Ambedkar was open to communism but was skeptical of how the doubly disadvantaged Lower castes would be included in the economic development of India if it was a communist state.

Since we talked about Dr. Ambedkar and who he was now lets get to know more about the Dalit for which Dr. BR Ambedkar is a pioneer as his efoorts have gotten Dalits the recognitions of having equal rights as everyone. The were also known as the untouchables

Dalits in Maharashtra, since the early seventies and later in other states, have realised that the established literature written by the Hindu literatures is primarily anti-Dalits in its glorifying of the Hindu culture and social system and in portraying their (of Dalits) negative imagery in it even at the pretext of their literary expression about the Indian culture and traditions. In response, they have started writing their own literature — popularly known as Dalit literature — which is accepted as the Dalit literature movement (Bhoite and Bhoite, 1977) attacking the caste system and the socioeconomic exploitation of Dalits, and also asserting for their self-respect and dignified social identity.

Now Dalits in any part of India have been always deprived of their rights and treated in a very ill way. Check this article out for more detailed things –

Dr. Ambedkar fought for the Dalits rights and made quotas and reservations available for SC’s ST’s and OBC’s .This is again a very vast topic of how thye fought and what they have gone through I am attaching links below if you are interested in the history of it pleas visit and read it

Dalit history month 

Untouchables who are they ?

Dalits and their origin 

caste system in India

Now what are the rights given by our constitution to the people who face atrocities against Human Rights of Scheduled Cast (SC) and Scheduled Tribe ( ST) .

Article 17 of the Indian Constitution is fundamental right and through this provision the untouchability was abolished and its practice in any form forbidden and punishable under law . Despite clear and specific constitutional provision guaranteeing every individual’s right to a life of dignity , equality and non – discrimination, the shameful existence of caste based discrimination and denial made this specific articulation on untouchability . To eliminate untouchability , our Government enacted Abolition of Untouchability Act , 1995 that rechristened later in 1976 as protection of Civil Rights Act and although more stringent on papers only but could not be implemented at all, specially , in Rajasthan. After several years there arose a need to check crimes against the SC’s and ST’s but these enactments weren’t enough so another act , the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes (prevention of attrocities ) Act, 2989 was brought into force with effect from January 30 , 1990 .

Read about Transgender Community – various aspects regarding it

Now  section 3 under chapter II of the SC’s and ST’s Act that gives legislative teeth to the phenomenon of rascist caste crimes. It is this section that describes and defines not simply the crimes committed against certain sections of the population but positions them for what they are , as caste – based discrimination. It is this section that outlines specifically a crime under section 3 (1) of the SC’s and ST’s Act as which “forces a member of a SC or ST to drink or eat any obnoxious substance ” (this is in context of SC’s even today being forced to drink urine and human excrete); or under section 3 (III) “forcibly removed clothes from person /member of SC and ST or parades him/her naked ….” or section 3 (IV) “wonderfully occupied or cultivated land owned by or alloted to , or notified by a competent authority…..” ; section 3(IX) “assaults or uses force on any women belonging to SC or ST with intent to dishonor or outrage (her) modesty .”
Today as we see the society as a who is progressed a lot . Looking upon efforts made by the great people in the past it is incumbent on every individual today individual to ensure growth process that is not only equitable but is also seen so .

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