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How the Caste System Affects People in IndiaIndia has its own form of racism. We refer to it as “Casteism.” India’s caste system was formed based on socio-economic factors or ideological factors. In 1500 BC, Aryans arrived in India and disregarded local groups. They formed three groups, namely warriors, priests and farmers. Warriors and priests fought for the leadership role. Out of which priests emerged victorious to supreme their power over India. In the end, farmers, craftsmen, warriors and locals were led by Brahamans or priests. Like many societies, a son will inherit his father’s job in India. This inheritance continued for a long time and it ended up as a community, jaati or a caste in the Indian system. Brahamans encouraged socialism only within their respective groups that created inequality in this diversified country. A caste looking down on the other is a common occurrence and it is publicly accepted. People who clean drainage are aligned to the “Scheduled Caste” and they are termed as “untouchables.” Those who live in forests as tribes are aligned to “Scheduled Tribes.”

The caste system is a significant social system in India. One’s caste affects their options regarding marriage, employment, education, economies, mobility, housing and politics, among others.

How the Caste System Affects Citizens

  • Marriages: Most Indian marriages are arranged by parents. Several factors were considered by them for finding the ideal spouse. Out of which, one’s caste is a significant factor. People do not want their son or their daughter to marry a person from another caste. Just like the word “untouchables” suggests, a Brahmin would never marry a person from an SC or ST caste.
  • Education: Public universities have caste-based reservations for students coming from underprivileged backgrounds. A person from this background can secure a seat in a top tier college with par or below par academic scores based on reservation. However, impoverished Brahmans are disadvantaged with this reservation system. For example, a Brahman has to score 100% on certain exams to get into a top tier university. While the lower caste applicant can even bypass the exam for getting a seat in the university.
  • Jobs: A significant amount of public sector jobs are allocated based on caste reservation. Impoverished communities from Brahman backgrounds get affected significantly because of this reservation.

It is just as Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar said, “Caste will stand in your way for political and economical reforms within India.” According to him, eradicating such a strong foundation is extremely difficult yet doable. However, the path to reform has many roadblocks in it.

How Can the Government Solve this Caste Issue?

The government has come to the conclusion that segregating people across castes and aligning them to a particular caste by offering special quotas will solve the caste problem. In fact, the Indian government provides incentives to people of lower caste to make them feel better about their poor inheritance. However, the caste system still lurks in the minds of Indian citizens.
According to Ambedkar, the annihilation of the caste system can be done by supporting these actions:

  1. Intercaste Marriage: Cross caste marriage can possibly eradicate the upper and lower caste mentality. Around 5% of marriages in India are between different castes. Around a quarter of the population on matrimonial sites are open to intercaste marriages at the moment.
  2. Intercaste Dining: Addressing caste-related issues at large public events can contribute to diversity and inclusion efforts. Several dining events were organized by local state governments to incorporate people from all around the country.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s political agenda includes caste elimination from the country. India has improved to some extent in this 21st century on several fronts. However, there is still lots of room to grow. The Indian government has an effective plan of bringing people together from all walks of life. Yet, certain inherent ideological contradictions will stand in the way while solving this issue. Regardless, that should not deter our hope in escaping the shackles of casteism.

– Narasinga Moorthy
Photo: Flickr

dailt-women-Indian-Caste-System
Although the Indian caste system is no longer legitimate, its repressive characteristics still affect the lives of the Dalit population today, particularly its women.

According to Human Rights Watch, the caste system in India “is perhaps the world’s longest surviving social hierarchy” and is a “defining feature of Hinduism.”

“A person is considered a member of the caste into which he or she is born and remains within that caste until death,” the organization said in a report.

Graham Peebles, director of the Create Trust, a UK based charity that helps disadvantaged women and children, said that women suffer the most under the caste system.

In a Counterpunch article, Peebles said Dalit women suffer the most under the caste system despite its being banned by India’s constitution. They tend to become victims of sexual slavery, humiliation and torture. They are also denied access to land, water and education.

Peebles argues that they are living under a type of apartheid in which “discrimination and social exclusion is a major factor.”

That is not to say, however, that Dalit women are the only females who struggle under the Indian caste system.

Indian authorities are constantly unsuccessful in seeking justice for the rapes that occur throughout the country. India’s National Crime Records Bureau estimates that rape cases increased up to 900% over the last four decades. In 2011 alone, more than 24,000 rapes were reported.

But unlike girls who are born into a middle class family, Peebles believes that girls born into a Dalit family receive little attention due to the media’s success in making the country look like a Bollywood film to international observers.

India can definitely improve in several areas regarding the unfair treatment of women. However, with the outlawed caste system still in place, these improvements seem unlikely to occur any time soon.

– Juan Campos

Sources: CounterPunch, Human Rights Watch
Photo: Kamla Foundation