Latasinha's Weblog

Social and political Values and Systems in India.

Caste as a “system” and “casteism”

 It has become a fashion in modern society to denounce ‘caste-system’ and regard it ‘indefensible’ causing ‘miseries’ to millions of people in India. But it is not the ‘Caste-system’ but ‘casteism’, which is deplorable. There is a great difference between ‘caste’ as a ‘system’ and ‘casteism’.

  • System” means an organised, harmonious, effective and established set/pattern/procedure of working/arrangement based on doctrines, ideas, experiences or principles; A manner of classifying, symbolizing or formalizing things.

  • Caste” – Caste is an organised social institution referring to social structure of India. There is fourfold division of society into Brahmins (scholars), Kshatriya (warriors), Vaisya (traders and agriculturists) and Shudra (workers and cultivators. It has always been both defended and opposed.

  • Casteism – Rigid attitude in observance of caste practices without having regard for reason or rhyme or using it for vested interests by powerful lobbies,which led to generate abnormalities and distortions in the system. At present, its use for political purposes has completely disfigured the face of caste system.

In past, when Caste/Varna worked as a system, it succeeded in doing in India, what no state, no conqueror and no economy was able to do – establishment of a single unified system of society throughout India. When other parts of world were passing through ‘Dark Age’, India was full of light. First few centuries are recognized as ‘golden period’ of Indian history. During this period it was rich in literary, philosophical and religious fields. It possessed wealth, knowledge and quality of life. Arts, commerce, crafts, philosophy and knowledge flourished magnificently. Its people reached a high level of intelligence having specialization in different areas. It was a cheerful land. There was no rivalry or bitterness for pelf, power or position in ancient India. Many travelers visiting India, from alien lands at different points of time confirmed it.

Weakening of caste system, in modern times, has led the nation to a situation, where all communities are facing hardship, because of centralization of control systems. There are alarming disparities of power, wealth and culture amonst different sections of society. Total aversion of youths from their traditional values has generated confusion in their minds. It has led them to spend their time, energy and efforts in pursuit of materialistic pleasures, which could have otherwise utilized for constructive purposes.

Like elsewhere in the world, in India also, lower strata, minorities and poor have been the most vulnerable, oppressed and exploited sections of the society. It has been estimated, that despite numerous developmental plans, schemes, and legislations, there will be 500 millions Indians living in squalor at the threshold of 21st century. Most of them are illiterate, poor and

suffer humiliation, exploitation and violence. Brutally exploited bonded labor and child labor come mostly from these sections only.

For their agonies and poverty caste system is being blamed. Instead of heading towards casteism/politicization of caste system, there are many other reasons, factors and real issues, which need to be addressed on priority basis like population explosion, illiteracy, lack of awareness, indebtedness, unemployment,/casteism, obsolete forest and land policies, half hearted implementation of developmental plans and insufficient wages in un-organized sector. Poverty is the most pervasive phenomenon in India, which cuts across all barriers of caste, religion or region.

Greatest damage to Indian society has been done by bringing caste into politics. Vested interests of some politicians to create vote-banks and elite sections amongst socalled ‘backward castes’ to protect their turf under the banner of ‘SC’, ‘ST’ or ‘OBC’ and enjoy benefits of paternalistic policies of Government of India and get backdoor entry in government jobs, educational institutions and other areas. Their interest lies in keeping majority of people ignorant, insecure and out of mainstream. And here lies the crux of present day politics, which has made ‘system’ weak and ‘caste’ prominent leading the whole society towards casteism.

September 1, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized |

1 Comment »

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