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Income-generating skills and employment opportunities – in ‘Past’ and ‘Present’ India

“In life, only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe”                                                                             Hindu Philosophy

“Your work is going to fill a large part of your and the only way to be truly satisfied is to doo what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love, what you do.”                                              Steve Jobs

“If we want to give jobs to 400-500 million illiterates and 200-250 million semi-ill-literates, we have to go in for low-tech manufacturing that does not require high levels of education. … This is how China, Japan, Taiwan and South Korea did it”                                                                               Narayan Murthy

Introduction
Changes with ‘Industrialization’, ‘Modernization’ and ‘Globalization’ – As time passed on, method of transferring knowledge and skills in different professions, shape of job-market, opportunities for employment and work culture has changed tremendously. Earlier it was community-based, now it has become individual-based. Industrialization, modernization and globalization has adversely affected employment prospects of youth, especially unskilled workers in rural areas. It had changed the system of taking up of the traditional occupation of their families.

Demographically, India is a young nation. 70% of its population is younger than 35 today. Nearly 40% voters are in the 18-35 age-group. For youths born and brought up in Independent and economically liberalised India, the atmosphere has become stifling . One of the reason is the issue of unemployment.

Everything is moving fast, in this space age. Knowledge, due to revolution in information technology, is increasing faster than human ability to handle it. There are changes in the strategy, structure and management techniques. To keep pace with present time, it is necessary that education must equip people to deal with the real world. To make youth employable, the government should vocationalise the education. Degrees have failed to get suitable job. Youth needs to be should give way to job specific training. More than increasing the number of colleges, the nation needs to start job-oriented training institutes in large number.

‘Vision of skill India’ – The vision of present Prime Minister Narendra Modi about ‘Skill India’ is appreciable. Without understanding its implications, opposition parties are vehemently criticizing Modi Government. Some political parties think that the present government has failed to create jobs for about 400-500 million illiterates and 200-250 million semi-ill-literates, that too, in its organized sector. In fact, in any democratic welfare state, government play the role of a facilitator, it is not responsible to generate/create enough jobs for all of its unemployed citizens. At present, Government is the biggest employer in the organized sector of job-market. On public demand, it has already created much more jobs in the government than are required.

Time has come, when entrepreneurship should be encouraged. And through sound system of education and training, knowledge, understanding and attitudes of the job-seekers be increased, so that they are better adjusted to their working environment. Proper `training’ in newly emerged areas of employment would help trainees to acquire and apply knowledge and skills, which they do not possess, but are needed by the occupations, of which they are a part. Thus it would improve the the output of their work – quantitatively and qualitatively.

Warranties’ and ‘guarantees’ – No system of employment can ever provide ‘Warranties’ and ‘guarantees’ to give jobs to all the people. As a facilitator it can tell people about ‘possibilities’ and opportunities’. To convert those opportunities into success depends on determination, hard work and commitment of the job-seekers. William Arthur has rightly said, “Opportunities are like sunrises, if you wait too long you can miss it.” Only one has to learn to utilize the opportunities, they get and be mentally prepared to meet the challenges coming on the way.

Issue, neither traditional nor modern occupations flawless – Neither traditional nor modern method of employment is fool-proof or flawless. Both have their own strength, weaknesses and professional hazards. It is very difficult for most of the people to come out of the web of traditionalism or modernism. This is the time when people should work for the fusion of modernity with traditionalism by combining/embracing modern developments in the spheres of science and technology along with the time-proofed values and systems of traditionalism.                          

Traditional way of Employment in ancient and medieval India

Principles behind the traditional way of Occupations- In ancient and medieval India, assignment of work was based on certain realities, principles and way of life. The traditional system of occupations had maintained differentiation between various occupations. All functions needed for the maintenance and growth of the society were divided into different occupations, which were distributed amongst different sections of society according to their attitude and aptitude. The system encouraged interdependence in social matters.

Human actions dependent on attitude and aptitude – In traditional system, it is believed that the whole world of activities is a result of complex intermixing of three basic qualities of human nature – goodness (Satwa), Passion (Rajas) and dullness (Tamas). `Goodness’ is associated with purity, peace and knowledge; `Passion’ with comfort and action; and `Tamas’ with ignorance, sloth, sleep and carelessness.

These qualities determined the tendencies, potentialities, limitations, traits and character of individuals and give them direction for action. It makes individuals different from each other in attitude, aptitude, physical and mental capacity, aspirations, like and dislikes, inclination and expectations.

Principles of ‘Varna, karma and Dharma’ – Principle of Varna had assigned duties to different groups according to people’s natural instincts and qualities. Principles of ‘Dharma’ and ‘Karma’ developed clear-cut vision of rights and duties/responsibilities of each group, considering the requirements of different occupations.

  • Principle of ‘Varna’ – Accordingly, Principle of       ‘Varna’ did fourfold division of occupations and their performers –       Brahmins were assigned the work of learning, research and development,       kshhatriyas the job of defense and maintenance of law and order in the       society, Vaishyas of trade and commerce, and Shudras all kinds of service       functions.
  • Principle of Dharma – Principle of Dharma assigned       each group a specific work to do and developed a clear-cut vision of       rights and duties/responsibility of each group based on its traditional       occupation. It boosted morale of the people and promoted social       equilibrium and solidarity.
  •  Principle of ‘Karma’ – Principle of ‘Karma’       created the work culture. It gave stress to duty. Whereas, Western cultures have grown around the idea of `rights” forming the natural foundation of human relationship, systems in India evolved around the concept of “duty, tolerance and sacrifice”. Emphasis on duty had made people or groups humble and tolerant. Sacrifice was regarded far more important than success, and renunciation was regarded as the crowning achievement.

No unemployment – Everybody used to be engaged in their own hereditary/traditional occupations. An individual learnt the skills and tricks of their trade in a natural way with every breath while growing up. The system managed well the daily necessities and day to day relation of its members.Work, employment and dignity for all – In ancient and medieval India, there was work, employment and dignity and honour for all in India. There was no dearth of employment opportunities for persons willing to work.

“Adharma”, “Alasya” and “Agyan” responsible – Instead of blaming others for unemployment, “Adharma” (immoral behavior), “Alasya” (laziness) and “Agyan” (ignorance) were held responsible for unemployment and for all evils like exploitation, poverty, miseries and helplessness of the people that follow unemployment automatically. Everyone was expected to exercise self-restraint      and self-disciplined life in all respect, be it in the matter of daily      routine, occupation or inter-group relationship.

The system as a whole had led the society to have more production, economic efficiency and specialization in various areas of activities like spinning, weaving, pottery making, bead making, seal making, terracotta, handicrafts, brick-laying, metal work etc.

No hard and fast rule of ranking – Earlier, respect or honor was dependent on the deeds of a person and was not dependent on birth. Great respect had even earned by persons from humblest origin as a right. Everybody had all the opportunity to pursue knowledge and reach up-to the top. Higher/greater a person oe group, which exercised more self-restrictions on its conduct through rituals. Brahmins (intelligentsia) commanded respect of the whole society. They, being at highest place in the society, were put under maximum restrictions. They were supposed to lead a simple life, devoted to the spiritual and intellectual pursuits and denied accumulation of wealth.

There was no hard and fast rule of ranking various groups. Usefulness of a profession to society as a whole, conduct and way of living of different people were the factors to determine social, economic or political status of a group in society vis-a vis others. Ranking system did not put different groups within a framework of hierarchical layers of social order, each fitting neatly below the other, but more or less as a series of vertical parallels. ‘ There were times when gap between Vaishyas and Shudras became narrow or when Shudras acquired a better position in the society.

Segmental ranking of different groups was done according to relevance and contribution of their occupations to society. Social status of different occupational groups was dependent on their relative self-discipline (relative purity), morality, knowledge and spiritual standards. Considerations of self-discipline, hygiene and cleanliness on the basis of climatic conditions of the region were given importance.

In the past, many Khhatriyas and Shudra were accepted and revered as philosophers or spiritual teachers. For example, Sage Vashishta was the son of Uravshi, a prostitute, but he is highly respected allover India as the principal of the conservative school of Brahmanism. So was ‘Kshatriya’ Vishwamitra, the maker of the Gayatri Mantra, the quintessence of the Vedic Brahmanism, is recited even as of today almost in every house every day and on all auspicious occassions. Aitreya, after whom the sacramental part of Rig-Veda is named as Aitreya Brahamana, was the son from a non-Aryan wife of a Brahman sage. Vyasa of Mahabharata fame was the son of a fish-woman. Balmiki, the original author of Ramayana, was an untouchable according to present standards, but is still highly respected.

Idea of weaker sections was non-existent – Categorization of people as forwards or backwards or as weaker sections was almost non-existent at that time. No group was placed in greater or lesser disadvantageous position. The system was so conceived by the genius sages and ‘Munies’ (intelligentsia of ancient India) that there was hardly any room for any Varna to consider itself, as being placed in greater or lesser disadvantageous position with reference to another.

System not too rigid – The system was not too rigid as far as pursuing an occupation was concerned. The work in the sectors of agriculture or army was open to all. Members of particular Varna did not exercise monopoly over authority or respect. It is an established fact of Indian History that Brahmin or even Shudras sometimes became the kings. There were times, when inter group marriages took place in the past in order to increase their strength.

HT Colebrooke, one of the early Sanskrit Scholars says, “It may be received as a general maxim that occupation appointed for each tribe is entitled merely to a preference. Every profession, with few exceptions, was open to every description of persons and the discouragement arising from religious prejudices is not greater than what exists in Great Britain from the effects of Municipal and Corporate laws.” (Quoted from ‘Indian Express’, dated 18.9.90, p 8). In England also it was not uncommon for a clergyman, a lawyer or soldier to educate and train his sons for his own profession. So was it in India. (Quoted fromShore Fredrick John Notes on India Affairs Vol II P.473)

Salient features of employment and training in ancient India

Traditional occupational pattern of India was unique in many ways –

  • Employment, dignity and honor for all – Traditional occupational pattern had provided employment, dignity and honor to all. The system led to accomplish skill, specialization, success and happiness, decentralized authority and resources, made management within each unit effective and organized human and social behavior in tune with the objectives of the society.
  • Disassociation between Wealth and knowledge/skills – Unlike West, there is disassociation between Wealth and knowledge/skills. The value system of India has separated wealth from status, power from authority, pursuit and achievement in knowledge from temptations of worldly comforts.
  • Stress on attitude and aptitude rather than birth – According to “Smritis” it was not birth, but the qualities and deeds of an individual, that fitted him into a particular group of occupation. Later on, upbringing, atmosphere and convenience tended to make these occupational groups hereditary. Gradually different hereditary occupational groups emerged in the society. People found it more economical and convenient to practice one’s own traditional occupation.
  • De-centralization of       control systems – There was automatic de-centralization of       control systems and authority. The separation of rights and duties       combined with the principle of inter-dependence developed its own system       of checks and balances over arbitrary use of one’s authority.
  • Sense of duty – Occupational pattern of India      had filled the community with a sense of duty and trained them in      obedience. In duty, Indians found liberation. Sense of duty stopped those in power to exercise coercion      against its working class. Also it prevented resentment amongst masses.  It      helped Indians to adjust themselves, without much difficulty, to most      drastic changes in the past. Everyone benefited from living in a society where the duty of mutual respect was honoured. The systems stopped people from taking law in      their own hands. While other nations passed through many bloody      revolutions, India kept on adapting itself to changing times. In ancient      Greece, Rome or other European countries, people were made to work under      the threat of a whip.
  • Stress on knowledge and duty, while ranking status of a group – Whereas, in Western societies social status of a person or organization has always been associated with material success or control of power, authority. In India, status of a person is determined on the basis of its knowledge, purity, discipline and moral standards.
  • Division of labour – In the world of occupation there had been division of labor. All functions needed for the maintenance and growth of the society were divided into different occupations. On the basis of natural endowments, intelligence, aptitudes, attitudes, skills, personal needs and other innate characteristics, each group was assigned a distinct function to perform.
  • Automatic system of checks and balances – Such a system of division of labor developed its own systems of checks and balances over arbitrary use of its authority. Separation of rights and duties combined with the principle of inter dependence provided its own system of checks and balances over arbitrary use of one’s authority. There was an automatic decentralization of authority. The principles behind the whole system together provided the society a quality of life.
  • Specialization – System as a whole evolved an atmosphere, where a high level of specialization and wisdom in different areas of activities could be achieved. Being constantly in contact with the family occupation, it was natural for the people to learn maximum about their traditional occupations.
  • Spawning bed for social and technical skills – The system served as a spawning bed for social and technical skills. There was a tendency to bring in the most diversified skills to high level of excellence. By its very nature, it encouraged the development and preservation of local skills. The manner, in which social, technical and occupational knowledge and skills were transferred and developed, was through practice and experience; not through formal classroom lectures, which often kills originality and verve of people.
  • Natural training without investment -The system inheritance in matter of assignment of different functions to different groups led the people to learn basic qualifications and tricks of the trade within their families itself from their elders. Skills were learnt more on job under the training and guidance of ‘elders’, already there on various jobs/occupations.
  • Skills passed on from one generation to another – The system transmitted knowledge, expertise and tricks of a trade, intelligence, abilities, experiences, values and skills from one generation to another in a natural way. Children, while growing up, learnt about hidden intricacies of a profession and solutions of their occupational problems, informally from their elders. The system as a whole increased the confidence of the workers and saved them from confusion or unhealthy competition.
  • Reservoir of natural leaders – Don Martindale said that India possessed a reservoir of natural leaders – Brahman naturally trained in literary skills, Kshitryas in art of leadership and different service groups in skills. It has been seen that a Marwari, traditionally belonging to business community, invests his money in share market with more ease and confidence than a graduate from other communities possessing a degree in business management.
  • No confusion – The system saved common-men from confusion or unhealthy competition. It avoided rivalry or bitterness for pelf, power or position amongst different sections of society. There was no confusion, unhealthy rivalry or frustration on matter of work, because every body had his traditional occupation.
  • Clear vision of responsibilities– Principles of Dharma and Karma made clear-cut vision of rights and duties of each group, based on and due consideration of the requirements of different occupations. It developed understanding amongst people for their liberties, limits and responsibilities.
  • Each occupational group having an independent entity – Each occupational group had an independent entity, having its own hierarchy, based either on a tribal identity or an occupational identity. There was not much disparity between different occupational groups or between urban and rural people in ancient India.
  • Job-satisfaction – the system gave job-satisfaction to almost all individuals except for a few and managed smoothly daily necessities and day to day relation of its members. All castes including untouchables were assigned important social duties. Harijan women helped all castes at time of child-birth, Harijan males beat drums in front of Hindu’s houses or in front of a procession on auspicious occasions/ceremonies. Village barber spread news, arranged marriages and served food during celebrations. Occasionally non-Brahmins or Harijans served as priests of temples of goddesses like Sita or Kali, where all castes made offerings.
  • Interdependence – Local character and semi-autonomous nature of the system made close interaction and cooperation between different groups a reality. Not a single group could claim to be self sufficient, capable to survive alone and fulfill all needs of its people. Still people enjoyed a large measure of freedom in respect of their personal matters. The system as a whole was capable to fulfill all the needs of its people.
  • Combination of inter-dependence and self-reliance – Inter-dependence in social life and self-reliance in personal life were the intrinsic features of ancient system making each local area self-sufficient. Interdependence of different groups made it possible to have close contact amongst the people living in a local area. People whether living in a village or city, were bound together by economic and social ties and had a strong bond of mutual dependence.
  • Developed a common bond– The system developed a common bond underlying their activities and minds. There was closeness and cooperation within each and every group, engaged in common occupation due to common callings, common problems, and common solutions.
  • All professions worth pursuing – All occupations were regarded worth pursuing. Principle of Dharma inspired people to do their jobs well, as all worldly honor and spiritual happiness were vested there. It assured the people that proper performance of one’s work, whether high or humble, whether of a priest, warrior, Shudra or yogi were equally important for the society and were, therefore, right, respectable and worth pursuing. It brought worldly honor and spiritual happiness for individuals and provided the whole society a quality of life.
  • No confusion, bitterness, rivalry or frustration on matter of work – Each individual and every group served the community in one way or the other and was, therefore, satisfied. All the social groups lived the life of dignity and honor with the feeling that they, too, were contributing something to the society.
  • Benefit of knowledge to the ignorant and illiterate masses – In ancient India, illiterate masses got the benefit of researches and knowledge of intelligentsia – learned sages and Munies. On the basis of their scholarly researches and experiences, the sages prescribed certain guidelines in the form of rituals to for the benefit of common men and keeping order in the society. In modern societies, this job is done by the national governments by enacting laws and forcing people to follow them.
  • Downward filtration of culture – It made downward filtration of culture, sophisticated language and knowledge possible. In modern society, everybody lives in one’s own world, hardly having any interaction with others. There are watertight compartments between different groups living in an area.
  • Control over natural resources of the nation – Society as a whole had control over its natural resources. All local groups, whether high or low, living in an area mutually depended and supported for fulfilling different kind of needs and cared for each other.

The traditional system of occupation of ancient India had led the society to have more production, economic efficiency and expertise in almost all the areas and activities like spinning, weaving, pottery making, bead making, seal making, terracotta, handicrafts, brick-laying, metal work etc. The system worked so well that when the world was passing through the Dark Age, India was full of light. The first few centuries are recognized as the golden period of Indian history. During this period, arts, commerce, crafts, philosophy and knowledge flourished magnificently.

Many travelers visiting India, from alien lands at different points of time, confirmed that India possessed huge wealth, knowledge, and quality of life. It was a cheerful land. Each person found a niche in the social system. Its people reached a high level of intelligence having specialization in different areas. An average Indian, according to Dr. Albert Swheitzen, “Did not find life a vale of tears, from which to escape at all costs, rather he was willing to accept the world, as he finds it and, extract, what happiness he could, from it”. Recently U.S. Ambassador John Kenneth Galbrigth remarked, “While he had seen poverty in many countries of the world, he found an unusual attribute among the poor of India. There is richness in their poverty. They did not count wealth in money alone”.

Changes in job-market with industrialization

Industrial revolution started during late eighteenth century. It had undermined every pillar of old agricultural society. Individualism and materialism reigned supreme throughout industrial era.  Industrialization process along with modernization has changed the traditional job-pattern and work culture tremendously especially during 19th and 20th centuries under British rule.

Before industrialization, most of the people were engaged in agriculture and other professions related with it or in handicrafts, cottage industries etc. Industrial revolution has created a large number of new kind of blue-collared jobs.

Initial period of industrialization – Initially technologies were developed for lessening the strain on human muscles and designed for illiterate labour force. Machines were heavy, rigid and capital intensive. Work was unskilled, standardized and broken into simplest possible operations. All the workers were equally good, easily interchangeable like parts of a machine. Numerous unemployed people were always available. The workers were kept ignorant and powerless by keeping information restricted. These workers were chained to industrial discipline. Their life in the factory was tightly regimented,

Casualty of workers first, afterwards their work style – Outcome of industrialization has been casualty of workers first, afterwards their work style, commitment, motivation and culture. Many traditional occupations of pre-industrial society became obsolete. Indian handicrafts and cottage industry were destructed. Efforts, sense of direction and manufacturing skills of millions of artisans, craftsmen and weavers, many of whom were experts in their respective areas, were scattered. They lost their creativity, sense of achievement and pride. In the beginning of industrial era, these changes were opposed strongly by forces of feudal agrarianism, landed gentry, hierarchical church and the intellectual and cultural elite.

Major changes in social life – Industrial Revolution made drastic changes in the social life of people. There had been shifts in population, ecology, technology, culture and relationships. The behavior, life style, values, and attitudes as well as power equations and inter-relationship of various individuals, social groups and organizations of the agrarian societies had changed.

Industrialization developed mass-culture – Industrialization has initiated the culture of mass capital, mass production, mass-consumption, mass media and mass democracy. The pace of social, economic and political changes was much faster than that of agricultural era. It has influenced the thinking, behavior pattern and work-culture of the societies allover the world.

Along with it changed the pattern of family life, work-atmosphere, and political equations/environment and business culture of the nation. The need for a homogeneous workforce gradually shifted the individual and mass loyalties from society/village to nation. The power of the rural feudal faded.

Many traditional jobs became obsolete –  Industrialization with new technologies have made many traditional jobs obsolete. Many more occupations were considered less paying, more hazardous or time consuming. Millions found their income threatened, their ways of work obsolete, their future uncertain and their power slashed.

Urbanization – Migration of millions from villages started. Rural landowners shifted to cities, to explore their luck in expanding industrial arena. They relied on new technological developments, machines and material for generating more money. Along with them, many peasants and traditional professionals migrated to cities in search of jobs, as the industrial labour. They became urban workers subordinated to private or public employers. Migrated persons felt more liberated, while living in anonymity in urban areas.

Money the prime motivator of workforce – Industrialization shifted the attention of the people to generate more wealth. People were desperately dependent on money for their survival. Money became the prime motivator of workforce, the main tool of social control and political power. (Toffler, Power shift) The most basic struggle was over the distribution of wealth-who gets what?

Benefited rich people – Rich and privileged class took advantage of technological knowledge and new opportunities and became richer. But the general masses became poorer and more miserable. The social and economic condition of rural people deteriorated continuously. Consumerism had increased the economic and cultural differences enormously between the elite and the masses of a society.

Modernization

Changes, modernization brought – ‘ There have been some revolutionary changes in the job market with modernization. Masses have been caught under the vicious circle of traditionalism and modernity. Modern system of employment has given multiple choices to individuals in organized and unorganized sectors, in addition to the traditional occupations. A large number of individuals are confused, unable to decide what they really want to do.

The Government of India is trying to eliminate unemployment since first five-year plan days Many income generating programs were introduced during various Five Year Plan. Despite taking the course of liberalization in 1991, Indian employment policies are still loaded with misconception and high initial employment policies without any regard for quality or incentive to achieve higher results per worker. The rising aspirations of people unmatched with skills and qualification and absence of traditional social control mechanism lead many to become unemployed. Present culture of beg, borrow or steal, i.e. to earn easy money, makes many young men not to work at all. Low wages especially in unorganized sector distracts many people from taking up any job. Such people are in a constant search of a job.

In traditional way of emploment, there has not been employment problem. Every body is supposed to be busy with his traditional occupation. There are still some social control mechanisms to check the youth from getting confused in this matter.

 Dehumanized face of modern institutions – Earlier people learnt the tricks of their trade from their elders and got advantage of their long experiences. Now many functions of family were transferred to formal training other institutions, like education and training to schools, caring of elders and destitute to state and work to factory or office. The dehumanization of institutions has weakened the connection of the institution of family with occupations, which eroded the control of elders over work-culture. After Industrialization, workers were equally torn between the workplace and home in a physical sense and between family and organization in an emotional sense. This conflict had adversely affected the motivation, morale and productivity in modern societies.

Concept of welfare state and its practicality as far as employment is concerned – Modernization has given rise to the concept of democracy. People are supposed to be the supreme power. With it emerged the concepts of liberty, equality, and fraternity and concepts like Welfare State and Development administration. In recent pas, these concepts been interpreted in such a way that instead of being a facilitator, governments of democratic Welfare nations have taken up the responsibility of generating/creating and providing employments to all. A section of society insists that it is responsibility of the government to create jobs for about 400-500 million illiterates and 200-250 million semi-ill-literates, that too in organized sector.

No government can provide ‘Warranties’ and ‘guarantees’ – However, no government can ever provide ‘Warranties’ and ‘guarantees’ to give jobs to all. As a facilitator it can tell people about ‘possibilities’ and opportunities’. To convert those opportunities m into success depends on determination, hard work and commitment. Youth of today should be encouraged to make their own efforts to get a job of their choice. In today’s knowledge-based economy, morale of talented/higher skilled Entrepreneurs/Innovators need to be boosted up, in so that they themselves get job-satisfaction and give employment to other low-skilled individuals in their Company.

Acute problem of unemployment – It has been observed in recent past, very few persons could take the advantage of new opportunities in modern job-market. In the near absence of industrial, commercial or social service activity, most of unskilled, semi-skilled job-seekers have no option, but either to join band of agricultural laborers, industrial workers and marginal labor for their survival or increase number of unemployed or under employed. Some studies have shown that over 11.3 crore persons in India (about 15% of the working from 15 to 60 years of age group) are unemployed and are available for work. As reported previously by Times of India, over 20% of youth between 15 to 24 years of age were jobless. In absolute number, it is about 47 million. In J&K, it is 48%, in Bihar 35%, in Assam 38%, in W. Bengal 54%, in Jharkhand 42%, in Odisha 39% and in Kerala 42%. (Figures quoted from Times of India, p.11, 24.9.14).

Craze for white-collared jobs – With the craze for white-collared jobs, started the trend of aversion for traditional occupations, blue-collared jobs or menial jobs, where hard work. is required. Modern education system initiated by British rulers opened up new vista for ‘White-collared jobs.’ Many new institutions and with them new kinds of jobs have came into existence in government, public or private sectors. Bureaucracy, corporations, hospitals, schools, post office, telegraph, telephone, institutions in mass media opened up new vista  giving individuals more freedom to select occupation of their choice.

Dependence on government-jobs increased – A large number of willingly remain unemployed till they get a government job. At present government is the biggest employer. People’s preference for government jobs has increased because government gives its employees regular fixed salaries, regular career progression and job security, whether they do any work or not. The trend of looking up at the government for regular jobs has placed immense power in the hands of the those in the corridor of power. Politicians, political parties, and their supporters, who rely on middle and working class votes, do not mind, if the the problem of unemployment here persists.

Stress on formal degrees and diplomas – Access to newly emerged knowledge-based jobs either in government, public or private sectors  demands formal education, certificates/degrees/diplomas. Stress on formal degrees and certificates for employment and advancement in career has led to many mal-practises. Many people do not hesitate to manage fake certificate. Once they get a regular job preferably in government, they do not pay much attention to learn, understand the basics, increase their knowledge, hone their skills or be aware of the latest development in their field of work.

In present competitive world of job-market, even a degree is not enough to get employment. In private sector, employers look for multi-skilled candidates. Stress is on performance, as well as being good in extra curricular activities as well. However the protective policies of government in matter of employment have encouraged some individuals to to manage fake certificate. Once they get a job in government, they do not take interest in understanding the working system of their profession, in increasing their knowledge, hone their skills or be aware of the latest development in their respective field of work.

More practical and sustainable solution lies in increasing the pool of properly trained skilled labour. A matured mindset is needed prior to entering into any profession.

Shortage of the formal institutions – Demand of admission-seekers in institutions of higher learning has put great pressure on government to create more and more institutions of higher studies and training. Many new colleges and universities have been created, but still, there is an acute shortage of the formal training institutions. The number of aspirants seeking admissions is so large because of population explosion, that it becomes very difficult for deserving candidates to get entry into the educational and training institutions of their choice. Also it is very difficult to get admission in the courses of their aptitude or choice.

Most of the time, energy and efforts of modern youth are wasted in search and pursuit of those jobs, for which they neither have aptitude nor attitude or which are beyond their reach for one reason or the other. This time they could have utilized otherwise for constructive purposes.

Government the ‘Messiah’ and common-men ‘pygmies’ – Since the government has taken up the of creator, and not the facilitator, the government  as a guardian should generate/create enough jobs to keep all its employed. In its role of a provider, those in positions of power in political or bureaucratic arena have assumed tremendous power. They virtually control the destiny of masses. They have become ‘Messiahs’, and down-sized common-men to ‘pygmies’. Unskilled or semi-skilled job-seekers are totally dependent on government, all the time seeking blessings or support of those who in power. It has corrupted the whole system.

One of the acute problem is of unemployment. The number unemployed people is continuously increasing.

Unemployment a major issue – Majority of people could neither enter into modern sector, nor could stick to their traditional occupations.

  • Continuous increase in the number of unemployed youth – According to UNDP’s Human Development Report, India will have 63.5 million new entrants into the workforce between 2011 and 2016, of which bulk will be in the 20-35 age group. A study jointly conducted by CII and Deloitte reports about aspirations and concerns of a multi-generational workforce as “Indian work-places have become an interesting blend of three generations – the business leaders and CEOs of baby-boomer generation (45 plus); management teams and senior professionals from Gen X (23 to 45); and young Gen Y professional (under 23)”.
  • Undesirable affect due to generation gap – This generation gap has led to differences in working and communication styles as well as motivation. It is important for baby-boomers, who are leading organizations, to understand the working style and beliefs of the younger generations. The younger generation do not see themselves staying in one organization for long, but their commitment and dedication towards work and responsibilities has not reduced. Also they prefer a fair system, where processes are more transparent and the system is less bureaucratic.  (Quoted from TOI, N. Delhi, P., 19, 24 Aug. 2013)

Conclusion

In the 21st century, ‘Power’ is based on knowledge. Knowledge is now easily available to common-men citizens in almost all the fields. In comparison to knowledge, land, cheap labour, raw material and capital – all these conventional forms of production are increasingly becoming less important.

The present is passing through an exceptional time of human history, when the world is leaving behind the industrial era and is ushering into a super-symbolic electronic era based on extra-intelligent networks. Only people have to prepare themselves to gain true knowledge and cope with the changes through sound system of education and traing.

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August 12, 2018 Posted by | Social and political values and systems | , , , | Leave a comment

Policy of ‘Divide and rule’ in India – Past and Present

‘Divide and rule policy” in India before and after the independence

Introduction

The seeds of ‘Divide and rule were sown by British Imperial Rule, but blossomed in  full after India gained Independence in 1947. While laying down the foundation of some democratic institutions and policies, the Imperial rulers set the example of how policies of great scope can be used for serving the vested interests of ruling authorities.

Present day political leaders, political parties and pressure groups serving sectional interests learnt well from British rulers, how to play their cards well to enlarge their vote-banks, by using three powerful democratic weapons i.e. Electoral politics, Census operations, and Reservation Policy .The present day politicians have learnt very well from British rulers, how to use these systems for pacifying the masses and prolonging their hold on political authority longer. They are following the footsteps of their predecessor i.e. British Imperialist rulers and are creating their own separate empires.

Issue – Quite often it is alleged that Indian society is ‘highly stratified’ ‘disintegrated’ and ‘discriminatory’ society. How it had happened, is quite interesting to know.  It was not so all the time. Rift has been purposely created in the society of India for political purposes. Why, when, how and by whom rift has been created in Indian society and has pushed the nation on the verge of disintegration?

British domination in India – India had been a great centre of attraction for British Empire. Britain attained superpower status for most of the nineteenth century and some of the twentieth depended, when they virtually had control over India (from 1800 onwards until 1947, when India got its Independence). For British rulers, India symbolized Imperial grandeur.  Britain interest in India began around 1600, when its merchants entered into the territory of India for shipping Asian goods to Europe. Initially it was purely a commercial venture without using any force. Soon for safety purposes, they sought permission of the Mughal Emperor to build Forts and keep some soldiers in ports of Bombay, Calcutta and Madras for safety purposes. Later., they engaged those very small number of armed personnel in acts of conquests.

It is really amazing to see, how a few British merchants along with soldiers and gunners to protect them built such a big Empire and led to  the downfall of powerful Mughal Empire. They achieved conquests, one after another and then spread all-over the territory of India. Britain became a major political force not only from Himalayas to the sea in India, but also from Iran to Thailand as well.

Viceroy Lord Curzon had expressed it clearly in 1901, “As long as we rule India, we are the greatest power in the world. If we lose it we shall drop straightway to a third rate power”. Quite early, British realized that as long as they adroitly exploited the religious, linguistic and historical divisions that marked Indian society they were relatively safe.

British rulers were clear and firm about their aims and objectives. British Rulers inflamed the differences, that were already existent in the society because of the diverse backgrounds of its people. They established their Empire in India by playing off one part against the other.

 

Ideological attack

Initially in order to justify their domination over dark races of the globe and imperial rule in India, British propagated theories of racial the superiority of ‘White-race’. Afterwards, British rulers, missionaries, philosophers, writers and Historians like Mill, Wilson or Ward  vehemently denounced the culture, character and social structure of the native people. This mental doze had affected minds of many educated Indians so densely that they considered native practices indefensible.

The British launched an ideological attack on Brahmins in their effort to secure a reasonable combination of various races and castes in administration and other modern callings. On one hand, to counter Brahmins hold in education and other areas, they slighted the role of Brahmins as Indian intelligentsia and reformers and on the other, portrayed them as oppressors and exploiters of others, especially the poor and minorities. The rulers created venom in the hearts of Muslims and non-Brahmin castes and encouraged them to resist vociferously the dominance of Brahmins in modern callings.

Stages of British rule

British rulers knew well that they had established their Empire firmly in India by taking advantage of the diversities of Indian people and by playing them against one another – princes against people; Hindu against Muslims; caste against castes; and provinces against provinces.

  • Period of 1756-1858 was the period of conquest, annexation and consolidation.
  • From 1858 to1905, was the time of apparent association under British Government in India.
  • From 1905 to 1940, British rulers adopted the policy of “Divide and rule”.
  • After 1940, they decided to quit India.

Period of annexation (1756-1858)

Period of 1756-1858 – With the start of British rule over India, the old relation of conqueror and conquered prevalent in India since 10th century, came to an end. It was the period of conquest, annexation and consolidation for British. Initially, the East India Company of Britain conquered and established British Empire in India by taking advantage of the diversities of Indian people. The Government adopted “Laissez-faire” as the principle of governance. Hence, it did not indulge itself into any welfare or social service activity. The only objective was to rule the country to its own advantage.

Period of “Apparent Association” (Between 1858 and 1905)

Between 1858 and 1905, the British adopted a policy of “Apparent Association”. In their heart, the rulers knew well that they had established their power by playing off one part against the other and intended to continue it in order to maintain it as long as possible. The purpose was to keep Indians busy with their internal problems and let them rule the country without any distraction. They were sure “…We must continue to do so. Do what you can, therefore, to prevent all having a common feeling”.

Period of divide and rule (From 1905 to 1940) –

By 1858, when British Empirical rule was established firmly in India, the rulers started playing Indians against one another – princes against people; Hindu against Muslims; caste against castes; and provinces against provinces. British rulers adopted the policy of “Divide and rule”. They played Indian people against one another – princes against people; Hindu against Muslims; caste against castes; and provinces against provinces.

After 1940 – During Second World War period, they decided to quit India. Even then, British rulers played their game and divided the country into two – India and Pakistan. Their exploitative policies had already drained much of India’s wealth. Now they left India bleeding. Partition of the country had made millions of Indians either dead or impoverished and homeless.

Three stages taken for creating split in Indian society

The British Government did the job of disintegrating the Indian society in 3 stages: –

Ø First they appeased the Hindus,

Ø Then was the turn of Muslims,

Ø Lastly they devoted their attention to backward castes.

First stage

Appeasement of Hindus

Initially, the British, who annexed authority from the Muslim rulers, looked favourably towards Hindu community. They encouraged Hindus/Brahmins to opt for modern education. Reasons being –

  • It became difficult for them to import enough Englishmen to man large and increasing number of subordinate or lower posts in administration.
  • British, who annexed authority from the Muslim rulers, looked favorably towards Hindu community.
  • Being natural learners and pursuers of knowledge, they were quick and far ahead of other communities in modern callings.
  • The appalling poverty of Brahmins, because of the gradual displacement from their source of income after the decline in the financial status of their patrons – Princes and Zamindars – compelled them to opt for modern education and make use of new type of employment opportunities.

Very soon they secured an important place in the modern society.

Brahmins real threat to British rule

The long tradition and undisputed role in the field of knowledge and learning, their intelligence, sincerity and hard work helped Brahmins to secure an important place in the modern society. In 1900, Sir William Lee, an important official in the Government of Bombay and Government of India, noted Brahmins dominance in the Civil Service during 1869 to 1899. The rulers also noticed preponderance of Brahmins in other areas, too, and their growing influence and hold over Hindu Community. It appeared to British rulers as if this small community was governing the country.

British rulers noticed Brahmins preponderance everywhere including freedom movement. Preponderance of Brahmins at all levels of freedom movement alarmed the rulers.

Sir William Lee, an important official in the Government of Bombay and Government of India, noticed in 1900 that during 1869 to 1899, Brahmins had secured almost all the places in education and administration. In 1879, the Collector of Tanjore wrote to James Courd, a Member of the Famine Commission, There was no class except Brahmins, which was so hostile to English. In the words of an observer, If any community could claim the British out of the country, it was the Brahmin community 70% of those, who were felled by British bullets, were Brahmins.

Sir Richard Temple, the governor of Bombay said that ever since 1818, when British finally defeated the Peshwa in the third Anglo Maratha war, Brahmins were, “Inspired with a national sentiment and with an ambition bounded only with the Bonds of India itself.” Innumerable C.I.D. Reports of that period confirmed the active role played by Brahmins in National movement.

In 1879, the Collector of Tanjore wrote to James Courd, a Member of the Famine Commission, There was no class except Brahmins, which was so hostile to English. In the words of an observer, If any community could claim the British out of the country, it was the Brahmin community 70% of those, who were felled by British bullets, were Brahmins.

Rowlett Report (1880) also confirmed that the British regarded Brahmins as the main force behind all terrorist movements and agitation leading to violence in almost all the provinces. Overwhelming support of Brahmin lawyers to Congress Party and Mrs. Anne Besant’s Home Rule made the British to believe that Brahmin Community was a threat to imperial rule.

In Brahmin’s growing influence and their hold on the Hindu Community, the rulers saw a potential threat to their rule in India. They considered it necessary to counter the hold of Brahmins by raising a strong force against them.

Steps taken to counter Brahmin’s influence – British administrators including Temple thought it necessary to counter Brahmins influence. They advised the Government to stop dominance of one or few groups in administration and begin to rely on other groups or castes, in order to keep the balance of power. In 1881 the Government decided to raise a strong force – a reasonable combination of various races and castes – and counter Brahmins hold in education and administration.

Muslims and non-Brahmin castes were already resisting vociferously the dominance of Brahmins in these areas. They very carefully and effectively sidetracked the socially transformative movements of great scope, initiated by the intelligentsia of Indian Society.  On one hand, the British slighted the role of Brahmins as Indian intelligentsia and reformers, and on the other, portrayed them as oppressors and tyrants.

The British encouraged the formation of many caste groups to resist vociferously the dominance of Brahmins in modern callings. In whom they saw a potential threat to their rule in India. They allowed non-Brahmin castes and other communities to form political groups on the basis of caste and community. The movement against Brahmins forged ahead with ferocity in the Southern and Western parts of India. It remained mild in North India, where communalism had already disrupted the peace of the land.

In order to restrict Brahmin’s entry in Government jobs and make it available to non-Brahmins communities, British rulers started practice of “Preferences”. In the name of equality before law, rulers gave certain sections of society on the basis of caste and community financial assistance and preferences in education and Government employment at local and provincial level.

They made provision for giving financial help to the non-brahmins, Muslims and Anglo-Indians and fixed up a quota for them in government services. Thus they opened up the doors of new opportunities of advancement to other castes and communities. It served double purpose – one, for them, getting credit for amelioration and protection of downtrodden and two, keeping natives busy in their in-fights.

Second stage

Appeasement of Muslims – First, the rulers drifted Muslims from Hindus in a very shrewd and planned manner. Muslims always had a grudge over the loss of their dominant position. They found themselves handicapped in competing with Hindus, especially Brahmins, in modern callings and opportunities. Also they developed a fear of being dominated by majority Hindu Community, if at any point of time India became Independent.

During 1850s, Mohammedan Anglo Oriental College was established at Aligarh. English Principals like Archibold, Theodore Beck or Morrison of this institution played an important role in keeping Muslims away from mainstream and inculcating in them a feeling of separation.

Seeds of communalism – Sir W.H. Gregory, while appreciating the Resolution of Government of India on Muslim education wrote to Dufferin in Feb. 1886, “I am confident, that it will bear good fruits, indeed, it seems to have done so already by the complete abstention of the Mohammedan from Brahmins and Baboo agitation. It will be a great matter to sweeten our relations with this portion of the Indian population, the bravest and at one time, the most dangerous.”

The seeds of communalism were sown during Lord Lytton’s Vice-royalty (1876-80). A deputation of Muslims led by His Highness Sir Agha Khan demanded on Oct. 1, 1896 separate electorate. . On Dec. 30, 1906 a separate party – Muslim League – was launched to pursue and safeguard Muslim interests.

Their demands of communal representation in the Imperial Legislative Council and District Boards, adequate share in the public service and local bodies, adequate safeguards for the protection and promotion of Muslim culture and weight to the Muslims to protect their legitimate interests were accepted through Minto-Morley Reforms known as Government of India Act of 1909. This Act devised a novel method to distribute and balance the power. It came as the first effective dose of communalization of Indian politics.

Third stage

Attention to backward castes

After gaining the loyalty of Muslims, during the second half of the nineteenth century, the British turned their attention to uplift non-Brahmin castes and to secure their confidence. On September 2, 1897, George Francis Hamilton, the then Secretary of State for India, wrote to Viceroy Curzon, “I think the real danger to our rule in India, not now but say 50 years hence, is the gradual adoption and extension of Western ideas of agitation and organization. If we could break the educated Hindu into two sections, holding widely different views, we should by such division, strengthen our position against the subtle and continuous attack, which the spread of education must make upon our system of Government.” The rulers succeeded in dividing educated Hindus of these two sections –Brahmins and Non Brahmins, holding widely different views. Such a division had strengthened immensely the position of rulers.

Even educated Hindus amongst non-Brahmins castes found it difficult to compete with Brahmins on equal footings. Rulers encouraged Non -Brahmins leaders to form their political pressure groups on the basis of castes and raise their voice against Brahmins.

In 1885 itself, Eutice J Kitts, a British ambassador in Azamgarh listed, for the first time, backward castes and tribes, from 1881 Census. The objective was to give them financial assistance and preferences in education and Government employment at local and provincial level. For the first, the government officially recognized caste as a base for the purposes of governance.

Initially special schools were opened for them. Special scholarship, loan, hostel facilities and concessions in school fees were provided to non Brahmins castes along with Muslims. In 1885, the education department proposed to reserve 50% of free scholarships for backwards and Muslims, as scholarships purely on merit grounds would perpetuate Brahmin’s monopoly. From this base, Reservation entered into education field, so that more non-Brahmins could qualify for the jobs.

Morley Minto Reform of 1909 gave the non-Brahmins a boost. They demanded with assertiveness Reservations for themselves in education and Government employment. In 1919, the British Government transferred to provincial Governments power over subjects like education, agriculture, veterinary service, roads and, buildings, social welfare etc. With all these powers, the British Government also passed on to the provinces, the responsibility to satisfy the conflicting claims for the Government jobs and other interests of major pressure groups, which had emerged in the Indian political scene.

Methods, British used to create split

The British Government in India very cleverly created a split in the society. The policies, which they adopted for fulfilling the objectives, were following:-

  • Introduction of Modern Education sytem,
  • Resevations in educational institutions and government jobs and
  • Start of Census Operations

All these measures served a double purpose – they got the credit for the amelioration and protection of the lowly. Also the distribution of power on communal basis kept balance of power and prolonged their rule in India by keeping the natives busy in their in-fights.Thus British Government very cleverly, created a split in Indian society.

Introduction of Modern Education sytem

The process of creating split started with the introduction of modern education system. Initially the British rulers excluded Indians from every honor, dignity or office, which lowest of Englishman could be given. But gradually it became difficult for the rulers to import enough Englishmen to man large and increasing number of subordinate or lower posts in administration. It compelled them to introduce modern education in India. However, they used even the education system shrewdly to meet their objectives effectively. It paved a way for imperial designs.

Intention of introducing modern education – The intention of introducing modern education was, as Lord Macaulay said, To form a class, who may be interpreters between us and millions of whom, we govern, a class of persons, Indian in blood and color, but English in taste, in opinion, in morals and in intellect”. It was mainly to get Indians, “Anglicized in terms of both cultural and intellectual attainment”.

Brahmins long tradition and undisputed role in the field of knowledge and learning, their intelligence, sincerity and hard work helped them not only to occupy almost all the lower levels posts in administration available to Indians, as desired by the rulers.

But it also offered to Indian intelligentsia, the key to the treasures of scientific and democratic thought of Modern West. It opened up the doors of knowledge and widened the mental horizons of Indian intelligentsia. In due course of time, it produced many National Leaders and Reformers.

Imperial designs for creating rift – In 1835 introduction of modern education and in 1844, announcement of making knowledge of English as compulsory for government employment paved way for imperial designs and created rift in the Indian society.

In the near absence of industrial, commercial or social service activity, the educated Indians depended entirely on Government jobs. This led to a keen competition between different sections of Indian society. British rulers took advantage of the diversities that already existed in India for centuries.

Welcomed by national leaders and intellectuals – The national leaders and intellectuals welcomed the introduction of modern education. They thought that understanding of Western literature and liberal, scientific, democratic and humanitarian thoughts of modern Western World would help to remedy many social, political and economic evils prevalent in the nation at that point of time. It would give some insight to the fragmented, poverty stricken, superstitious, weak, indifferent, backward and inward looking society of India. They took upon themselves the responsibility to build a modern, open, plural, culturally rich, prosperous and powerful India.

An Alarm bell for British rulers – Modern education not only produced persons to fill the lower levels of administration, as desired by the rulers. Along with them emerged, by second half of nineteenth century, many national leaders, intellectuals and reformers like Dadabhai Naoroji, Ferozeshah Mehta, Gokhale, Gandhi, Jinnah, Tilak, Lala Lajpat Rai, Moti Lal Nehru, Jawahar Lal Nehru, Subhash Chandra Bose, Patel and many more. The rulers never wanted it.

Preponderance of Brahmins everywhere including freedom movement alarmed the British rulers.

Policy of Reservation

Another tool British used was the Policy of Reservation. In 1918, Mysore Government appointed Miller Committee to look into the question.i On its recommendation All communities, other than Brahmins, who were not adequately represented in the public Service were declared backwards. In 1921 preferential recruitment for backward communities was instituted formally for the first time in its colleges and state services.

In 1925, Government of Bombay provided Reservations to backward communities in its services. It included all except Brahmins, Marwaris, Prabhus, Banias and Christians.ii Madras started quota based communal representation in its Government services and educational institution in 1921.

The United Province had a practice of reserving, out of every four seats, 1 to Brahmin, 1 to Kayastha, 1 to Muslim and the last one to any section other than these three sections.

The concessions bestowed on the backward communities made them loyal to British rule. An excerpt from the Times Archives (Aug 1925) shows the upsurge of Non-Brahmins in Madras. Presiding over the fifth non-Brahmin Conference in Tanjore, Rao Bahadur O Thanikachalam Chetty of Madras, Warned the non-Brahmin public of the dangers ahead” and how in the name of Swaraj, deception was being practiced, lies were decimated with a view to creating prejudice against the Justice party-men and to secure transfer of power to Brahmins under the guise of supporting the Swarajis.

The speaker emphasized the need to counter-act Swarajis activity in view of the coming elections to Legislative Council. He said that their province had, hitherto, successfully resisted the seditious blandishments of the Swarajis and had earned the good name of having successfully worked for the transitional Constitution vouched safe to them by the “Government of India Act.

Census operations and Untouchability

Census operations were also used for the purpose of further splitting the Hindu community. It created political identities in India. Census operation, introduction of electoral politics and suggestion of the Census Commission for 1911 Census, to exclude untouchables, (comprising about 24% of Hindu population and 16% of the total population in 1908) from Hinduism, had made position of untouchables prominent in Indian political scene.

Around 1909, the lower strata of Hindu community were conceptualized under the name of “untouchables”. So far, untouchables had clubbed their political activities with backward classes led by the Justice Party and South Indian Liberation Federation, which were already agitating against Brahmin’s dominance in modern callings. The emergence of Dr. Ambedkar on the political scene provided with the required leadership and needed stimulus to untouchable movement during late twenties and early thirties. There is a section of people, which considers that Ambedkar was planted into Indian politics purposely by British rulers only.

Dr. Ambedkar, while representing untouchables in Simon Commission proceedings, demanded separate electorate, reserved seats for untouchables in legislative bodies, special educational concessions, and recruitment to Government posts on preferential basis, laws against discrimination and a special department to look after the welfare of untouchables. These demands were readily accepted through Communal Award of 1932.

Gandhiji along with other National leaders regarded it as the Unkindest cut of all, which would create a permanent split in Hindu Society, perpetuate casteism and make impossible the assimilation of untouchables in mainstream. Dr. Rajendra Prasad said, The principle of dividing population into communal groups, which had been adopted in the Minto Morely Reforms, had been considerably extended, even beyond what had been done by Montagu Chelmsford Reforms…. “The electorate in 1919 was broken up into ten parts, now it is fragmented into seventeen unequal bits… Giving separate representations to Schedule Castes further weakened Hindu community. Division on the basis of religion, occupation and service were made. The British introduced every possible cross-division.iii Lal Bahadur Shastri denounced the whole happenings As a shameless episode of the National History of the Country.

After Independence

The Constitution of India, through Articles 14, 15 and 16, guaranteed equality of opportunity to all citizens relating to advancement and employment or appointment to any office under the State. However it also allowed the Government to make special provisions in favour of any backward class of citizens.

Seeds sown by British flourished in full in Independent India

The present day politicians have followed their steps and created such an atmosphere that seeds sown by British may blossom in full. The Indian politicians have inherited from British rulers three powerful democratic weapons i.e. Electoral policy, Census operations, and Reservation Policy.

Earlier British rulers used them for economic exploitation and perpetuation of their rule as long as possible. Now Indian politicians are using it in similar way for their own advantage. Present trend of giving continued importance to diversities especially of caste, community, region, language by most of the political parties and shrewd politicians for electoral purposes is at its peak. Instead of the feeling of fraternity amongst Indians, “feeling of ‘others” or “we” and “them” has become more prominent than.

Whether amongst youth or grown ups, the casteist, religious and ideological intolerance has generated communal violence and caste animosities everywhere in the country.

Political instability

The public mandate got fractured on caste and communal lines. At present, it has become almost impossible to ensure a stable Government. Political insecurity has engulfed the whole nation into caste politics. It has given birth to worst form of caste and communal divide. Caste frenzy overtook country’s two most populous provinces of UP and Bihar.

The result is hung parliaments, insecure politicians, scant respect for democratic norms and conduct. Unholy pre or post poll alliances are made. There are manipulations to get hold on power. All political parties try to extract political mileage out of Paternalistic policies.

Politicians are adopting gimmicks of secularism, socialism, equity and social justice. They evade real issues and shirk responsibility. Political party in power finds itself handicapped and lack courage to take hard decisions. The sole aim of politicians, especially of newly emerging groups, have no other program except the one to capture political power by hook or crook and retain it as long as possible.

Criminalization of politics and corruption

Along with caste politics prospered criminalization of politics and corruption ridden leadership scenario in the country with large number of scams and scandals. Power-centric politicians do not care for any principle or ideology; neither do they care for honesty or welfare of people. For power, they do not even mind using foul means or hesitate in taking help of criminals. Many history-sheetors are, at present, in politics.

There is a blatant use of money and muscle power in elections. Politicians try various permutations and combinations to increase their vote Banks. Poor public is a silent spectator, while political atmosphere is surcharged with manipulation, casteism, nepotism and criminalisation.

Paternalistic policies

Paternalistic policies and social justice has elated the backwards and Dalits. The nation is now divided into numerous political camps – pro-Hindu camp, anti-Hindu camp, secular camp, and caste camps into forward, backward and Dalit camp. There are regional camps too, playing up federal card to woe the electorate. The situation is leading to fundamentalist and separatist attitudes, conflict, instability, in-decisiveness, and rigid and irrational attitude.

Inter and Intra-Caste rivalries

For political advantages, different caste, sub-castes and sub-sub-castes have come together, bearing the same caste tag. But they do not forget their separate identities. The political tags/identities as caste Hindus, backwards, SCs, STs and minorities for Reservations and other preferential measures has increased the in-fights between these categories and created social disorder, making the task of governance difficult.

The unity of various castes under the label of Dalits”, “Scheduled castes”, or OBC is an illusion created by vested interests. It does not make them a homogenous class. In the opinion of MSS Pandian, an academic with Madras Institute of Development Studies, the current inter caste rivalries are part of a series of periodic revolt, whose prime object is self assertion.

Dalit militancy is increasing with the rise of new militant outfits like BSP, Devendrakula Vellalar Federation, Thyagi Immanual Paravai, Dalit Panthers of India etc. The striking feature of New Dalit militancy is their utter disregard for the present set up and their attempt to capture political power. Dalit leaders are pursuing Dalit empowerment with vengeance.

Winding up

Way back on December 9, 1946, Mr. V.N. Narayan had said, At best of times, India is ungovernable country of diversities, conflicts and problems.v Mr. Nani Palkiwala expressed the same feeling after 50 years of self-rule, which gave to India empty coffers, unfulfilled promises, political instability, fractured society and perpetual divide among different groups along caste and community lines. He said, Our legal systems have made life too easy for criminals and too difficult for law abiding citizens.vi A touch here, a push there may adversely affect the unity of India. Governance of a pluralistic society, like India, is a sensitive and challenging exercise. And now, the present day political leaders learning well, how to divide the mandate and perpetuate their rule as long as possible have pushed India to a stage, when “In Indian criminal justice system, major crimes are likely to remain unreported; if reported, frequently not registered; if registered, the true perpetrator not found; if found, not prosecuted; if prosecuted, not charged; if charged, usually not convicted; if convicted, frequently not adequately punished. At each crucial stage, the system has enough loopholes and inefficiencies to allow the guilty to walk away with impunity.”

Way out

  • There has been a fast decline in the observance of morality. In the absence of ideology, pursuit of material success has made the so-called representatives of the people selfish and intolerant. They have drifted almost rudderless without sense of direction. The recent political developments have given a rise to mutual strife within the society.
  • Lust for political power and wealth should be replaced by sense of service. Instead of concentrating on populist measures, political leaders should give priority to real issues. The administration would become more sensitive and responsive to the needs of the disadvantaged people. Basic ameneties like drinking water, house, food etc. should be proveded effectively and efficiently.
  • In electoral reforms should be made in such a way that instead of power seekers, talented, professional and specialized persons could find place in the system. Men of character, learning and scholarship should be elected as representatives of the people and be given the respect, they deserve from society. Entrusting power in weak or greedy hands without making them strong enough to hold it judiciously could not empower them.
  • Liberalization and globalization has opened up a new vista for everybody. To channelise creativity and energies of modern youth and to keep them happy and satisfied, a sound system of education and training is required urgently.
  • To prevent unhealthy competition in the society discriminatory statutes, policies and practices should be stopped. Instead of for promoting sectional interests, stringent punishment should be given to exploiters, oppressors and those persons who are indulged in corrupt practices.

March 21, 2018 Posted by | Social and political values and systems | , , | Leave a comment

Dalits’ Assertion and agitations

“I am thankful to all those who said NO to me. It is because of them I did it myself.”    Einstein 

“The worst form of inequality is to try to make unequal things equal”                                                                                                                                                   Aristotle 

The unity of backward castes under the label of “Dalits” is

                   an illusion created by vested interests.

Introduction – Times news reported on January 3. 2018, that Dalits came on Mumbai streets on 2.1.20 to protest against the violence that took place in Pune. In-wake of violence at Bhima Koregaon village in Pune district on 1.1.18., Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh (BBM) leader Prakash Ambedkar and some political parties called ‘Maharashtra Bandh’. Sources said –

  • Maharashtra Bandh! How dalit agitation brought Mumbai to standstill.
  • Massive protest by Dalits on 2.1.18 and 3.1.18 halted Mumbai local trains, blocked roads, and pelted stones.
  • A large number of agitators, allegedly in the “garb of activists championing the cause of the backward classes”, ensured that the police machinery was cornered and government suffered losses.
  • Economists say the never-seen-before Mumbai shutdown may have led to business losses worth thousands of crores of rupees.
  • Maharashtra Dalit protest spreads to Gujarat and other states as well.

Therefore, it becomes necessary not to sensationalize or politicize such news or publicize irrational comments or irresponsible  acts of various political parties or biased views of some intellectuals. Invariably, it creates misunderstandings and atmosphere of tension in the society and put unnecessary pressure on the government. Also national policies and plans should not get influenced because of dirty politics or irrational comments, fiery speeches or deeds of a few cynic/irresponsible persons.

In present day Dalit-politics, vested interests of a few persons or leaders/their political parties are spreading many misconceptions through social media.  In this age of social media or mass media, it is not difficult for a leader to appeal to the targeted audience.

It is not desirable for any mature leader to pass on comments based on half cooked information, half a truth, partial or incomplete knowledge, which could be harmful for the whole society. Reality is much deeper than what is seen on the surface. One should not form an opinion or take a decision without analyzing rationally the whole scenario.

Greed for powerGreed for power is increasing every day. Craving for more power – muscle, money or political – of some individuals or groups tends people to adopt discriminatory practices. Discriminatory practices work on whims and fancies/likes and dislikes of strong persons. Controlling the destiny of others satisfies their ego and serves their interests.

Discrimination caste-based or class-based in India?Within every society and a nation, there exists numerous identities based on factors like caste, race, class, religion, gender, language or region. Dalit Activists hold caste responsible for its being highly discriminatory and keeping 750 million Hindus – dalits, tribals and other backward classes – poor, “subjugated, discriminated against and humiliated.” “Technologies for human survival …. were all developed by lower castes”, but “upper castes took away the fruits of their labour and invention.” “In the hearts of the oppressed castes, there is anger and hatred.” They say, ‘Social-justice’ demands their emancipation by ending all kind of discrimination. Agitated comments of Dalit Activists and political leaders arouse emotional sentiments of poor masses, generate venom in their heart and create a feeling of ‘otherness’. They  are trying hard to make the entry in power echelons/government, including government services and create as much space for themselves as possible.

Dr. Dean Harmison  says that Discrimination in India is ‘Class-based’, and not caste-based. So is all-over the world. “I have travelled to nearly all the states,n visited villages and slums, temples, mosques and churches, shared meals and conversations with people there of all stations in life. I have not experienced discrimination to the extent, it is being painted here; but what I have seen is class discrimination, Yes I have seen economic poverty.” (quoted from his speech at 53rd session of Sub-commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, N Delhi Aug., 2001)

Intolerance reason behind discriminationUsually, in every society, differences in behavior, character, education, language, way of life, culture, social background create a distance between two individuals or groups. Resistance to tolerate, adapt or appreciate each other widens the distance. Some become so aggressive that they openly abuse or oppress others. In order to be one up, either they let down others or try to control their destiny by adopting discriminatory practices. And in this rat-race, stronger always wins and weaker suffers.

Electoral politics encourages narrow loyalties of caste and religion  – In the past, British rulers in India, while laying foundation of democratic institutions of India, started many discriminatory practices to keep balance of power and counter Brahmins hold on Indian society. That was the time when caste Hindus were very conscious about their Hindu identity. But after Independence, it has been observed that despite all their venom against Hinduism and its caste system, lower segment of society is sticking strongly to its caste-identities.  Narrow loyalties of caste and religion are encouraged generating sub-cultures like caste-ism, favoritism, and lure for easy money, nepotism, parochialism, communalism, regionalism, bigoted sentiments and irresponsible comments, spreading in-discipline in the society. The rising aspirations and demands of people, with the spread of education and awareness, has created added problem for the government.

Policy of appeasement – It is because of adopting the path of appeasement, and pacify agitating people, most of measures taken by the Governmental authorities touch the problems superficially at its periphery only. These solutions are unrelated to real issues and day to day problems of poor people. Instead of benefiting or helping the poor, on one hand such developmental programs increase corruption, and on the other it encourages lethargy, agitation and attitude to depend on authorities for each and everything.

A large number of ‘Dalits’ have already entered into the corridors of power, are occupying important places, and are exercising authority. Under their leadership, different pressure groups and regional political parties are wooing  with vigor the poor, innocent and illiterate Dalit and Muslim masses. Even Naxalite groups find in Dalits an allies, as most of their action squads are formed of Harijans. No political party could dare to annoy them. All concede to their demands openly or discreetly.

Journey of Dalits towards Empowerment – The transformation of untouchables into Harijans, Depressed class and now Dalits is a classic example, where a fraction of society is increasingly distancing itself from the mainstream and establishing firmly its separate identity. The organized intolerance and  over-consciousness about their separate identity has grown out of proportions now, perpetuating agitation and violence. They desire a complete hold on political power plus protection of those laws and policies indefinitely, which were started seventy years ago for ten years for enabling them to join the mainstream. They want to have a cake and eat it too, but without much effort or blending their ways.

Journey of Shudras BeginsExistence of Shudras (at present referred as untouchables/Dalits) was recognized, as early as, Pre Mauryan Period (6th century BC to 3rd century BC). Though given a lower status, they were always an integral part of Hindu society. Since then, they have traveled a long distance and has passed through various stages, at present known as Dalits. Till the beginning of 20th Century, the lowest strata of Hindu Community were known as Shudras, Panchamas or outcastes. The whole of 20th century, especially the first and last two decades have been especially important for political empowerment of Shudras (Untouchables). Different terms have been used for Shudras at different points of time. Each one assumed importance, as Dalit movement has passed through various stages – ‘Shudras’, ‘Outcastes’ and ‘Panchamas’

  • Who were Shudras in ancient times? – In ancient India, Shudras were supposed to do all sorts of menial work under the guidance of the three Varnas -Brahmins, Kshatriyas and Vaishyas. Individuals or groups belonging to the fourth Varna Shudras were –
    • Conquered groups or individuals in a war;
    • Groups engaged in menial or unhygienic occupations;
    • Groups clinging to the practices, which were not considered respectable;
    • Persons born illegitimately or
    • Groups engaged in anti-social activities were treated as Shudras and were given lowest status in the society.
    • Breaking the caste rules meant loss of caste, meaning complete ostracism or having no place in the mainstream of society.
    • Permanent loss of caste or out-caste- were considered to be the greatest catastrophe for an individual, short of death penalty. By the beginning of Christian era, the out-castes themselves developed caste hierarchy and had their own out-castes.
  • Why Lower Ranking for Shudras? – In ancient India, Shudras performed basic/essential social services. They  also worked in economic as well as in agricultural sectors under the guidance of caste Hindus. Still they were placed at lower level. Why?
    • Segregation of lower castes in Hindu Society was not based on economic status nor on their incapability to do any intellectual work.
    • In ancient India all the social groups were placed more or less as a series of vertical parallels.
    • It was on cultural grounds – unclean habits, in-disciplined life style, speaking foul and abusive language etc.
    • All of the people living in a local area, whether high or low, were bound together by economic and social ties and had a strong bond of mutual dependence.
    • They cared and supported each other in fulfilling different kind of their needs.
  • Concept of forwards or backwards non-existent in ancient India – Higher rank in the society or respect to a person or group was never given on the basis of material success or control of power. There was hardly any room for any section of society to consider itself, as being placed in greater or lesser disadvantageous position with reference to another. Concept of forwards or backwards or feeling of exploitation of lower strata by upper castes was almost non-existent at that time.
  • Masses reconciled, if not contended – Many studies have shown that Hindu system always kept masses reconciled, if not contended in the past. Hindu Dharma taught the people that instead of holding others responsible, for all their sufferings, exploitation and miseries it was their own “Adharma” (immoral behavior), “Alasya” (laziness) and Agyan (ignorance) which were to be blamed.
  • Respect for Shudras with knowledge or character – Society never prevented Shudras or others to rise in the scale of society or to earn respect of the society. In many parts of the country, people belonging to lower strata held position of power/superior status or earned respect of Hindu society. Many warrior kings of Shudra and tribal origin sought Brahmins’ help to acquire Kshatriyas status for themselves. Many Shudras were accepted and revered as philosophers or spiritual teachers.

Shudras position during medieval Period – All troubles of lower strata of society along with other sections of Hindu society started after the downfall of Hindu Raj and old Hindus values.

  • Sufferings of the whole Hindu society under alien rule – It was not only the Shudras, but all the sections of Hindu society suffered a lot during medieval period. Seventh century onwards, continuous invasions by Turks, and Afghans earlier drained out the wealth of the nation to foreign lands and afterwards Mughals made India their homeland and ruled the country for centuries. Feudalistic attitude, extravagance and luxurious life style of rulers and those at the helm of authority, increased the disparity between the rulers and the ruled. Therefore, blaming caste Hindus out-rightly could not be totally justified. It was not out of malice, but the circumstances under foreign rule, that had pushed Shudras away from the mainstream.
  • Continuous suffering without the help of government or society responsible –  The low status and continuous sufferings for centuries, because of poverty and deprivation had gradually stopped growth of their personality and made them completely dependent on others for their livelihood. Centuries old enslavement, their total dependence on others, ignorance, superstitions, suppression and ostracism shook their confidence and instilled in their minds inferiority complex are the factors responsible for their poverty,exploitation and became victims of insensitive and inhuman treatment by others.

Depressed class/backward class – During British rule,  Shudras were addressed as ‘Depressed class’/Backward castes or ‘Exterior class’ in official circles. British rulers as well as Missionaries launched an ideological attack on the social-structure of Hindus and tried to upgrade their social position.  With the promise of giving lower strata of society modern education and government employment, lured many people to get converted into Christianity. British rulers passed many Legislative regulations and administrative orders declaring denial of access to untouchables to schools, well, roads and public places as illegal.

Separation between Backwards and untouchables – Uptil the beginning of twentieth century, untouchable attempts for getting space in power-structure were combined with the Backward Castes movement of intermediate castes. But with the beginning of 20th century, untouchables were inspired to enter into the political arena under the name of “depressed class” and get a reasonable share in political power separately. British government in India regarded untouchables ‘Oppressed of the oppressed and lowest of the low’.

HarijansNational leaders, humanitarians and reformers made several attempts to improve the position of untouchables during late 19th and beginning of 20th century. When during census operations of 1911, British rulers proposed to exclude ‘untouchables’ from  Hindu population, National leaders got alerted. In order to retain the Hindu identity of untouchables population, Gandhiji and his followers called them, ‘Harijans’ meaning the “people belonging to god”. On one hand, Gandhiji tried to create compassion for Harijans in the hearts of forward communities  and on the other he appealed to Harijans to observe cleaner habits, so that they could mix up freely with other sections of society. However, Dalit leaders did not like the word Harijan as it symbolized a meek and helpless person, at the mercy and benevolence of others, and not the proud and independent human being that they were.

During this period, the attention of humanitarians and reformers was also drawn towards the pathetic condition of untouchables. They took the path of Sankritization to elevate them. In order to prevent alienation of untouchables from Hindu community, they drew the attention of forward communities towards inhuman condition of lower strata of society and tried to create compassion in their hearts for downtrodden.

  •  They gave top most priority to the abolition of untouchability.
  • They tried to clarify that Untouchability was neither an integral part of Hinduism nor an outcome of Varna/caste system, nor have any religious sanctity, but an external impurity and sinful blot on Hinduism.
  • They laid emphasis on education, moral regeneration and philanthropic uplift.
  • They also appealed to untouchables to observe cleaner habits, so that they could mix up with other sections freely and become proud and independent human beings, that they were.

Political rise of Untouchables under the supervision of Dr Ambedkar Till 1909, the lowest strata of Indian society was known as Depressed class/backward class. Emergence of Dr. Ambedkar on the political scene provided the leadership and stimulus to untouchable movement.

  • He insisted to address untouchables just as untouchables. He regarded the terms ‘Depressed classes’, ‘Dalits’, ‘Harijans’ either confusing or degrading and contemptuous. Dr. Ambedkar made it abundantly clear, ‘It was through political power that untouchables were to find their solution, not through acceptance by Hindus’. He gave untouchable movement a national character and a distinct identity during late twenties and early thirties.
  • Criticism of Hindu hierarchical structure – Some prominent Dalit leaders like Mahatma Phule, Ambedkar or Gopal Ganesh vehemently criticized Hindu hierarchical structure and regarded untouchability as an inevitable concomitant of Varna/caste system. They taught the lower castes to get united and make eradication of caste system their major plank as it engaged them to forced labor or unsavory jobs, imposed many restrictions on them and prevented them from joining the mainstream of the society. According to them, Hindus treated lower castes as lesser human beings, meek and helpless persons, who should always remain at the mercy and benevolence of upper castes. They tried to find the solution of their problems through political power, not through acceptance by Hindus.
  • Rise of political groups on caste-basis – By 1920’s, numerous caste organizations, specially in the South and West, organized themselves into larger collectiveness by keeping contacts and alliances with their counterparts at other places; formed associations and federations at local and regional levels and emerged as a powerful political force. Together, they demanded special legal protection and share in politics and administration on the basis of caste.
  • Untouchables separated from Backward class – In 1928, Simon Commission established their separate identity at national level, independent of intermediate castes as untouchables. It readily accepted their demands through Communal Award of 1932. Gandhiji along with other National leaders regarded it as the Unkindest cut of all”, which would create a permanent split in Hindu Society, perpetuate casteism and make impossible the assimilation of untouchables in mainstream. Dr. Rajendra Prasad said, The principle of dividing population into communal groups, which had been adopted in the Minto Morely Reforms, had been considerably extended, even beyond what had been done by Montagu Chelmsford Reforms….The electorate in 1919 was broken up into ten parts, now it is fragmented into seventeen unequal bits… Giving separate representations to Schedule Castes further weakened Hindu community… The British introduced every possible cross-division.

Known as Scheduled Castes in Independent India – After Second World War, the whole of the world was swept along with the concept of  the ‘welfare-state’. Independent India, also became a Welfare Democratic nation pursuing justice -social, economic and political. The government considered it its humanitarian obligation to plan for uplift and empowerment of the submerged-sections of the society.  After Independence, seeing the overwhelming-poverty of millions of people, especially  belonging to the lower strata of the society and their near absence in echelons of power, Government of India took up some concrete measures.

Why the term Scheduled Castes? – As per the directions of the provisions of the Communal Award of 1932, instructions were issued, in July 1934, to schedule a list of the people entitled for preferential treatment in matter of special electoral representation and appointment in the Central Government jobs. This gave birth to the term Scheduled Caste in 1935. Scheduling was a legal activity having sanction of legal authorities. Therefore, no one had any objection to this term. This term was used even after the independence.
The Constitution of India- The Constitution of India has directed the Government to promote social justice and educational, economic and other interests of Scheduled castes and Scheduled tribes with special care. It instructed the Government to remove the poverty and reduce inequalities of income and wealth, bring submerged sections into mainstream and provide adequate representation to them in power echelons. Public facilities, which were denied to untouchables so far, have been made accessible to them. The successive governments both at national as well as provincial levels have initiated various Welfare Plans and Policies for employment generation and their social, economic and political growth from time to time.

Emergence of  ‘Dalit’ word for untouchables – Dalit, a ‘Maraddhi’ word means ‘suppressed’. The term was chosen and used proudly by Ambedkar’s followers under the banner of various factions of Republican Party of India (Formed in 1956). The Mahars of Bombay (8%), Jatavs of UP (Half of the SC Population in UP) and Nadars and Thevars of Southern TN being numerically significant, played a decisive role in taking forward Dalit movement. Maharashtra Dalit movement has a longest and richest experience.

  • Dalit Panthers , a political party in Maharashtra – In 1972, a distinct political party, in the name of Dalit Panther was formed in Maharashtra. It organized the lower castes under the banner of ‘Dalit’ throughout India. One of the founders of Dalit Panther, Mr. Namdeo Dhasal widened the scope of Dalit by including SC, tribes, neo-Buddhists, landless labor and economically exploited people. Its orientation was primarily militant and rebellious. Dalit Sahitya Movement legitimized and reinforced the use of the term Dalit. Since then, this term is very popular amongst the untouchables.
  • Main aim, abolish of caste-system  – Earlier, a few leaders of untouchables had at least some regard for the cultural tradition of India. They did not reject Vedic literature or the foundations of Hinduism, out-rightly. Dr. Ambedkar accepted that all parts of Manusmiriti were not condemnable. Gopal Baba Walangkar had said that Vedas did not support untouchability. Kisan Fagoi, another Mahar leader of pre-Ambedkar era had joined Prarthna Samaj. But present Dalit leaders are vehemently against cultural traditions of India, which according to them, are based on inequality and exploitation. it has given rise to a fear of upper caste or intermediate caste backlash.
  • Dalit’s March towards Bihar – In mid sixties, an aggressive Dalit movement started under the banner of Shoshit Samaj Dal in Central Bihar, which has, presently, become a major center of Naxalite movement. Dal was founded by Jagdeo Mahto, who began to mobilize the lower castes against economic repression and exploitation of women by upper caste feudal elements.
  • Dalit’s rise in UP – The new phase of Dalit assertion is most prominent in the most populous state of UP, where the upper caste domination has been challenged by BSP (Bahujan Samaj Party) formed in 1984 under the leadership of Kanshi Ram and Mayavati. They redefined Dalit politics especially in north India.                                                                                                                              Their approach to Dalit issues was more socio-political rather than economic. BSP has started pursuing power with militancy since 1990. Its supremo Mayawati succeeded four times in becoming Chief Minister of UP. Of late, BSP has made significant inroads in UP, Punjab and Madhya Pradesh.                                                                                                                                              BSP has borrowed all their phraseology from Dalit Panthers. Most of their utterances are arrogant, revengeful and opportunistic. Political and economic vested interests of its leaders has aroused militancy among discontented youths of different castes and communities all over the nation. They care only for rights and pay scant attention to their duties. There started a cutthroat competition for scarce positions of power and prestige.
  • Dalit Vote Bank – Bahen Mayavati had one said that through election Dalits will takeover the posts of PM and CMs and the posts of DMs nd GMs through reservations. Political parties and its leaders are well-aware that the number of Dalit population is large and it can be a large vote-bank for them. Therefore, they try to appease Dalits creamy layer  from time to time, in order to increase their own political strength. Dalit leaders are in no mood to play a second fiddle to other national political parties. Dalit leaders are aware of their growing influence and crucial role as a kink-maker in today’s highly competitive and unstable political atmosphere.
  • Dalits vs. Non-Dalits – Once again, the tendency of ‘divide and rule’, as was there during British domination, has emerged in national scenario. India has been divided sharply into two unbridgeable compartments  – Dalits and Non Dalits (caste Hindus).                                                  The growing desire of Dalits to get control over political power has made them very sure of their friends and foes. Dalit leaders, even after so many years of Independence has identified Upper Castes as their enemy and intermediate castes sometimes as their friends and sometimes as their enemies. Kanshi Ram, a BSP leader initiated a formula of DS4, meaning Dalit Shoshit Samaj Sangarsh Samiti, taking into its fold untouchables, STs, Muslims and OBCs.
  • Creamy Layer amongst Dalits – There emerged an elite section amongst Dalits, which protects its turf under the banner of Dalits at the cost of poorest of Dalits. The Supreme Court In famous Indira Sawney case in 1992 had observed that the benefits of Reservation policy had been cornered by influential and dominant sections of different Dalit caste groups covered under the scheme . In order to make it available to really needy persons, it directed the Government to identify creamy layer among the backward castes and exclude it from taking the benefits of Reservations. Because it was a measure of protective discrimination to help the socially disadvantaged. The inclusion and exclusion of a caste or a section of caste would have to be periodically reviewed, to take care of the changing circumstances. The court had directed the Government to specify “within four months”, the basis of exclusion – the basis of income or extent of holding or otherwise of creamy layer.
  • Vested interest of Dalits creamy layer – Creamy layer  amongst Dalits does not care much to bring poor Dalit masses into the mainstream. For some, presence and miseries of large number of dalits is a recipe for Dalit vote-bank, for others enjoying all the benefits of affirmative action programs initiated and implemented by the Government of India and other concessions given to them. Whatever might be the condition of Dalit masses, but the political power and arrogance of Dalit leaders and intellectuals are at rise. And here lies the crux of Dalit poltics.

Analysis Of Dalit Empowerment

Role of Dalits in electoral politicsAll the major national political formations, national or provincial, Front, are wooing frantically Dalit leaders and competing with each other to have a pre or post poll alliance with them. Instead of demanding a share in power structure, equity or social justice, Dalits now want to reverse the power equation and to transform the society by capturing all political power. Their aim is to get hold over the posts of PM-CM (Political Power) through electoral politics and control over administrative authority – the bureaucracy – through Reservations/Affirmative Action Program.

Impact on paternalistic policies on Education- The following has been the effect of focusing on quantity rather than quality in the sphere of education: –

  • Tremendous pressure has been exerted for expanding the educational facilities at the higher and professional level, reducing hopes for more funds for elementary education;
  • Capitation fee colleges are getting a boost. Earlier, most of them were found in the South, but in post-Mandal period, the trend of Capitation fee colleges started in the North as well;
  • There has been pressure for opening up gates fully for private sector in the field of education, so that at least students get admission, even if the rate of payment is inflated.
  • Brain drain, which already has been a problem, got intensified further after the Mandal. Earlier when anti-Brahmin movement and Reservations started in the South, many Brahmin families migrated from Madras Presidency and settled in other parts of the country or abroad. Now with Reservation spreading in North as well, they are exploring the greener pastures abroad. The sad part is that the reverse discrimination has forced the cream of the nation to go out of country and serve others. Many organizations have come up during Post-Mandal era to help the bright students and professionals to get nice jobs in foreign lands.
  • Students agitation and unrest is continuously increasing with the growing number of educated unemployed,
  • Whether amongst youth or grown ups, the casteist, religious and ideological intolerance has generated communal violence and caste animosities everywhere in the country.

Inter and Intra-Caste rivalries – Every caste is a conglomeration of sub-castes and sub-sub-castes. For political actions, they come together, bearing the same caste tag. But they do not forget their separate identities. The political classification of society into caste Hindus, backwards, SCs, STs and minorities for Reservations and other preferential measures has increased the in-fights between these categories and created social disorder, making the task of governance difficult. The unity of backward castes under the label of Dalits is an illusion created by vested interests. Neither the term Schedule caste”, nor OBC nor Dalit makes them a homogenous class. In the opinion of MSS Pandian, an academic with Madras Institute of Development Studies, the current inter caste rivalries are part of a series of periodic revolt, whose prime object is self assertion.[i]

Intra-Caste rivalries – Not only are there inter caste rivalries, but intra-caste rivalries exist as well. Every caste has both, rich and poor people. The rich amongst them not only oppress the caste lower to it, but also the poor people of its own caste. It is not that forward castes, SCs, STs and OBCs are rivals of each other. Many emerging castes within each political group are fighting against each other for power, such as amongst intermediate castes – Jats, Yadavs, Koeries are fighting with each other for power. Also, the attempt of each political party to woo the same Dalit, OBC or minority group has given rise to intra-caste rivalries. In order to be one up each party tries to please different castes within each group by taking up different sectional issues. Each powerful caste now acts independently during elections and seeks political alliance before and after election with other caste groups. Post-election alliances, in an attempt to secure a majority, have led to the rise of inter-caste and intra-caste rivalries. (Sunday, pp. 12-13, and 8-14, June, 1997).

Anger against upper caste in rise The circumstances has resulted in the rise of anger against the Elitist upper caste people. After Mandal, this anger has engulfed the whole nation. Anyone doubting the efficacy of Reservation Policy is labeled today as a part of Manuwadi Brahminical system, which for ages has used religious scriptures, injunctions, propaganda and plain force to impose on masses many deprivations. The politics of revenge makes people irrational, and the authorities to go for reverse discrimination. At present, the forward castes doubt that they are being treated as second rate citizens in their own country, because they are scattered and other categories are united, well organised, and have the advantage of their numerical strength. In such an atmosphere, it is easy for the political authorities to withdraw opportunities from them and bestow it on the Backward classes; not necessarily the real disadvantaged sections.

The animosity of has tended withdrawal attitude amongst forward castes Recently the talented youth started withdrawing themselves from active politics or joining bureaucracy. Liberalization and globalization has opened up a new vista for them. They either join private sector or multi-national companies or go abroad in search of job. Information technology or software industry is full of such people. The private sector takes good care of them. It again breeds inter-caste jealousy.

Rift between OBCs and Dalits The Backwards and Dalits do not have much in common among them, except for their hatred for the caste Hindus, especially Brahmins. Intermediate castes always wanted to be aligned with power. Earlier in the social sphere, when upper castes were strong, they were their right hand persons. Forward castes, have always been non-militant and passive by nature. Therefore, they could not exert force on the lower strata. On behalf of them, the intermediate castes exerted the force on the lower castes. At present, when the wind is blowing in favour of Dalits, OBCs have joined hands with Dalits, to displace the forward castes and to grab the political power.

Dalits have always been in conflict with OBCs at social level, in politics, they have no option, but to support them to achieve their mission to change the power equation. Too much assertiveness of Dalit and backward leaders has already created growing confrontation between the lowest and different  intermediate castes in various parts of the country – Dalits Vs Marathas in Maharashtra, Dalits Vs Yadavs in UP and Bihar or Dalits Vs Thevars in Tamil Nadu. A huge social churning is going on the margins of the society.

The fight initially started between rural poor (marginal and marginalized) – Poor OBCs with a bit of land and some degree of political protection infuriated poorer Dalits, who neither had land, nor education, nor political power. In urban areas the fight is again for property and jobs. The main fight is for land, jobs, education and other opportunities to ensure security and progress. This fight is moving from the margins to center stage of Indian politics. Therefore, there is not much in common between a BC landless agricultural laborer and OBC landowner.

Very often, the rudeness of OBC towards BC is the main cause of social tension in rural India. Caste-Hindus, even Brahmins have been more considerate to an untouchable than intermediate caste such as rich Jat, Maratha, Reddy, or Patel etc. In the post-Mandal era, the intermediate castes have become very strong economically and politically. They own big farmland and employ landless tillers for farming. Their numerical strength gave them the political power also. The economic and political strength made OBCs to exploit the downtrodden.

Dalit assertion and a massive shift in power in favour of Dalits – Along with OBC, the post Mandal era has witnessed Dalit assertion and a massive shift in power in favour of Dalits as well. With the caste equation hardening, the Dalit groups got united. They have come together and are fighting for their rights. Earlier they allowed OBCs to exploit them, now they resent it. Todays’ Dalits are aggressive and militant enough to take the OBCs head on. OBCs are getting it back with the rise of Dalit reprisal attacks, which often results in heavy loss of life and property on both the sides. Dalit militancy is increasing with the rise of new militant outfits like BSP, Devendrakula Vellalar Federation, Thyagi Immanual Paravai, Dalit Panthers of India etc. The striking feature of New Dalit militancy is their utter disregard for the present set up and their attempt to capture political power. Dalit leaders are pursuing Dalit empowerment with vengeance.

Dalits influence at International platformDalits are not satisfied even after having growing influence in ballot-box politics and attaining enough places in the government jobs. Since 2001, these activists have been pushing the cause internationally arguing that Indian Dalits are like blacks in US till 1950. They faced problems in workplace, at school and in temples.

In 2005, some Dalit leaders belonging to All India Confederation have sought intervention USA, UN and the British and EU Parliaments on the issues of ‘untouchability’. UN recognizes religion, race, language and gender as main causes of inequality in the world. Dalt activists want caste to be included too in this category. They desire to have Global alliance, global involvement and intervention of the international community to put pressure on the government of India to address the problem Dalit marginalization. They feel that globalization and privatization has made it difficult for Dalits, tribals and OBC’s to compete on equal footing or find enough space in the job market within the country or abroad. At the behest of the Republican Congressman from New Jersey, Chris Smith, the US Congress had held a hearing on 6.10. 05 on the subject. A resolution on the issue – “ India’s unfinished Agenda: Equality and Justice for 200 million victims of the caste system” was prepared by the house committee on International Relations and US Human Rights to be tabled in the US Congress. “Despite the Indian government’s extensive affirmative action policies, which aim to open government service and education to Dalits and tribes, most have been left behind by India’s increasing prosperity…. Much much more remains to be done.” The resolution says, “It is in the interest of US to address the problem of the treatment of groups outside the caste system… in the republic of India in order to better meet our mutual economic and security goals….”

So far, intensive lobbying by Dalit groups including followers of Ravidass sect succeeded in getting passed the Equity Bill on March 24, 2010 in the house of Lords. It empowered the government to include ‘caste’ within the definition of ‘race’. In 2001, India was able in keeping caste out of the resolution adopted at 2001 Durban Conference.

Along with it, staunch supporters of Human Rights, some Scandinavian countries, Church organizations around the world and Lutheran World Federation have shown interest and expressed their solidarity with Dalits. Recently the comment of UN Commissioner for human rights, Navi Pillay asking India that “time has come to eradicate the shameful concept of caste” and proposals of UN Human Rights Council’s or US based Human Rights Watch (HRW) to recognize caste as a form of discrimination ‘based on descent and birth’ appear not to be based on rational understanding of caste system. Their opinion about untouchability is greatly influenced by the lobbying of powerful/influential Dalit leaders and Dalit intelligentsia.

No one knows where the Dalit assertion will lead the nation to? – It is not the paternalistic policies, (which have failed to yield so far the desired results) that are required for the uplift and empowerment of submerged sections of society, but there is need to educate, make them aware of their rights and duties, provide enough employment opportunities and basic civic facilities like health etc. at the grass root level for the sustainable growth of backward communities.

Conclusion –India has covered a long distance since its Independence. For political opportunism, its culture and traditions should not be blamed.

  • Indian culture has always preached, “whatever the colour of the cow,the milk is always white. Whatever be the background, lifestyle, race, religion or caste, each human is an image of God and a foundation of love, therefore, deserved to  be honoured.”
  • It is a matter of shame that after 70 years of its self-rule and giving so much protection to weaker sections, incidents of discrimination are reported to be increasing day by day. Instead of defaming it or single-it out for exploitation  or discrimination, it is desirable that law-implementing machinery should get tough on perpetrators of injustice. Discriminatory practices or oppression of weaker sections of society is unacceptable to the whole of humanity.
  • Instead of blaming an invisible institution (caste-system) for discrimination, deep wisdom and honesty of purpose is needed to find out right methods and courage to strive for it sincerely. To fight caste-ism, it is important to economically uplift the poor and prepare them through sound system of education and training and also making them aware of their rights and duties to fight their own battles and pave their way towards sustainable development.
  • So-called ‘Backward castes’ need to understand the spirit of Indian Constitution and try to adapt thinking, culture and life-style of the mainstream of the nation. Otherwise, there will always be cultural rifts, both in their lives and minds, threatening the unity of the nation from time to time.
  • Today, when the whole world is reeling between economic depression and and terrorism, people expect from the government to bring in change in economic situation and in fight against terrorism. Hate, jealousy, anxiety or fear leads to violence and give rise to wars, riots, antagonisms and class or caste conflicts.
  • After-effects of the great economic depression of 2008 has brought many social and economic changes and aggravated the problems for present government. The GDP growth has fallen there, business investment has dipped alarmingly. Unemployment has risen. Therefore, Government needs to be very careful, while planning for measures (developmental or punitive) to be taken. The needs and aspirations of the people as a whole should be taken care of by the government, not of any specific section of the society.
  • Present atmosphere demands to resolve sensibly the differences and clashes of interests peacefully with rational thinking and understanding for each other. For a change, India needs collective nation building efforts of both the authorities and the public with a sense of justice, commitment to the nation, understanding for each other and consciousness about duties along with rights.
  • Following steps could to be taken to bring to an end discrimination of any kind –
    • First of all, government should find out root causes of discrimination and deprivation,
    • Government should identify without bias vulnerable groups, which are discriminated against by the present modern society. It should not be on the basis of caste.
    • Identify the special needs or problems of each group separately,
    • Accordingly plan about the measures to be taken to protect the interests of vulnerable individuals.
    • Well meaning judicious laws, which could directly improve day today life of common men, should be carefully legislated.
    • Such laws should not remain only on papers but have to be executed/implemented in real life for dealing with social injustice effectively.
    • To give relief to ‘Have-nots’, the way out is to tackle effectively local crimes against common man whether in rural or urban areas and improve law and order position.
    • The money meant for the development purposes should actually be spent for which it is intended i.e. the betterment of submerged sections of society.
    • Power generally rests with physical strength, wealth and knowledge. Knowledge brings in both physical strength and wealth. Therefore, stress on knowledge through ‘education for all’ should be the top priority for the government for empowerment of weaker sections, which are victims of discrimination.
    • Widespread human rights violations should be stopped by punishing the culprits.
    • It is necessary to put honest and right persons at crucial positions. There are very few people, who have the knowledge/understanding what to do, how to do and when to do;

Winding up – A strong political will and courage is needed to bring to an end caste-ism and with it all kinds of discriminatory attitudes, repressive laws and practices. For the prosperity of the nation and tension-free/stress-free life of common man, as suggested by First Backward class Commission’s Chairman Kaka Kalelkar in mid fifties, “National solidarity in a democratic set up demands Government to recognize only two ends – the individual at one end and the nation as a whole at the other. Nothing should be encouraged to organize itself in between these two ends to the detriment of the freedom of the individual and solidarity of the nation. All communal and denominational organizations and groupings of lesser and narrower units have to be watched carefully, so that they do not jeopardize the national solidarity and do not weaken the efforts of the nation to serve the various elements in the body politic with equity. Mutual help, mutual respect and mutual trust are the touchstone, on which all communal and denominational activities will be tested.”

“Knowledge is power. Information is liberating” Kofi Annan

The only way – “You have to work-out your own problems, work hard everyday; you have to hold on to the real thing; believe me, there’s no other way!” Gertrude T Buckingham

January 7, 2018 Posted by | Social and political values and systems | | Leave a comment

Humanism, Religion, Secularism and Hinduism

 

‘Whether one believes in a religion or not, and whether one believes in rebirth or not, there isn’t anyone who doesn’t appreciate kindness and compassion. So be kind, be    compassionate.’

                                                                                                                                           The xiv, Dalai Lama

 ‘Nip Fundamentalism in the bud itself’.

Introduction – The word Humanism is linked with the civil society of the whole world, ideology of Secularism originated in West and Hinduism in India. The ultimate purpose of all the three, Secularism, Humanism or Hinduism is the same. Their role is complimentary not comparative or opposite to each other. All the three aims at no-discrimination or no distinction between people on the basis of religion. They seek development of physical, spiritual and intellectual nature of human to the higher possible point. They lay stress on human efforts to achieve material benefits within the framework of law and moral and intellectual values. Opposite to it communalism pushes people to have towards blind faith in their respective religions and advises them even to take extreme steps, if it becomes necessary.

Religion – Greatest religion in this world is that of Humanism, which embraces the whole world and all human beings living in this world. All religions teach brotherhood and harmony.   but all ways eventually led to one – the God of all Humans. Paths prescribed by different religions may be different. But objective is the same. Therefore, mutual respect for all religions must be promoted.

HumanismHuman values are social and ethical norms, which are common to all cultures, religions and societies. According to George Jacob Holyoake secularism is concerned purely on considerations on Humanism. “Secularism is that which seeks development of the physical, moral and intellectual nature of man to the higher possible point, as immediate duty of life” irrespective of religion and it, “selects as its methods of procedure the promotion of human improvement by material means proposes those positive agreements as the common bond of union of all who would regulate life by reason and enable it by service.”(Quoted from Kulkarni, Indian Democracy, pp 55-56)

Secularism – There is an impression that ….. the terms “Democratic” and “Secular” are alien ….. prior to 1950, Indian rulers did not know the concepts of Democracy and Secularism, and these were the gifts of the West to India.” It was during Medieval period, as a result of prolonged religious conflict over supremacy between the Church and the state, the expression ‘Secular’ found a place in English Dictionary. Secular formula separated completely the functions of State and the Church.

The meaning of the word ‘Secularism in itself is quite vague. There is contradiction in the perception and practice of the concept of secularism. The dictionary meaning of secular is “worldly”. According to Webster dictionary, “Secularism means a system of beliefs, which rejects all forms of religious faith and worship”, or “the view that public education and other matters of civil policy should be conducted without the introduction of a religious element”.

Mr Kulkarni also says that, “In Britain and America, these words originated about four or five hundred years ago. They were the result of political and religious struggles in those countries. Even today, there is no uniformity to the interpretation of these two words, either in the Western countries or in India. Broadly, democracy signifies the form and structure of governance and secularism signifies the way of governance.” (Indian Democracy, p 42)

Technically, America can be called a secular state, but neither UK, where there is an officially established church, the Church of England, nor Scandinavian countries having Lutheran churches, nor Italy believing in Roman Catholicism can be called secular.

  • Secularism is relatively a recent word foreign origin. Its origin of lies in the West. It is an outcome of Renaissance movement of medieval period. Secular formula was evolved after a long conflict between Church and the State over power and supremacy. Concept of secularism was evolved.
  • The Peace of Westphalia’ in 1648 separated completely the functions of the State and the Church. According to it the State was responsible to provide good governance and well-being of society. It has nothing to do with religion. Religion was assigned to take care of spiritual interest of the people.
  • ‘According to Dictionary of Politics “A secular State is one which has no official ties to any religious movement”.
  • The concept of secularism is associated with George Jacob Holyoake, a British social reformer. According to him, Secularism, “selects as its methods of procedure the promotion of human improvement by material means and purposes those positive agreements as the common bond of union to all who would regulate life by reason and enable by service. (Quoted from Kulkarni, Indian Democracy, p.56)
  • According to D.E Smith, a great scholar, a secular state as “a state which guarantees individual and corporate freedom or religion, deals with the individual as a citizen irrespective of his religion, is not constitutionally connected to a particular religion nor does it seeks either to promote or interfere with it.”
  • On 12 October 1947, in a Press Conference in N. Delhi Pt. Nehru said that ‘some people think that the secular state means something opposed to religion. That obviously not correct’. Minoo Masani, a political leader stated that secularism can be practiced only in non-communist countries.

In nutshell, secularism is against the extreme stand for material benefits as well as possessing against blind faith in religion for human development. This is exactly what Hinduism has been teaching since long. When asked ‘whether India is a secular state, Smith replied, “My answer is a qualified ‘Yes’.”

Hinduism – India has been a land of many religions, all religions have flourished without any hindrance here  since times immemorial, in-spite of  majority of its people being Hindus. Their religion Hinduism or its caste-system is not an obstacle to secularism. Tolerance is most evident in the field of religion.

Hindu faith in an all pervading omnipresent god, multiplicity of god and goddesses as representing some portion of the infinite aspect of the Supreme Being, inspires it to accommodate people of all faiths.  Hinduism concedes validity to all the religions and does not lay down strictures against any faith or reject any religion or its god as false.  That is why, all the twelve major religions of the world are present and flourishing in India without much hindrance.

Hinduism has adopted the path of assimilation.  It does not believe in conversion or imposing its beliefs, practices and customs on others. Hindu religion has neither repulsed any trend vehemently, nor allowed others to sweep its own established culture off the roots.As far as Hinduism is concerned, since ages, there has always been religious tolerance, religious cooperation and freedom of religious practices. The spirit of secularism is imbibed in Indian traditions itself. Every person has a right to have faith in any religion, be it Hinduism, Islam, Sikh or Christianity. It has firm belief in ‘Sarva Dharma Sambhav principle’, ‘Live and let others live’, ‘Universal oneness’ and ‘Vasudhaiv Kutambkam’.

In January, Kumbh Mela is organized every year at Allahabad, (in Northern India). It is one of the world’s largest religio-cultural gathering. About 12 million people coming together for a sacred ‘dip’ in the Holy Ganges and to be together with the Saints and Swamies of India. There is no evidence of discrimination of any kind.

Tolerance is not confined to religion alone.  It is seen everywhere in the Indian way of life.  Indians believe in ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ – The whole world is one family.  Truth, Ahimsa, peace and non-aggression are the hallmark of Indian culture.  Hinduism has never tried to liquidate or absorb new groups artificially into its main stream. Rather it gave them opportunity to come under one umbrella, to preserve their own culture, style of living and traditions, as also an atmosphere to flourish in their own way. While other races and their systems have converted people belonging to other faiths into their own faith, imposing on them their own value system, caste-system has absorbed other groups as whole into itself without annihilating their originality, internal order, customs or language.

The assimilation of various groups be it racial, immigrants, locals, tribal, professionals or other groups under Hinduism has been done through caste system, by assigning each new group a separate caste identity. The culture of each identity, coming into its fold, has been carefully nurtured and preserved. It has absorbed the good points of other cultures also, which has enriched the composite culture of India. More than anywhere else in the world, it holds a multitude of thoughts, processes them and practices them. There has been co-existence of varied belief, pattern and thought due to inter-mixing and cultural mingling. 

Hindu Culture/Hinduism – The ethos of Hinduism has always been secular. Since ages, India has always been known for its secular outlook.

  • India has a Hindu majority population irrespective of who ruled the country. Still it has always remained a multi-religious society. It is a historical fact that for centuries, people believing in different faiths/religions are living together in different parts of India.
  • There had always been social and cultural intermingling. Nobody has ever doubted the secular character of India except in the political circle. The religion of majority Indian people, i.e. for its underlying principles of religious tolerance, religious cooperation and freedom of religious freedom.
  • Hindu philosophy believes that God is one and approach to seek Him are many. (ekma sat ivap’sbahuQaa vadint).
  • The spirit of tolerance and firm belief in the principle, ‘Live and let live’ has always been ethos of Hinduism. Tolerance is most evident in the field of religion. Hindu faith in an all pervading omnipresent god, multiplicity of god and goddesses as representing some portion of the infinite aspect of the Supreme Being, inspires it to accommodate people of all faiths.
  • According to Swami Vivekanand, Hindu culture/Indian concept of religion does not differentiate between religious communities. It honours all the faiths equally and gives them equal opportunities to flourish. Every citizen has full freedom to follow the religion or religious practices of his/her choice.
  • Tolerance is not confined to religion alone. It is seen everywhere in the Indian way of life. Indians believe in ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ – The whole world is one family. There has been a culture of ‘Vasudaiv Kutumbkam’ (whole world is a family), ‘live and let others live’ and ‘Sarva Dharam Sambhava’.
  • Earlier many foreign invaders merged with the Hindus. And for the first time in Indian history, during medieval period, Hinduism was confronted with an alien faith, which kept itself aloof and derived its strength not only from political dominance, but also from gradually increasing number of its followers. It was militant in character. In the zeal of their hatred, they destroyed temples, images and other religious symbols of Hindus. (The cultural heritage of India, published by Ramakrishna Mission Institute of culture, Kolkata). Still Hindus and Muslims have lived together for more than seven hundred years, though in watertight compartment. And ultimately, their hatred led India to be divided into two separate states – Hindustan and Pakistan.
  • According to Gandhiji religion is purely a personal affair. “”The state has nothing to do with it. The state should look-after secular welfare but not your or mine religion.”State has nothing to do with it. He says, “State should undoubtedly be secular. Everyone living in it should be entitled to profess his religion without hindrance, as long as citizen obeyed the common laws of the land. “My reverence for all other faiths is the same as for my own”…
  • John Fischer mentions,  Even during Bengal famine, an extreme situation – when necessity knows no laws, people did not take law in their own hands, nor was there any violence. No grocery stall, no rice warehouse, none of the wealthy clubs or restaurants were ever threatened by a hungry mob… They just died with docility, which to most Americans is the most shocking thing about India.’ (John Fischer, India’s insoluble Hunger – 1947, pp 7-8)
  • Basic Hindu philosophy and its religious values do not require to call India a Hindu State. In the same way, India does not require a label of ‘secularism’.
  • Hinduism emphasizes the universality of spiritual values, which could be attained by a variety of ways.
  • It preaches the importance of equanimity in all adverse circumstances. After Independence, national leaders like Gandhiji, Pt. Nehru, Sardar Patel, Dr. Radhakrishnan told the people again and again about this basic characteristics of Hindu culture.
  • Truth, Ahimsa, peace and non-aggression are the hallmark of
  • Because of its tolerant ethos, many times in the past especially during Muslim and British rule, Hindus had become the targets of religious intolerance. In large numbers, they had been converted into other faiths. Many Hindus resented and raised their voice against conversions. They accepted all kinds of oppression and exploitation without much protest, while such situations would have led to bloody revolutions elsewhere in the world.
  • Finding themselves weak and helpless during a very prolonged domination of Muslim and British rule, they turned introverts. To preserve their Hindu identity, they started following rigidly and blindly religious practices. And became the victim of superstitions and many social evils.
  • One of the reason why, when the Constitution of India was approved in 1949, it did not included the word ‘Secular’ in its Preamble along with the words, “Sovereign, Democratic, and Republic”. The 42nd Amendment Act of 1976 incorporated the words “Socialist and Secular”, more as a political strategy. During 44th Amendment Act in 1978, the term “secular” was defined as, “In the Preamble of this Constitution, the expression ‘Republic’ as qualified by the expression ‘Secular’ means a republic in which there is an equal treatment for all religions.” (The definition could not be adopted because of inadequate support in the Rajya Sabha.)
  • Even today, the people are tolerating the corruption, scams, scandals and criminal activities developed in political sphere, as well as inefficiency seeped deeply in administration without much protest. Administration is one such area, where tolerance is harmful, as it not only hinders the development, but also pushes the nation backwards.

Present position – Quite often, it is said that people of Hindu society are basically so tolerant that they endure injustice and unfairness, until they are pushed right to the wall. But at present, blindly following of the dictates of fake religious Gurus by illiterate and ignorant masses and fiery speeches of short-sighted politicians for electoral gains, has increased the rift between different communities and has adversely affected communal harmony. They are the people, who forget the salient features of Hinduism and spread venom against each other through their irresponsible utterances now and than.

Salient features of Hinduism – Following are some special features of Hinduism –

  • Hinduism has never tried to liquidate or absorb new groups artificially into its main stream or destroy other sects. It does not believe in conversion or imposing its beliefs, practices and customs on others. While other races and their systems have forcibly converted people belonging to other faiths into their own faith, imposing on them their own value system, Hindu religion has neither repulsed any trend vehemently, nor allowed others to sweep its own established culture off the roots. Liberal attitude of Hinduism towards other Religions is one of the reasons of happening a large number conversions in India.
  • Hinduism took thousands of years to develop. Starting with the arrival of Aryans hereditary kinship and tribal groups in India in waves and later on, of numerous social groups from different parts of the world, at different point of time, their association/mixing up with indigenous people (popularly known as Hindus) and their desire to come under one umbrella played an important role in developing the concept of Hinduism.
  • Hinduism had absorbed other social groups as whole into itself without annihilating their originality, internal order, customs or language. The assimilation of different new groups under Hinduism, be it racial, immigrants, locals, tribal, professionals or any other, had been done through caste system It has assigned each new group a separate caste identity, thus gave it opportunity not only to come under one umbrella, preserve its own culture, style of living and traditions, and also provided it an atmosphere to flourish in their own way. In its long process of assimilation, its caste-system has played an important role to develop such an atmosphere, where different identities can co-exist, generally in harmony and sometimes in rift.
  • Hinduism always believed in religious tolerance. Dr. Radha Krishnan says Hindu philosophy always taught God is One, but Paths to seek Him are many. Hinduism concedes validity to all the religions and does not lay down strictures against any faith or reject any religion or its god as false. The culture of other faiths/religions present in India, has always been carefully nurtured and preserved. That is why, all the twelve major religions of the world are present and flourishing in India without hindrance since ages.
  • When in 1947 India was divided into Hindustan and Pakistan, Pakistan chose to be an Islamic state, but India did not choose any particular religion, as ‘State Religion’. Many people say that in Pakistan, Hindus are treated as second hand citizens. But India has never considered it necessary to declare itself a Hindu State. India has always been known as a Hindu State/Hindustan, not officially, but by virtue of its geographical position (people living beyond Indus River) Hindu majority people residing here, irrespective of who ruled the country.
  • Origin of Hinduism can neither be found in one single authoritative text, nor can it be attributed to one single founder. It evolved in a natural way over thousands of years. The experiences and deep thinking of many learned sages and intellectuals belonging to different sections of society at different points of time have contributed to evolve this system. It is a very old and indigenous system, conceptualized, developed and practiced exclusively in India.
  • After partition also, Hindustan welcomed everybody who chose to live in India at that time. In India everybody has fundamental rights, or can occupy important positions. There had been three Muslim President of India – President Zakir Hussain, President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmad and President Abdul Kalm Azaad.

Wonderful fusion of different faiths/cultures in India – The process of assimilation and fusion of different cultures has been a continuous process of the India civilization. India especially presents a unique picture of composite culture, which grew out of intermixing of people of different cultures, belonging to different identities. For centuries, Hindus, Muslims, Christian and followers of other religions lived together. There has been social and cultural assimilation. However there has always been some hindrance in bringing religious and political assimilation. Underneath there has been mutual suspicion between Hindus and Muslims since approximately 7th-8th centuries onwards – Hindus being the majority community in India and Muslims first being invaders and then the rulers.

By living side by side  for centuries, people belonging to different faiths have contributed a lot to each other. They have absorbed the good points of each-other’s cultures, which has enriched the composite culture of India. More than anywhere else in the world, it holds a multitude of thoughts, processes them and practices them. There has been co-existence of varied belief, pattern and thought due to inter-mixing and cultural mingling.

The impact of different religious communities on Indian culture is as follows:

Vedic Hindu Culture- Vedic Hindu Culture is one of the oldest living cultures in the world. The word ‘Vedic’ is derived from the word ‘Vid’ meaning ‘Knowledge’ and signifies’ ‘knowledge par excellence’.  The Vedic culture came into being due to intermixing of the culture of Aryan invaders, who came to India in waves, with the culture of indigenous tribal people of India during 2nd century BC to 650 AD.

The origin of the Vedic culture cannot be traced in any single founder; neither can it be confined in one single authoritative text.  Its sacred knowledge has been handed down from time immemorial, earlier by verbal transmission and later on, in written form by the ancestor to succeeding generations. It has not prescribed final absolutes. It is a constant search for more knowledge.

The Rishis and Munies have always held that Vedas are not the end of quest for knowledge. It is a non-ending process. This is what the Indian culture is. Vedic belief system later on became increasingly ritualistic, susceptible to misinterpretations which supported certain power structure.

It is identified with the whole of India. To foreigners, it represents the ancient culture in its eternity.  It mainly originated and flourished in northern parts of India and later on spread throughout India.  The strength of Vedic culture is proved by the facts:

       despite of centuries of foreign rule over 75% of Indian population remains Hindu.

       Had Hinduism become obsolete, it would have given place to other religions and cultures.

       Value-system of Hinduism has influenced almost all other religions found in India.

Buddhism and Jainism – Both the religions were offshoot of the later Vedic culture, but with certain basic differences. These religions influence the thought, moral and life style of Indian people. Buddhism attracted equally the elite as well as the lower strata of Hindu society.  The main contribution of Buddhism to Indian culture is an attempt to draw the attention of people towards the harsher effects of the caste system, sympathetic attitude towards lesser human beings and system of organized education.  Major contribution of Jainism is the principle of non-violence.

Dravidian culture – After the sudden disappearance of Indus valley culture, of which the most characteristic feature was its town planning, Dravidian culture with its advanced social system, industry and trade made a mark, in the South.

Islamic culture– After the tenth century, under Muslim rule, Islamic culture influenced the Indian culture substantially. Its influence could be seen in the rejection of elaborate rituals and caste pretensions. It preached a simple path of faith, devotion, brotherly love and fellowship.

Sufi tradition and Bhakti movement – With the growing political strength of Muslims, the need for mutual understanding and communal harmony gave rise to Sufi tradition of Islam and Bhakti movement of Hindus. Bhakti movement questioned notions of  casteism/communalism etc. Both these emphasized the need for mutual appreciation, tolerance and goodwill.  Like Buddhism, Islam also provided an alternative to people, wishing to opt out the caste system.

Western/British Culture– Eighteenth century onwards, the British culture influenced the Indian culture substantially, especially that of elite and intellectuals. Access to modern education, Western literature and philosophy gave Indians the understanding of liberal and humanitarian ideas of the West. It produced many great leaders like Dadabhai Naoroji, Ferozeshah Mehta, Gokhale, Gandhi, Jinnah, Ambedkar, Tilak, Lala Lajpat Rai, Moti Lal Nehru, Jawahar Lal Nehru, Subhash Chandra Bose, Patel and many more. The efforts of missionaries, reformers and educationists influenced the thinking of the masses. Missionaries converted many people from the lower strata to Christianity. British systems gave India political and administrative unity. Institutions like Parliament, bureaucracy, and concepts like rule of law, unified nationality, a common currency, a common Judiciary are some of the contributions of the British.  They gave a new economic structure based on industrialization.  The British also gave impetus to social progress and brought many reforms.  The British influence on Indian minds was as discussed below: –

  • Some people welcomed rationality and other good features of Modern English culture, but wished to remain firmly rooted to the Indian Culture. They organised people and made them aware of social evils like Sati, Polygamy, child marriage, untouchablity and many superstitions prevalent at that time. They advised the people to eradicate the same without foreign intervention. Emphasis was laid on education and science.  Brahma Semaj, founded by Raja Ram Mohan Roy in 1928, inspired the people of Bengal, UP, Punjab, Madras and other provinces, to form similar organizations and interpret religion rationally.
  • Some people were so influenced by the alien culture, that they developed a complex about the primitiveness of Indian society. With the help of British rulers, Christian missionaries and religious minded Westerners like William Webberforce or Charles Grant tried to Christianize such people.
  • Some reformists tried to revive their own rich ancient culture and prevent the masses from being swayed away by the glamour and materialism of alien culture. Araya Samaj (1875 onwards) founded by Swami Dayanand, asserted the superiority of Hindu Vedic culture. It gave the call for ‘Back to Vedas’, as Vedas were to them the source of all knowledge and truth. Swami Vivekanand founded the Rama Krishna Mission to reveal to the world Indian Philosophy and culture.

Cultural Synthesis – As India passed through various phases in the past, each and every group left its influence on its culture, which came down to the present generation in an unbroken chain of succession, with some modifications and adaptations.

  • A major cultural synthesis took place during 6th and 10th century, between Vedic Hindu culture, Buddhism and Dravidian culture.
  • Another assimilation was seen after the 10th century, when the thinking of Arabs, Turks and Afghan, mainly guided by reason, influenced Indian thought. Sufi and Bhakti movements are examples of this. These two sects taught the people to love and respect all human beings irrespective of caste or creed. These sects also brought changes in the nature of mutual understanding, communal amity and accommodation.
  • Once again, during the period between 18th to 20th centuries, a major cultural synthesis took place with modernization and industrialization ushered in by the British.
  • All the sects present in India, whether foreign or indigenous, have been influenced greatly by Hindu thinking, practices and systems.

The wonderful fusion of different sects have contributed to the cultural richness of India.  Such flexibility is not seen in the West.  When Christianity broke away from Judaism, it departed totally from the common cultural traditions.  Therefore, it is very difficult for the Western world to understand and appreciate Indian culture fully.

In modern world, no society or nation can exist as a homogeneous cultural monolith. The presence of people following different faiths has led to many controversies. Tense situation arises when instigated by rogue elements in the society. They spread their own biases amongst innocent people. They somehow manage to escape from the  clutches of law for violating the law of the nation. It is a behavioural problem. Authorities quite often fail to identify the miscreants.

In recent past, all over the world, the greed of power and controlling the destiny of masses, intolerance in the sphere of politics and religion is continuously increasing. Along with ‘Secularism’, ‘socialism’ and ‘reservations’, the word ‘tolerance’ has also become the most misused word in the country. No one can imagine how some politicians and ‘messiahs’ of different faiths twist the words and polarize the society.

Some Indian intellectuals think that the terms ‘Democracy’ and ‘Secular’ were alien and are the gift of the Western world to India. In Britain and America, these words originated about four or five hundred years ago. They were the result of political and religious struggles in those countries. Even till today there is no uniformity to the interpretation of these two words, either in the Western countries or in India. Broadly, democracy signifies the form and structure of governance and secularism signifies the way of governance.” (P 42, (Indian Democracy, S.K. Kulkarni, Indus Source Books, Published in 2017)

Most of the politicians and political parties have been entangled in ideological debates on the above mentioned abstract issues rather than tackling its attention on real issues, solution of  which can lead any nation and its society towards sustainable development of the nation, and peaceful  and harmonious living of all in any nation or society.

It has been seen before Assembly or general elections that politicians belonging to national or regional political parties –big or small- give a call to all secular forces to join hands and fight against communal forces together. Most of these self-proclaimed ‘Messiahs of Secularism’ hardly understand in-depth, the true meaning, when and how did the word ‘Secularism’ came into existence, purpose of these ideologies or try to understand how to apply secularism positively in real political arena. They do not even know much about Hinduism or ethos of Indian culture, which believes that each person living here irrespective of which religion he belong to, gets equal treatment. Question arises do they themselves possess a secular outlook? It has been seen that mostly they use it as a political gimmick to divide people into watertight compartments on communal lines and to garner votes. For it, they adopt the path of appeasement to woo the voters.

Winding up

  • Thirty years after Independence, the word ‘Secular’ has been prefixed to ‘Republic’ in the Preamble of the constitution by 42nd Amendment, though nobody has ever doubted the secular character of India.
  • It is a historical fact that for centuries, people believing in different faiths/religions lived together in different parts of India. There had always been social and cultural intermingling. Different sects have contributed a lot enriching each other‘s, as well as the culture of India as a whole. But in political arena there has always been an atmosphere of mutual suspicion between different communities. During freedom struggle, many national leaders and reformers tried their best to create an atmosphere of harmony, but without much success. Intolerance for each-other has grown to such an extent that India was partitioned into two – Hindustan and Pakistan. Even 70 years after independence, the feeling of mutual suspicion is seen now and then in acts of terrorism and other violent activity across the border.
  • The ultimate purpose of Secularism, Hinduism or Humanism is the same. If ‘secularism is interpreted in a positive way, it becomes clear that it has been the sine qua non of Hindu religion. Hinduism believes in ‘oneness of human society’. There should be a harmonious atmosphere, so that everybody, belonging to any community, could live in peace and respect each other’s perceptions and beliefs.

 

January 2, 2018 Posted by | Social and political values and systems | , | Leave a comment

Hinduism, Caste System and Untouchables

Introduction – Hinduism has never been considered as a religion like Christianity believing only in Bible or Islam in Kuraan. It has always been a way of life, which created an inclusive society. In South-East Asia, each social group coming to India, which desired to settle down there with the people living in Indus Valley  and beyond it, were given a separate caste name. Thus many incoming groups were  welcomed and without any difficulty were assimilated into the mainstream and brought under one umbrella called Hindu society.     

Different castes in Hinduism – All local groups, whether high or low, living in a local area were mutually dependent, cared and supported each other and fulfilled different kind of needs of local people. Hindu society ranked different castes not done by putting them within a framework of hierarchical layers of social order, each fitting neatly below the other, but more or less as a series of vertical parallels. 

Interdependence of different social groups living in a local area – Different social groups living in a village or city-state, were bound together by economic and social ties and had a strong bond of mutual dependence. There was hardly any room for any group to consider itself, as being placed in greater or lesser disadvantageous position with reference to another. Concept of forwards or backwards or feeling of exploitation of lower strata by upper castes was almost non-existent at that time.

There was no hard and fast rule of ranking various castes. It did segmental ranking of different caste groups according to relevance and contribution of their occupations to society. Usefulness of a profession to society as a whole, conduct and way of living of different people were the factors to determine social, economic or political status of a group in society vis-a vis others. In addition to it, considerations of self-discipline, hygiene, cleanliness, morality, knowledge and spiritual standards were given importance in their ranking. Higher a caste, purer it was considered, and greater were the self-restrictions on its behavior through rituals. Brahmins commanded respect of the whole society. They were put under maximum restrictions – to lead a simple life, devoted to the spiritual and intellectual pursuits and denied accumulation of wealth.

Stress on self-reliance, self-discipline and self-restraint – Respect to a person or group was never given on the basis of material success or control of power. Different groups earned respect of society was supposed to lead a self restraint and self disciplined life in all respect, be it in the matter of daily routine, occupation or inter caste relationship.   Sir John Shore (Sir John Shore, the Governor General of India during the period 1793-1798) had observed that in spite of being their rulers, Hindus regarded Britishers at par with the lowest natives, no matter how strong or powerful were they. Similarly Brahmins associated with unclean jobs like, Mahabrahmins performing last rites, have also been treated, more or less like Shudras and have been put at the bottom of the social structure. There were instances when non-Brahmins or Harijans served as priests of temples of goddesses like Sita or Kali, where all castes made offerings.

Co-existence of different groups generally in harmony and some times in rift – In its long process of evolution, caste-system has developed such an atmosphere, where different identities co-exist, generally in harmony and sometimes in rift. As far as masses were concerned, the system always kept them reconciled, if not contended in the past. It kept all the sections of society united under one umbrella despite of their diversity and gave the society stability, continuity and prosperity.

At times, there had been strife, contradictions and discords amongst different identities, so much so that India appeared to be a land of contrasts.  Nevertheless, most of the times, the Indian society has been able to develop  an attitude of reconciliation rather than refutation, cooperation rather than confrontation and co-existence rather than mutual annihilation.” (Khan, Democracy in India, pp 4-5)

Existence of Shudras – Existence of Shudras (at present referred as untouchables or out-castes) was recognized, as early as, Pre Mauryan Period (6th century BC to 3rd century BC). Though given a lower status, they were always an integral part of Hindu society. They performed essential social and economic tasks as well as in agricultural sector. 

Who were shudras? – Conquered groups, individuals or groups engaged in unclean occupations, clinging to the practices, which were not considered respectable, or persons born illegitimately or the groups clinging to anti-social activities were treated as Shudras and were given lowest status in the society. Breaking the caste rules meant loss of caste, meaning complete ostracism or having no place in the society. Permanent loss of caste – out-caste- was considered to be the greatest catastrophe for an individual, short of death penalty. By the beginning of Christian era, the out-castes themselves developed caste hierarchy and had their own out-castes. Socially, they were put amongst the lower strata of Hindu community doing all sorts of menial work and serving the upper castes of the three Varnas.

Hinduism taught not to blame others for deprivation – Many studies have shown that Hinduism never prevented Shudras or others to rise in the scale of society or to earn respect of the society. Hindu Dharma never held others responsible for an individual’s misery or deprivation. According to it Adharma” (immoral behavior), “Alasya” (laziness) and Agyan (ignorance) were to be blamed for all evils, exploitation and miseries of people.

In many parts of the country, people belonging to lower strata held position of power/superior status or earned respect of Hindu society. Many warrior kings of Shudra and tribal origin sought Brahmins’ help to acquire Kshatriyas status for themselves. Many Shudras were accepted and revered as philosophers or spiritual teachers like .Lord Rama, a king, ate half-eaten berries of Shabri – an untouchable. Lord Krishna’s foster parents Nand and Yashoda, who in today’s classification would be called OBC, get more respect than his real Kshatriya parents from Hindu society. Vashishtha, the principal of the conservative school of Brahmanism, was the son of Uravshi, a prostitute. Vishwamitra, the maker of the very Gayatri Mantra, the quintessence of the Vedic Brahmanism, was a Kshatriya. Aitreya, after whom the sacramental part of Rig-Veda is named as Aitreya Brahamana, was the son from a non-Aryan wife of a Brahman sage. Vyasa of Mahabharata fame and Balmiki, the original author of Ramayana, both untouchable according to present standards, were not ashamed of his origin and are highly respected persons all over India. In middle ages, Sant Ravidas, Namdev, Tukaram, Malika, Sunderdas and several other saints, belonging to lower ranks, earned the same respect as any higher caste saint. There had been instances of people of lower ranks becoming kings.

Therefore, it is not fully correct that Hinduism or its practices are responsible for Shudra’s isolation, deprivation, exploitation, low social status, inhuman treatment by caste Hindus, their low status in traditional Hindu Society, or forced them to do menial, unsavory and unclean jobs.

All troubles of lower strata of society started after the downfall of Hindu Raj and old Hindus values. Continuous invasions by Turks, Afghans and Mughals who earlier drained out the wealth of the nation to foreign lands and afterwards made India their homeland and ruled the country for centuries. It resulted in Hinduism turning inwards and observing all the rituals rigidly and blindly to save its distinct identity under foreign rule. Afterwards, feudalistic attitude, extravagance and luxurious life style of Mughal rulers and those at the helm of authority, increased the disparity between the rulers and the ruled.

Again, in  nineteenth century during British rule, modernization an industrialization process has made many traditional occupations obsolete or less paying or were regarded more hazardous and more time consuming. White collared jobs gained importance. Modernity taught people to escape from menial work and discredit manual work. More, a person withdrew from physical labor, more civilized, honored and qualified he was regarded by modern society. The British apathy towards indigenous skills, knowledge and occupations pushed millions of rural artisans, craftsman and small scale farmers, for whom work was essential for survival, backwards in a very subtle manner. It resulted in discrediting many traditional occupations and in destruction of Indian handicrafts and cottage industry. It scattered efforts, sense of direction and manufacturing skills of millions of artisans, craftsman, weavers etc. A few of them joined modern occupations. Majority belonging to different groups could neither enter modern sector, nor could stick to their traditional occupations considering menial work derogatory and lost their creativity, sense of achievement and pride. Masses had no option, but to either join band of agricultural laborers, industrial workers, and marginal labor and increase number of poor and unemployed. Outcome of such a change has been casualty of workers first, afterwards their work style, commitment, motivation and culture.

Recently empowerment of backward and untouchable castes has becoming once again a buzz -word in political arena. Poverty is the most pervasive phenomenon, which cuts across all the barriers of caste religion and region. It has been estimated that despite numerous developmental plans, schemes and legislation, including Reservation Policy in higher education and jobs, there are about 500 million Indians are living in squalor. There are many reasons responsible for their deprivation, agonies and poverty other than caste. Population explosion, illiteracy, unemployment, lack of awareness about opportunities to progress, insufficient wages in unorganized sector, indebtedness, politicization of caste system, obsolete forest and land policies and half-hearted implementation of developmental plans.   

Therefore, it can be said that it is not the malice of castes-Hindus, but the circumstances, that are pushing untouchables and some other backward castes away from the mainstream. Suffering from centuries old enslavement, suppression and ostracism deteriorated severely the condition of lower strata of society, stopped growth of their personality and made them dependent on others for their livelihood.

It is a humanitarian obligation of any civilized society to bring suitable changes to uplift and empower the submerged sections of society. The overwhelming poverty of millions belonging to lower strata of society and their near absence in echelons of power has led the law makers in India to intervene. Generally law follows social changes. But in India, after the Independence, the political leadership in their hurry and enthusiasm, tried to foster social changes through law.  In order to finish monopoly of a few groups in power structure and, as well as to bring to an end prejudice against discriminated groups, age-old imbalances and cumulative disparities of power, wealth and culture, they have initiated politicization of Caste-system. They hoped to integrate the whole country by casteless society. Unfortunately, instead creating a better future, it has generated other complications. Its paternalistic policies for bringing the submerged sections of the society into mainstream and creating a casteless society has not yielded the desired results, because these are –

  • Devised by self-proclaimed leaders and administered by bureaucrats belonging mainly to the elite of urban society,
  • Not rooted in local priorities or skills. The beneficiaries do not choose, design and implements the projects.
  • Often represented patronage networks of those doling out the money.
  • Often benefiting the rural elite.

Recently, many reformers and religious/spiritual institutions are focussing their attention on community empowerment. Many self-help groups have emerged all-over India. They  They bypass the government mechanisms and go straight communities. It hopes that their efforts would Recently the world over, community empowerment is becoming once again a buzz -word. The idea is to bypass government mechanisms and go straight to communities. It is expected to check corruption and waste, to take arbitrary power away from politicians at central, state, even at local level, also to build the skills of targeted groups through learning by doing and to empower them as decision-makers.

These self-help groups provide mutual safety-nets to its people in times of distress, use ostracism to penalize undesirable behaviour, rewards those with desirable behaviour, mediate and settle disputes without costs and delays of the formal of the formal legal and administrative system. They involve and encourage its people to design, implement and monitor the schemes, which the feel are beneficial for their community members.

Wherever properly harnessed, efforts of such self-help groups have yielded rich dividends. For example the Parsi and Christian communities, institutions run by Veerashaivya Mutts of Karnataka, Ramakrishan Mission, Radhaswami Satsang, Satya Sai Baba, Sadhu Vasvani and many others are practising community based approach for the development of humanity. They provide far better municipal, civic, educational, and medical services then the government. 

 

 

November 26, 2017 Posted by | Reservation/Affirmative action program, Social and political values and systems | | Leave a comment

Dalit Assertion

A Journey From ‘Shudras’-‘Outcastes’-‘Panchamas’ to ‘Dalits’

Introduction – An alarmingly large number of people in India,  irrespective of caste or creed, continues to suffer due to poverty, illiteracy, unemployment and unbridled exploitation, even 70 years after its Independence. The efforts done by the governments, so far, have led the Indian society towards fundamentalist and separatist attitudes, conflicts, in-fights between different sections of society, instability, in-decisiveness, and rigid and irrational attitude. The whole nation has been divided into numerous water-tight political camps like pro-Hindu camp, anti-Hindu camp, secular camp,  fundamentalist camp, and caste camps into forward, backward and Dalit camps. There are regional camps too. Attempts to place a society in different camps for selfish motives is against the law of humanity/nature and threat to unity.

The political developments with an aim to empower submerged sections of Indian society, including the ‘Policy of Reservation’ and other paternalistic policies, based on caste-consideration, have not been succeeded, so far, to yield desired results. Instead, it has sowed the seeds of mutual strife and polarized the Indian society into water-tight compartments. Also it has developed a mindset amongst very ambitious persons/individuals belonging to so-called Dalits and other backward castes that they will occupy the posts of ‘PM, CMs’ through elections and of ‘DMs and GMs’ through reservation.

Entrusting power in weak hands, without making them strong enough to hold it judiciously, could never bring any positive/desired results. Instead of enabling through sound education and training system to upgrade the social-status and economic position of submerged sections of society, paternalistic policies have divided  the whole nation into numerous political camps like pro-Hindu camp, anti-Hindu camp, secular camp,  fundamentalist camp, and caste camps into forward, backward and Dalit camps. There are regional camps too, playing up federal card to woe the electorate. increased rivalries and in-fights between different groups of castes and created social disorder, making now and then, the task of governance difficult.

Correct diagnosis of the ailment –  It is said that prescription works, if diagnosis of ailment is correct. To facilitate upward mobility of the oppressed and deprived sections of society,  valid prescriptions needs to be applied to deserving persons at right time, and in right quantity and quality.

Issue – The main issue is not the political empowerment of Dalits without enabling them to hold the responsibilities, but is of their sustainable development, creating awareness through sound education and training, so that nobody could exploit them and thus enable them to lead their life peacefully with dignity and honour.

Inter and Intra-Caste rivalries – All paternalistic policies are based on caste-identity. Therefore it is necessary to understand what caste is? Caste is a conglomeration of many sub-castes and sub-sub-castes. No caste or sub-caste or sub-sub caste has given up their separate identity, while interacting with each other.

The unity of backward castes under the label of Dalits or “OBCs” is an illusion created by vested interests. Neither the term Schedule caste”, nor OBC nor Dalit makes them a homogenous class. Only for political purposes, many castes and sub-castes have come together, formed a pressure group and emerged as strong force to persuade government to accept their demands for  special measures/preferences for empowering them.

Different castes  have accepted the identical tag given to them by the government – i,e. forward castes/caste-Hindus, backwards, SCs, STs and minorities.   In the opinion of MSS Pandian, the current inter caste rivalries are part of a series of periodic revolt, whose prime object is self-assertion. (An academic with Madras Institute of Development Studies, Sunday, pp. 12-13, and 8-14, June, 1997). 

Historical background

All the social groups as vertical parallels in ancient India – In ancient India all the social groups were placed more or less as a series of vertical parallels. All of the people living in a local area, whether high or low, were bound together by economic and social ties and had a strong bond of mutual dependence. Different castes and communities living in the same area cared and supported each other in fulfilling different kind of their needs. Socially, Shudras were supposed to do all sorts of menial work and serving the upper castes of the three Varnas.

Respect not on the basis of material success or control of power – Respect to a person or group was never given on the basis of material success or control of power. There was hardly any room for any section of society to consider itself, as being placed in greater or lesser disadvantageous position with reference to another. Concept of forwards or backwards or feeling of exploitation of lower strata by upper castes was almost non-existent at that time.

Many studies have shown that Hindu system always kept masses reconciled, if not contended in the past. Hindu Dharma taught the people that instead of holding others responsible, for all their sufferings, exploitation and miseries it was their own “Adharma” (immoral behavior), “Alasya” (laziness) and Agyan (ignorance) which were to be blamed.

Opportunities to Shudras to earn respect of the society – It never prevented Shudras or others to rise in the scale of society or to earn respect of the society. In many parts of the country, people belonging to lower strata held position of power/superior status or earned respect of Hindu society. Many warrior kings of Shudra and tribal origin sought Brahmins’ help to acquire Kshatriyas status for themselves. Many Shudras were accepted and revered as philosophers or spiritual teachers.

Low status and sufferings of ‘Shudras’ – All troubles of lower strata of society started after the downfall of Hindu Raj and old Hindus values around Seventh century onwards. Continuous invasions by Turks, Afghans and Mughals who earlier drained out the wealth of the nation to foreign lands and afterwards made India their homeland and ruled the country for centuries.

Feudalistic attitude, extravagance and luxurious life style of rulers and those at the helm of authority, increased the disparity between the rulers and the ruled. Therefore, it can be said that it was not out of malice, but the circumstances, which has pushed Shudras away from the mainstream.

Centuries old enslavement, ignorance, suppression, ostracism/low status and sufferings of Shudras or their exclusion from the mainstream had gradually stopped growth of their personality and made them completely dependent on others for their livelihood. It shook their confidence and their condition deteriorated continuously. They had to suffer inhuman treatment by the well-to- do sections of the society.

Depressed Class – During the nineteenth Century, in official circles lower castes were addressed as ‘Depressed class’ or ‘Exterior class’. British government in India regarded these people as ‘Oppressed of the oppressed and lowest of the low’. Missionaries were trying to convert this section of society into Christianity. British rulers passed many Legislative regulations and administrative orders and declared denial of access to untouchables to schools, well, roads and public places as illegal.

Till now, untouchable activities were combined with the intermediate castes’ non- Brahmin movement. But now all these developments inspired them to enter into the political arena under the name of “depressed class” and desired to a share in political power separately in India.

Harijans

The attempt of British rulers in 1911 to exclude untouchables from Hindu population and continuous decline of number of Hindus cautioned the national leaders. In order to retain their Hindu identity, Gandhiji and his followers called them Harijans meaning the “people belonging to god”. On one hand, Gandhiji tried to create compassion in the hearts of forward communities for Harijans and on the other he appealed to Harijans to observe cleaner habits, so that they could mix up freely with other sections of society. Dalit leaders did not like the word Harijan as it symbolized a meek and helpless person, at the mercy and benevolence of others, and not the proud and independent human being that they were.

During this period, the attention of humanitarians and reformers was also drawn towards the pathetic condition of untouchables. They took the path of Sankritisation to elevate them. In order to prevent alienation of untouchables from Hindu community, they drew the attention of forward communities towards inhuman condition of lower strata of society and tried to create compassion in their hearts for downtrodden.

They gave top most priority to the abolition of untouchability. They tried to clarify that Untouchability was neither an integral part of Hinduism nor an outcome of Varna/caste system, nor have any religious sanctity, but an external impurity and sinful blot on Hinduism. They laid emphasis on education, moral regeneration and philanthropic uplift. and become proud and independent human beings, that they were.

Untouchables

By 1909, the lowest strata of Indian society came to be known as untouchabes. Emergence of Dr. Ambedkar on the political scene provided the leadership and stimulus to untouchable movement. He insisted to address untouchables just as untouchables. He regarded the terms ‘Depressed classes’, ‘Dalits’, ‘Harijans’ either confusing or degrading and contemptuous. Dr. Ambedkar made it abundantly clear, ‘It was through political power that untouchables were to find their solution, not through acceptance by Hindus’. He gave untouchable movement a national character and a distinct identity during late twenties and early thirties.

Other prominent Dalit leaders like Mahatma Phule, Ambedkar or Gopal Ganesh vehemently criticized Hindu hierarchical structure and regarded untouchability as an inevitable concomitant of Varna/caste system. They taught the lower castes to get united and make eradication of caste system their major plank as it engaged them to forced labor or unsavory jobs, imposed many restrictions on them and prevented them from joining the mainstream of the society. According to them, Hindus treated lower castes as lesser human beings, meek and helpless persons, who should always remain at the mercy and benevolence of upper castes. They tried to find the solution of their problems through political power, not through acceptance by Hindus.

By 1920’s, numerous caste organizations, specially in the South and West, organized themselves into larger collectiveness by keeping contacts and alliances with their counterparts at other places; formed associations and federations at local and regional levels and emerged as a powerful political force. Together, they demanded special legal protection and share in politics and administration on the basis of caste.

In 1928, Simon Commission established their separate identity at national level, independent of intermediate castes as untouchables. It readily accepted their demands through Communal Award of 1932. Gandhiji along with other National leaders regarded it as the Unkindest cut of all”, which would create a permanent split in Hindu Society, perpetuate casteism and make impossible the assimilation of untouchables in mainstream. Dr. Rajendra Prasad said, The principle of dividing population into communal groups, which had been adopted in the Minto Morely Reforms, had been considerably extended, even beyond what had been done by Montagu Chelmsford Reforms….The electorate in 1919 was broken up into ten parts, now it is fragmented into seventeen unequal bits… Giving separate representations to Schedule Castes further weakened Hindu community… The British introduced every possible cross-division.

Scheduled Castes

In accordance with the provisions of the Communal Award of 1932, instructions were issued, in July 1934, to schedule a list of the people entitled for preferential treatment in matter of special electoral representation and appointment in the Central Government jobs. This gave birth to the term Scheduled Caste in 1935. Scheduling was a legal activity having sanction of legal authorities. Therefore, no one had any objection to this term. The term continued after the independence as well, for the purpose of Reservation.

Untouchables in Independent India

After second world war emergence of the concept of ‘welfare state’ swept the whole world. Independent India, as a civilized democratic society, considered it its humanitarian obligation to uplift and empower the submerged sections of society. The overwhelming poverty of millions belonging to lower strata of society and their near absence in echelons of power at the time of Independence has led the government to of India to intervene. The Constitution of India has directed the Government to promote social justice and educational, economic and other interests of the weaker sections with special care. It instructed the Government to remove the poverty and reduce inequalities of income and wealth and provide adequate representation to the downtrodden in power echelons through Affirmative Action Program/Reservation Policy. Public facilities, which were denied to untouchables so far, should be made accessible to them. The successive governments both at national as well as provincial levels initiated various Welfare Plans and Policies for employment generation and their social, economic and political growth from time to time.

Dalits

Dalit, a Maradhi word means suppressed. The term was chosen and used proudly by Ambedkar’s followers under the banner of various factions of Republican Party of India (Formed in 1956). The Mahars of Bombay (8%), Jatavs of UP (Half of the SC Population in UP) and Nadars and Thevars of Southern TN being numerically significant, played a decisive role in taking forward Dalit movement. Maharashtra Dalit movement has a longest and richest experience.

In 1972, a distinct political party, in the name of Dalit Panther was formed in Maharashtra. It organized the lower castes under the banner of ‘Dalit’ throughout India. One of the founders of Dalit Panther, Mr. Namdeo Dhasal widened the scope of Dalit by including SC, tribes, neo-Buddhists, landless labor and economically exploited people. Its orientation was primarily militant and rebellious. Dalit Sahitya Movement legitimized and reinforced the use of the term Dalit. Since then, this term is very popular amongst the untouchables.

Earlier, a few leaders of untouchables had at least some regard for the cultural tradition of India. They did not reject Vedic literature or the foundations of Hinduism, out-rightly. Dr. Ambedkar accepted that all parts of Manusmiriti were not condemnable. Gopal Baba Walangkar had said that Vedas did not support untouchability. Kisan Fagoi, another Mahar leader of pre-Ambedkar era had joined Prarthna Samaj. But present Dalit leaders are vehemently against cultural traditions of India, which according to them, are based on inequality and exploitation. There is always a fear of upper caste or intermediate caste backlash.

In mid sixties, an aggressive Dalit movement started under the banner of Shoshit Samaj Dal in Central Bihar, which has, presently, become a major center of Naxalite movement. Dal was founded by Jagdeo Mahto, who began to mobilize the lower castes against economic repression and exploitation of women by upper caste feudal elements.

The new phase of Dalit assertion is most prominent in the most populous state of UP, where the upper caste domination has been challenged by BSP (Bahujan Samaj Party) formed in 1984 under the leadership of Kanshi Ram and Mayavati. They redefined Dalit politics especially in north India. Their approach to Dalit issues was more socio-political rather than economic. BSP has started pursuing power with militancy since 1990. Of late, BSP has made significant inroads in UP, Punjab and Madhya Pradesh. BSP has borrowed all their phraseology from Dalit Panthers. Most of their utterances are arrogant, revengeful and opportunistic. Political and economic vested interests of its leaders has aroused militancy among discontented youths of different castes and communities all over the nation. They care only for rights and pay scant attention to their duties. There started a cutthroat competition for scarce positions of power and prestige.

Once again, the tendency of ‘divide and rule’, as was there during British domination, has emerged in national scenario. The growing desire of Dalits to rule has made them very sure of their friends and foes. Dalit leaders, even after so many years of Independence has identified Upper Castes as their enemy and intermediate castes sometimes as their friends and sometimes as their enemies. Kanshi Ram, a BSP leader initiated a formula of DS4, meaning Dalit Shoshit Samaj Sangarsh Samiti, taking into its fold untouchables, STs, Muslims and OBCs.

OBC leaders also know that Dalit parties now control a large vote bank. Therefore, from time to time, they try to please Dalits leaders in order to increase their own political strength. But Dalits are in no mood to play a second fiddle to other national political parties. They are aware of their growing influence and crucial role as a kink-maker in today’s highly competitive and unstable political atmosphere. All the three major national political formations – Congress’s UPA BJP’s NDA and National Front – are wooing frantically Dalit leaders and competing with each other to have a pre or post poll alliance with them. Instead of demanding a share in power structure, equity or social justice, Dalits now want to reverse the power equation and to transform the society by capturing all political power. Their aim is to get hold over the posts of PM-CM (Political Power) through electoral politics and control over administrative authority – the bureaucracy – through Reservations/Affirmative Action Program.

There is an elite section amongst Dalits, which protects its turf under the banner of Dalits at the cost of poorest of Dalits. It does not care much to bring Dalit masses into the mainstream. For some, presence and miseries of large number of dalits is a recipe for Dalit vote-bank, for others enjoying all the benefits of affirmative action programs initiated and implemented by the Government of India and other concessions given to them. Whatever might be the condition of Dalit masses, but the political power and arrogance of Dalit leaders and intellectuals are at rise. And here lies the crux of Dalit poltics.

Dalits at International platform

Dalits are not satisfied even after having growing influence in ballot-box politics and attaining enough places in the government jobs. Since 2001, these activists have been pushing the cause internationally arguing that Indian Dalits are like blacks in US till 1950. They faced problems in workplace, at school and in temples.

In 2005, some Dalit leaders belonging to All India Confederation have sought intervention USA, UN and the British and EU Parliaments on the issues of ‘untouchability’. UN recognizes religion, race, language and gender as main causes of inequality in the world. Dalt activists want caste to be included too in this category. They desire to have Global alliance, global involvement and intervention of the international community to put pressure on the government of India to address the problem Dalit marginalization. They feel that globalization and privatization has made it difficult for Dalits, tribals and OBC’s to compete on equal footing or find enough space in the job market within the country or abroad. At the behest of the Republican Congressman from New Jersey, Chris Smith, the US Congress had held a hearing on 6.10. 05 on the subject. A resolution on the issue – “ India’s unfinished Agenda: Equality and Justice for 200 million victims of the caste system” was prepared by the house committee on International Relations and US Human Rights to be tabled in the US Congress. “Despite the Indian government’s extensive affirmative action policies, which aim to open government service and education to Dalits and tribes, most have been left behind by India’s increasing prosperity…. Much much more remains to be done.” The resolution says, “It is in the interest of US to address the problem of the treatment of groups outside the caste system… in the republic of India in order to better meet our mutual economic and security goals….”

So far, intensive lobbying by Dalit groups including followers of Ravidass sect succeeded in getting passed the Equity Bill on March 24, 2010 in the house of Lords. It empowered the government to include ‘caste’ within the definition of ‘race’. In 2001, India was able in keeping caste out of the resolution adopted at 2001 Durban Conferernce.

Along with it, staunch supporters of Human Rights, some Scandinavian countris, Church organisations around the world and Lutheran World Federation have shown interest and expressed their solidarity with Dalits. Recently the comment of UN Commissioner for human rights, Navi pillay asking India that “time has come to eradicate the shameful concept of caste” and proposals of UN Human Rights Council’s or US based Human Rights Watch (HRW) to recognise caste as a form of discrimination ‘based on descent and birth’ appear not to be based on rational understanding of caste system. Their opinion about untouchability is greatly influenced by the lobbying of powerful/influential Dalit leaders and Dalit intelligentia.

No one knows where the Dalit assertion will lead the nation to? It is not the paternalistic policies, (which have failed to yield so far the desired results) that are required for the upliftment and empowerment of submerged sections of society, but there is need to educate, make them aware of their rights and duties, provide enough employment opportunities and other civic facilities like health etc at the grass root level for the sustainable growth of backward communities.

‘Shudras’, ‘Outcastes’ and ‘Panchamas’

In ancient India all the social groups were placed more or less as a series of vertical parallels. All of the people living in a local area, whether high or low, were bound together by economic and social ties and had a strong bond of mutual dependence. They cared and supported each other in fulfilling different kind of their needs. Socially, Shudras were supposed to do all sorts of menial work and serving the upper castes of the three Varnas.

Respect to a person or group was never given on the basis of material success or control of power. There was hardly any room for any section of society to consider itself, as being placed in greater or lesser disadvantageous position with reference to another. Concept of forwards or backwards or feeling of exploitation of lower strata by upper castes was almost non-existent at that time. Many studies have shown that Hindu system always kept masses reconciled, if not contended in the past. Hindu Dharma taught the people that instead of holding others responsible, for all their sufferings, exploitation and miseries it was their own “Adharma” (immoral behavior), “Alasya” (laziness) and Agyan (ignorance) which were to be blamed.

It never prevented Shudras or others to rise in the scale of society or to earn respect of the society. In many parts of the country, people belonging to lower strata held position of power/superior status or earned respect of Hindu society. Many warrior kings of Shudra and tribal origin sought Brahmins’ help to acquire Kshatriyas status for themselves. Many Shudras were accepted and revered as philosophers or spiritual teachers.

All troubles of lower strata of society started after the downfall of Hindu Raj and old Hindus values. Continuous invasions by Turks, Afghans and Mughals who earlier drained out the wealth of the nation to foreign lands and afterwards made India their homeland and ruled the country for centuries. Feudalistic attitude, extravagance and luxurious life style of rulers and those at the helm of authority, increased the disparity between the rulers and the ruled. Therefore, it can be said that it was not out of malice, but the circumstances, which has pushed Shudras away from the mainstream.

The low status and sufferings of Shudras or their exclusion from the mainstream for centuries has gradually stopped growth of their personality and made them completely dependent on others for their livelihood. Centuries old enslavement, ignorance, suppression and ostracism shook their confidence, deteriorated severely their condition and made them to suffer inhuman treatment by other sections of the society.

Depressed Class

During the nineteenth Century, in official circles lower castes were addressed as ‘Depressed class’ or ‘Exterior class’. British government in India regarded these people as ‘Oppressed of the oppressed and lowest of the low’. Missionaries were trying to convert this section of society into Christianity. British rulers passed many Legislative regulations and administrative orders and declared denial of access to untouchables to schools, well, roads and public places as illegal.

Till now, untouchable activities were combined with the intermediate castes’ non- Brahmin movement. But now all these developments inspired them to enter into the political arena under the name of “depressed class” and desired to a share in political power separately in India.

Harijans

The attempt of British rulers in 1911 to exclude untouchables from Hindu population and continuous decline of number of Hindus cautioned the national leaders. In order to retain their Hindu identity, Gandhiji and his followers called them Harijans meaning the “people belonging to god”. On one hand, Gandhiji tried to create compassion in the hearts of forward communities for Harijans and on the other he appealed to Harijans to observe cleaner habits, so that they could mix up freely with other sections of society. Dalit leaders did not like the word Harijan as it symbolized a meek and helpless person, at the mercy and benevolence of others, and not the proud and independent human being that they were.

During this period, the attention of humanitarians and reformers was also drawn towards the pathetic condition of untouchables. They took the path of Sankritisation to elevate them. In order to prevent alienation of untouchables from Hindu community, they drew the attention of forward communities towards inhuman condition of lower strata of society and tried to create compassion in their hearts for downtrodden.

They gave top most priority to the abolition of untouchability. They tried to clarify that Untouchability was neither an integral part of Hinduism nor an outcome of Varna/caste system, nor have any religious sanctity, but an external impurity and sinful blot on Hinduism. They laid emphasis on education, moral regeneration and philanthropic uplift. and become proud and independent human beings, that they were.

Untouchables

By 1909, the lowest strata of Indian society came to be known as untouchabes. Emergence of Dr. Ambedkar on the political scene provided the leadership and stimulus to untouchable movement. He insisted to address untouchables just as untouchables. He regarded the terms ‘Depressed classes’, ‘Dalits’, ‘Harijans’ either confusing or degrading and contemptuous. Dr. Ambedkar made it abundantly clear, ‘It was through political power that untouchables were to find their solution, not through acceptance by Hindus’. He gave untouchable movement a national character and a distinct identity during late twenties and early thirties.

Other prominent Dalit leaders like Mahatma Phule, Ambedkar or Gopal Ganesh vehemently criticized Hindu hierarchical structure and regarded untouchability as an inevitable concomitant of Varna/caste system. They taught the lower castes to get united and make eradication of caste system their major plank as it engaged them to forced labor or unsavory jobs, imposed many restrictions on them and prevented them from joining the mainstream of the society. According to them, Hindus treated lower castes as lesser human beings, meek and helpless persons, who should always remain at the mercy and benevolence of upper castes. They tried to find the solution of their problems through political power, not through acceptance by Hindus.

By 1920’s, numerous caste organizations, specially in the South and West, organized themselves into larger collectiveness by keeping contacts and alliances with their counterparts at other places; formed associations and federations at local and regional levels and emerged as a powerful political force. Together, they demanded special legal protection and share in politics and administration on the basis of caste.

In 1928, Simon Commission established their separate identity at national level, independent of intermediate castes as untouchables. It readily accepted their demands through Communal Award of 1932. Gandhiji along with other National leaders regarded it as the Unkindest cut of all”, which would create a permanent split in Hindu Society, perpetuate casteism and make impossible the assimilation of untouchables in mainstream. Dr. Rajendra Prasad said, The principle of dividing population into communal groups, which had been adopted in the Minto Morely Reforms, had been considerably extended, even beyond what had been done by Montagu Chelmsford Reforms….The electorate in 1919 was broken up into ten parts, now it is fragmented into seventeen unequal bits… Giving separate representations to Schedule Castes further weakened Hindu community… The British introduced every possible cross-division.

Scheduled Castes

In accordance with the provisions of the Communal Award of 1932, instructions were issued, in July 1934, to schedule a list of the people entitled for preferential treatment in matter of special electoral representation and appointment in the Central Government jobs. This gave birth to the term Scheduled Caste in 1935. Scheduling was a legal activity having sanction of legal authorities. Therefore, no one had any objection to this term. The term continued after the independence as well, for the purpose of Reservation.

Untouchables in Independent India

After second world war emergence of the concept of ‘welfare state’ swept the whole world. Independent India, as a civilized democratic society, considered it its humanitarian obligation to uplift and empower the submerged sections of society. The overwhelming poverty of millions belonging to lower strata of society and their near absence in echelons of power at the time of Independence has led the government to of India to intervene. The Constitution of India has directed the Government to promote social justice and educational, economic and other interests of the weaker sections with special care. It instructed the Government to remove the poverty and reduce inequalities of income and wealth and provide adequate representation to the downtrodden in power echelons through Affirmative Action Program/Reservation Policy. Public facilities, which were denied to untouchables so far, should be made accessible to them. The successive governments both at national as well as provincial levels initiated various Welfare Plans and Policies for employment generation and their social, economic and political growth from time to time.

Dalits

Dalit, a Maradhi word means suppressed. The term was chosen and used proudly by Ambedkar’s followers under the banner of various factions of Republican Party of India (Formed in 1956). The Mahars of Bombay (8%), Jatavs of UP (Half of the SC Population in UP) and Nadars and Thevars of Southern TN being numerically significant, played a decisive role in taking forward Dalit movement. Maharashtra Dalit movement has a longest and richest experience.

In 1972, a distinct political party, in the name of Dalit Panther was formed in Maharashtra. It organized the lower castes under the banner of ‘Dalit’ throughout India. One of the founders of Dalit Panther, Mr. Namdeo Dhasal widened the scope of Dalit by including SC, tribes, neo-Buddhists, landless labor and economically exploited people. Its orientation was primarily militant and rebellious. Dalit Sahitya Movement legitimized and reinforced the use of the term Dalit. Since then, this term is very popular amongst the untouchables.

Earlier, a few leaders of untouchables had at least some regard for the cultural tradition of India. They did not reject Vedic literature or the foundations of Hinduism, out-rightly. Dr. Ambedkar accepted that all parts of Manusmiriti were not condemnable. Gopal Baba Walangkar had said that Vedas did not support untouchability. Kisan Fagoi, another Mahar leader of pre-Ambedkar era had joined Prarthna Samaj. But present Dalit leaders are vehemently against cultural traditions of India, which according to them, are based on inequality and exploitation. There is always a fear of upper caste or intermediate caste backlash.

In mid sixties, an aggressive Dalit movement started under the banner of Shoshit Samaj Dal in Central Bihar, which has, presently, become a major center of Naxalite movement. Dal was founded by Jagdeo Mahto, who began to mobilize the lower castes against economic repression and exploitation of women by upper caste feudal elements.

The new phase of Dalit assertion is most prominent in the most populous state of UP, where the upper caste domination has been challenged by BSP (Bahujan Samaj Party) formed in 1984 under the leadership of Kanshi Ram and Mayavati. They redefined Dalit politics especially in north India. Their approach to Dalit issues was more socio-political rather than economic. BSP has started pursuing power with militancy since 1990. Of late, BSP has made significant inroads in UP, Punjab and Madhya Pradesh. BSP has borrowed all their phraseology from Dalit Panthers. Most of their utterances are arrogant, revengeful and opportunistic. Political and economic vested interests of its leaders has aroused militancy among discontented youths of different castes and communities all over the nation. They care only for rights and pay scant attention to their duties. There started a cutthroat competition for scarce positions of power and prestige.

Once again, the tendency of ‘divide and rule’, as was there during British domination, has emerged in national scenario. The growing desire of Dalits to rule has made them very sure of their friends and foes. Dalit leaders, even after so many years of Independence has identified Upper Castes as their enemy and intermediate castes sometimes as their friends and sometimes as their enemies. Kanshi Ram, a BSP leader initiated a formula of DS4, meaning Dalit Shoshit Samaj Sangarsh Samiti, taking into its fold untouchables, STs, Muslims and OBCs.

OBC leaders also know that Dalit parties now control a large vote bank. Therefore, from time to time, they try to please Dalits leaders in order to increase their own political strength. But Dalits are in no mood to play a second fiddle to other national political parties. They are aware of their growing influence and crucial role as a kink-maker in today’s highly competitive and unstable political atmosphere. All the three major national political formations – Congress’s UPA BJP’s NDA and National Front – are wooing frantically Dalit leaders and competing with each other to have a pre or post poll alliance with them. Instead of demanding a share in power structure, equity or social justice, Dalits now want to reverse the power equation and to transform the society by capturing all political power. Their aim is to get hold over the posts of PM-CM (Political Power) through electoral politics and control over administrative authority – the bureaucracy – through Reservations/Affirmative Action Program.

There is an elite section amongst Dalits, which protects its turf under the banner of Dalits at the cost of poorest of Dalits. It does not care much to bring Dalit masses into the mainstream. For some, presence and miseries of large number of dalits is a recipe for Dalit vote-bank, for others enjoying all the benefits of affirmative action programs initiated and implemented by the Government of India and other concessions given to them. Whatever might be the condition of Dalit masses, but the political power and arrogance of Dalit leaders and intellectuals are at rise. And here lies the crux of Dalit poltics.

Dalits at International platform

Dalits are not satisfied even after having growing influence in ballot-box politics and attaining enough places in the government jobs. Since 2001, these activists have been pushing the cause internationally arguing that Indian Dalits are like blacks in US till 1950. They faced problems in workplace, at school and in temples.

In 2005, some Dalit leaders belonging to All India Confederation have sought intervention USA, UN and the British and EU Parliaments on the issues of ‘untouchability’. UN recognizes religion, race, language and gender as main causes of inequality in the world. Dalt activists want caste to be included too in this category. They desire to have Global alliance, global involvement and intervention of the international community to put pressure on the government of India to address the problem Dalit marginalization. They feel that globalization and privatization has made it difficult for Dalits, tribals and OBC’s to compete on equal footing or find enough space in the job market within the country or abroad. At the behest of the Republican Congressman from New Jersey, Chris Smith, the US Congress had held a hearing on 6.10. 05 on the subject. A resolution on the issue – “ India’s unfinished Agenda: Equality and Justice for 200 million victims of the caste system” was prepared by the house committee on International Relations and US Human Rights to be tabled in the US Congress. “Despite the Indian government’s extensive affirmative action policies, which aim to open government service and education to Dalits and tribes, most have been left behind by India’s increasing prosperity…. Much much more remains to be done.” The resolution says, “It is in the interest of US to address the problem of the treatment of groups outside the caste system… in the republic of India in order to better meet our mutual economic and security goals….”

So far, intensive lobbying by Dalit groups including followers of Ravidass sect succeeded in getting passed the Equity Bill on March 24, 2010 in the house of Lords. It empowered the government to include ‘caste’ within the definition of ‘race’. In 2001, India was able in keeping caste out of the resolution adopted at 2001 Durban Conferernce.

Along with it, staunch supporters of Human Rights, some Scandinavian countris, Church organisations around the world and Lutheran World Federation have shown interest and expressed their solidarity with Dalits. Recently the comment of UN Commissioner for human rights, Navi pillay asking India that “time has come to eradicate the shameful concept of caste” and proposals of UN Human Rights Council’s or US based Human Rights Watch (HRW) to recognise caste as a form of discrimination ‘based on descent and birth’ appear not to be based on rational understanding of caste system. Their opinion about untouchability is greatly influenced by the lobbying of powerful/influential Dalit leaders and Dalit intelligentia.

No one knows where the Dalit assertion will lead the nation to? It is not the paternalistic policies, (which have failed to yield so far the desired results) that are required for the upliftment and empowerment of submerged sections of society, but there is need to educate, make them aware of their rights and duties, provide enough employment opportunities and other civic facilities like health etc at the grass root level for the sustainable growth of backward communities.

April 19, 2017 Posted by | Social and political values and systems | | Leave a comment

Factors, that changed caste-system into casteism

 

Introduction

The Government of India Act of 1858 brought an end to British East India Company’s rule and placed India directly under the Crown. With it ended the era of expansion and commercial exploitation and the nation ushered into the era of economic exploitation and policy of divide and rule.

At that point of time, it was difficult for Europeans and British understand and appreciate the role of caste system in totality. They were mystified by the amazing pluralities and unique social structure, because of its being an indigenous system, conceptualized, developed and practiced exclusively in India. Its complete localization and unfamiliarity with the rest of world made the task more difficult.

Discredited caste-system along with Hindu religion – The Western thinkers and sociologists from Max Weber to Louis Dumont, discredited Hindu religion, which had given birth to caste-system. Showing his occidental irritation, Kitts criticized caste-system, as lacking all rational arrangements. Many British thinkers held caste system responsible for all social evils and practices, feudal attitude, backward thinking, belief in dogmas and superstitions sustained by a unique set of rituals, beliefs and whimsical concept of purity and pollution.

Prejudice against everything native including case system

Through sophisticated ways, the British imperialists vehemently criticized caste system. They held Hinduism, caste-system and its practices for being as discriminatory barbarous, uncivilized and its social system highly stratified where multiplicity of communities and their cultures were exploiting each other for their own advantage. They divided different castes and communities living in India in every possible manner.

Caste responsible for all miseries of Hindu society – The European teachers, missionaries, bureaucrats and British rulers developed a complex in Indian minds about their heritage, and social structure based on caste system. They forcefully implanted in the minds of Indian intelligentsia, the real and imaginary, a complex, exaggerating the distortions developed into the system during its long period of evolution and carefully avoiding telling people the salient features whole truth or strong points of Indian culture.

Ward’s and others British intellectuals’ charges, that were levied on caste system were not wholly correct, were not based on the real-situations existing then in India. Ward commented that Not only is the caste contrary to every principle of justice and polity, it is repugnant to every feeling of benevolence. The social circle is almost invariably, composed of persons of the same caste, to the careful exclusion of others. It aims one class of men against another; it gives rise to greatest degree of pride and apathy. It forms a sufficient excuse for not doing an act of benevolence towards another, that he is not of the same caste, Ney, a man dying with thirst will not accept a cooling drought of water from the hands or the cup of a person of a lower caste.

An humble attempt has been made to show how correct are these allegations in the following paragraphs: –

  • Stratified System – British vehemently could criticized caste system for its being highly stratified, which divided the Hindu population into innumerable caste-groups having distinct and diverse thinking and life styles. But could not appreciate the role of caste system
  1. All the incoming groups were welcomed and accommodated in Hinduism on their own terms. Hinduism had assimilated all new groups through caste system. For centuries in ancient times, Hinduism integrated different tribes, groups and communities together under one umbrella. Without conversions and by giving each one a new caste-name, it set a unique example in the world history.
  2. It did not thrusted on incoming new groups its own values, thoughts, processes, superstructures and practices. It legitimized their beliefs, behavior patterns and life styles with freedom to evolve and change according to their internal rhythm.
  • An iniquitous society – They easily put all the blame on caste system for peoples’ poverty, misery and deprivation. They told the people that caste was one of the greatest scourges of Indian society. Caste was blamed for the selfishness, covetousness, indolence and apathy of some individuals. It had doomed masses to mental and physical degradation and kept them away from education, prosperity and honour. It had created an iniquitous society, exploitative and oppressive by nature, which fostered caste-conflicts and caste rivalries.
  • Discriminatory System – It is an anomaly that British, who themselves played discriminatory practices by keeping their railway compartments, waiting rooms, parks, clubs, hotels, places of other entertainment and residences segregated, criticized caste system as being discriminatory. But criticized caste system for opposing admissions of children belonging to untouchable communities, in public schools.[i]
  • Prevented upward mobility of lower strata of society – Ward’s blames caste system for intentionally denying upward mobility of lower strata of society, because individual’s social status depended on the caste of his/birth, over which nobody had any control. In western world, wealth had been the determining factor to decide the social status rather than birth, which made social mobility easier and faster. But this belief is not wholly correct as it forgot that wealth was also acquired through birth. That is why, there was a sharp distinction between nobility and commoners.
  • No choice in the matter of occupation – British rulers, along with Missionaries criticized that Caste system forced people/individuals to pursue hereditary vocations. There was no choice in matter of occupation in caste system. The system had killed spirit of initiative, creativity, and innovation. It prevented people from taking any risk. It is also alleged that caste system gave importance to birth in matter of occupation and showed utter disregard to social or material environment of a person. Therefore, it served the interests of haves and enhanced the agonies of have-nots. However, in ancient and medieval societies in Europe and Asia, occupations not only tended to become hereditary, but also actually allowed to be followed by specific classes. It was the industrial revolution, which had changed the trend.Westerners could not appreciate that system to do traditional jobs kept everyone engaged, prevented in large scale unemployment, made almost everybody to contribute something to the society and saved them from any confusion in matter of job or being guided, not by aptitude, but by whims and fancies in this matter choosing their vocations. Professor Shah says, Caste system has a long range and permanent plan embracing every class of society. If applied to every individual, regardless of age and other conditions, no one could be unemployed. Nor could have one worked inappropriate to one’s ability, training, environment, aptitude and attainment, nor could any work be inadequately remunerated. [ii]Some liberal thinkers like HT Colebrooke, one of the early Sanskrit Scholars says, It may be received as a general maxim that occupation appointed for each tribe is entitled merely to a preference. Every profession, with few exceptions, was open to every description of persons and the discouragement arising from religious prejudices is not greater than what exists in Great Britain from the effects of Municipal and Corporate laws. [iii] It was after 1858, that with the introduction of modern education and start of the process of industrialization, the avenues for entering into different occupations increased.Disregard for menial work. – It was argued by British rulers that giving Shudras the lowest place in social structure, engaged in menial jobs, showed disregard of Hindus for menial work. But for Hindus work was worship. So it was not the caste system, but the industrial revolution, which taught Indian masses to escape from or disregard the menial work. In addition to it, creation of new white collared jobs by British rulers developed the attitude to discredit manual work. The more a person withdrew from physical labor, the more civilized and qualified he was regarded by modern society. Such an attitude lured all the sections of society to leave their traditional occupations and join white collared jobs in organised sectors, irrespective of their background, aptitude, skill and knowledge.
  •  
  • Concept of purity and impurity – Systems which were based on concept of ‘purity and impurity’ developed in ancient India were nothing more or less than systems developed in modern world, which are based on the idea of ‘hygienic and unhygienic’.
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  • Gradation of different professions – Gradation of different professions was based on its being clean or unclean. Unclean occupations were given a lower status. Even Brahmins, who opted for menial professions for their livelihood, were assigned the status of Shudras. Such as Brahmins, known as ‘Mahabrahmins’, performing last rites, were also treated, ike Shudras. It was only the learned/knowledgeable Brahmins, who were given a superior status and their stronghold was the centers of learning.Apart from that warrior kings of Shudra and tribal origin sought Brahmins help to acquire Kshatriyas status. Bengal was among the last areas to come into contact with Brahminical Hinduism. It was only during the reign of Sen Guptas, that Kanyakubja Brahmins from Varanasi were invited to settle in Bengal. Brahmins never acquired status of dominant group there and remained just yet another Jati. In Punjab, it was Jats (farming community and protector of the outer periphery of the city-states), that were politically and economically dominant groups, says Prakash Tandon. Thakurs held prominent status in the eastern region of present day U.P. The Aine-Akbari informs that in the year 1600 AD, Thakur Zamindars paid more than two third of the total revenue in the middle Doab, Awadh and eastern parts of UP, Rohailkhand and Doab were controlled by Jat Chief-tons and later by Muslim Zamindars. In Bihar, around Darbhanga region, Maithili Brahmins held political control, though they also continued their traditional occupations as priests and scholars of Sanskrit.
  • Another yardstick of gradation was their contribution/utility of their services to the society. Many studies have shown that in many parts of the country, like Punjab, Gujarat, and Marathi speaking areas of western India, tribal MP. Orissa, Bengal etc. people other than Brahmins held superior status. Iqbal Narain and PC Mathur inform that in Rajasthan, Rajputs and Kshatriyas served as the models of caste, with emphasis on personal valor and military skills, for over a thousand years. In large part of peninsular Gujarat, according to Ghanshyam Shah Biswas, Banias had overshadowed Brahmins in economic and political areas for several centuries. Maharashtra, Jayant Lele says, Brahmins were far behind the Maratha – Patils (village headman) and Maratha Deshmukhs (regional administrators). In Orissa, Brahmin influence remained confined to small areas around the royal palaces.

Untouchability – It is alleged that untouchability was an integral part of caste system and kept Shudras at bay. This allegation is not wholly correct. Shudra community had always remained the nerve-system of Indian society. It performed essential social and economic tasks and provided different kinds of services, whether in agricultural or other sectors, to the whole of society living in their respective regions.

As said earlier, relations between various castes were expressed in terms of the ideas of hygiene, cleanliness and purity.[iv] Caste Hindus were very particular about eating dressed food, because it became stale very quickly in the past. Undressed food or fruits were regarded pure, whatever hands it came from. As far as Shudras causing pollution was concerned, Shore said that despite British being so powerful and the ruling community, Indians called even Whites as ‘Mlechch” meaning not clean in their mannerism. They were treated at par with the lowest natives in all social functions. But still a Brahmin in the service of Englishmen never hesitated in doing his duties. Certainly the lower castes are more tenacious on the subject of their caste than the higher. A low caste man, if asked for a drop of water from his pot will often refuse, A Rajput or a Brahmin will not only consent, but will show his respect by offering it decently. [v]

 

It was also alleged that laws of punishment were mild for caste Hindus, but severe and horrible for Shudras.[vi] Shore said that it was impossible to say laws never were stringent for lower castes. Probably it might have occurred very seldom by a very bigoted prince or a bigoted Brahmin. The horrible punishment to lower class did not exist, in general, during his times, nor had they been, perhaps for centuries, held in any more estimation, terror or respect, practically than bull or anathimas issued by Pope Gregory the Seventh in England.

 

Many liberal British thinkers conceded that it was not so much the social apathy, which kept the lower strata away from prosperity as, their ignorance, poverty, illiteracy and necessity to earn their livelihood right from an early age. They some liberal British thinkers of that period conceded that the criticism of caste system was over-drawn. Shore, governor general of India during 19th century, regarded caste fully as a civil and religious distinction. To him, its influence was so extensive, so minute and so intricate, as almost to defy generalization. To a certain extent, its influence may have had the injurious effects described, but infinitely less than was usually supposed and that too were wearing away.[vii] He said that many castes or groups lagged in the matter of modern education and employment in the government, because the business and administration of a large portion of India was being carried on in an alien language for centuries (First in Urdu and from 1844 onwards in English).

Strong points of caste system – Caste system took on different shades and meaning with the changing times and places. Its character kept on changing along with times. It was different in the context of village, locality, region or religion. Like other social institutions, caste system managed daily necessities and day to day relation of its members. It gave occupational guidance to its members, leading to excellence. It had an advantage of very long experience and deep thinking behind it[viii] Professor Shah says, Caste system was a long range or permanent plan embracing every class of society. It applied to every individual, regardless of age or other conditions.[ix] Normally social mobility from one group to another was not allowed. Permanent loss of caste was considered to be the greatest catastrophe for an individual, short of death penalty. Breaking the caste rules meant loss of caste, meaning complete ostracism or having no place in the society.

At its best, the caste system had wisely directed all the activities – social, political, intellectual or economic – into proper life functions and controlled its malfunctioning or di-sfunctioning. Caste system provided self-discipline, conscious, self-control, self-direction. It contributed to provide stability, all round growth of cultural heritage and development of the society.   The salient features of caste system were: –

  • Local character – Neither any caste took an All-India Character before British rule nor there had been nation-wide-hierarchy of castes earlier. Local semi-autonomous nature of Caste system made each community self-sufficient and capable to fulfill all the needs of its people locally.
  • System showed a high regard for knowledge, wisdom, virtues, characters and will power.
  • Whereas, Western cultures have grown around the idea of `rights forming the natural foundation of human relationship, caste system evolved around the concept of duty, tolerance and sacrifice. Emphasis on duty usually makes a person or a group humble and tolerant.
  • In Western societies, wealth had always been associated with power, authority and social status. India was never a materialistic society. Caste system separated wealth from status, power from authority, pursuit and achievement in knowledge from temptations of worldly comforts.
  • Though the caste system believed in segmental ranking of different caste groups, according to their relevance and contribution to the society, it placed all the individuals, within a caste group – rich or poor – on the same footing.
  • Local semi-autonomous nature of Caste system made each community self-sufficient and capable to fulfill all the needs of its people locally.
  • There was a close bond between individual and the society and individual and the occupation through caste. It held its members together.
  • The unique feature of caste system was that it provided work and employment to everyone. There was no dearth of employment opportunities for persons willing to work
  • Originally Varna and then Caste system were based on the principle of division of labor. All the functions needed for the maintenance and growth of the society were distributed among different caste groups according to its attitude and aptitude.
  • Assignment of work was done on the basis of tendencies, potentialities, limitations, traits and character of a caste-group. It assigned different activities to different groups according to its natural endowment, qualities, attitude and aptitudes. It taught people not to blame others. `Adharma (immoral behavior), Alasya (laziness) and Agyan (ignorance) were held responsible for evils, exploitation, and miseries of the people.
  • Don Martindale said that India possessed a reservoir of natural leaders – Brahman trained in literary skills and Kashitryas in art of leadership.
  • The Caste system served as a spawning bed for social and technical skills. By its very nature, it encouraged the development and preservation of local skills.
  • The Caste system transmitted the traits of a trade, intelligence abilities, experiences, values and skills from one generation to another in a natural way.
  • Elders of every caste-group took care of maintaining discipline within the caste and helped the members, who were weak and helpless.
  • Considerations of self-discipline, hygiene and cleanliness on the basis of climatic conditions of the region were given importance.

The caste was so strong that when the world was passing through the Dark Age, India was full of light. The first few centuries are recognized as the golden period of Indian history. During this period, arts, commerce, crafts, philosophy and knowledge flourished magnificently. Many travelers visiting India, from alien lands at different points of time, confirmed that India possessed huge wealth, knowledge, and quality of life. It was a cheerful land. Each person found a niche in the social system.

Factors that changed Caste-system – The face of caste system changed tremendously with the following developments done during the British rule: –

Introduction of Modern Education – In 1835, modern Education system was introduced by Lord Macaulay. People got access to the enlightened spirit of many liberal thinkers, like Locke, Mill Roussseau, Voltaire, Spencer and Burke; and the knowledge about English, French, American revolutions, through modern education. It offered to Indian intelligentsia, the key to the treasures of scientific and democratic thought of Modern West. It opened up the doors of knowledge and widened the mental horizons of Indian intelligentsia. In due course of time, it produced many national leaders. Modern education itself equipped them with the intellectual tools, with which they fought the oppressive British Raj.

Modern education also highlighted the weaknesses, rigidity and harshness of caste system towards weaker sections of the society. It had attracted the attention of the people towards social evils, that had developed in the system.

It gave access to all sections of Indian society to get educated irrespective of caste or creed though Muslims (because Muslims were more dependent on the use of sword) and other non- Brahmin communities lagged behind in matter of modern education. Brahmins, who had previously involved in the process of learning were, were quicker to take advantage of the opportunities offered by Modern education. It brought social awakening and awareness amongst masses about their rights.

But, simultaneously, it disassociated a large number of Indian intelligentsia from their traditional way of learning, classical roots and knowledge. With it, faded Indian values, philosophies and traditions. It divided the Indian people. It loosened the bonds of caste system. They lost their faith in caste system. A group of Indian intelligentsia started feeling the caste system to be indefensible.

Modern means of transport – The modern means of transport and communications brought to an end the local character of caste system, shortened distances and made mobility faster and easier. Small local castes, confined within a small area earlier, grew in size, embracing a much wider area than before. Many caste organizations emerged and entered into region-wise caste alliances. It sharply restricted the hold of caste-elders over its members and replaced the traditional pattern of checks and balances and leadership by voluntary associations, social reformers and leaders.

Industrialization – The Company’s rule had reduced India to a producer of raw material and market of their products.   During its rule, India missed out first few phases of Industrial revolution – one that revolutionized agriculture and textile production. Second one occurring in the first half of the 19th century, which was based on capital goods industry and the third during the last quarter of the 19th century, when science was fused with technology. Thus, India remained to produce low technology, low productivity, low wage and low profit items. As against this, Britain, along with other European nations, was producing high technology, high productivity, high wage and high profit commodities. It left India economically far behind the advanced nations. And within India, industrialization had eroded the authority of caste and kinship in matters of occupation. Many new occupations emerged giving choice of occupation, accessibility to which was through modern education, knowledge of English language and loyalty to British. It was no more through caste affiliations. Industrialization led to the decay of village industries as the competition was directly with the cheap machine goods. It also led to urbanization.

Apathy of Imperial rulers for indigenous arts and craft – The British discouraged local genius, cottage industries and fine arts. It made many traditional occupations obsolete. Many castes of rural artisans, craftsman and traditional occupations abandoned their traditional work. They either migrated to cities as industrial labor or became agriculture labor. The British apathy towards indigenous skills, knowledge and occupations pushed millions backward in a very subtle manner and loosened the sanctity of caste rules and caste consciousness in matters of occupation. This, in order to get hold on modern occupations, led to inter-caste rivalries, social tensions and group conflicts among Indians. The erosion of traditional pattern of occupation divided Indian people into the following three groups: –

Ø         People, for whom work was essential for survival

Ø             People, who were educated and loved to work for self-advancement and prosperity (Middle class people).

Ø             People, who lived on other’s labor benefiting from their position in society.

 

New legal system – Earlier discipline and order was maintained by Shastric and customary laws. The sense of duty to one’s caste was wide spread in traditional social order. Caste matters were decided by their respective caste councils. The establishment of nationwide civil, criminal and commercial legal system by British and its uniform application to all castes and communities eroded the authority of caste-system tremendously. It granted equality before law and equal access to all castes and communities. In their search for a Uniform law code, the British studied hard. They took help of some centers of learning, regarded to be the stronghold of Brahmins. For the first time a uniform, supposedly Brahminical legal system, became operational over Hindu Community, on an all India level. It took control of the political, economic and social apparatus of the country. Positive laws of State were also enacted. The effect of these measures was that a clear line was drawn, which demarcated the areas between the caste control of personal behavior of its members and the new administration of justice. The authority of caste groups in matters of civil rights was diminished, but in other spheres, it received legitimization from the courts in the form of caste autonomy. Section 8 of Bengal Regulation III of 1793 made a beginning in Administration of justice in new direction, Bombay Regulation II of 1827 made further change and in 1850, the Caste Disabilities Act (Act 21 of 1850) further eroded the authority of caste laws.

 

The new settlement policy – The British Settlement Policy differed from region to region depending upon the geography, history and customs. Jamindari system prevailed in Bengal, Orissa and Oudh, Ryotwari in Bombay and Madras, Villagewari in Delhi and Punjab, Malguzari in Central Provinces and Mahalwari in Northwest Province. The new land revenue system led to the rise of a new class of landlords, who wholeheartedly supported the British rule. Policy of Permanent Settlement led to the growth of absentee landlords living in luxury in towns and fleecing the tenants at will. The British policy of land revenue extracted as exorbitant amounts as possible from the peasants, which compelled the cultivators to live at the mercy of landlords, for the fear of eviction.

 

The poor farmers were caught into the clutches of moneylenders. The impoverishment of cultivators grew due to rack-renting, high rates of interest and uneconomic cultivation, resulting in large-scale alienation of land. Marginal farmers became landless laborers. The vast majority of people belonging to peasants, artisans sunk in poverty and misery.

 

The exploitative policies of British overcrowded the agricultural sector. With it grew resentment of Indian subjects towards the authority. The mutiny at Vellore in 1806, Barrakpore in 1824, Ferozepore in 1842, followed by the meeting of 7th Bengal Cavalry, the kol insurrection of 1831-32, the revolt of the kings of Kangra, Jaswar and Datarpur, the Santhal rising in 1855-56 and the revolt of 1857 throughout India are a few examples of peoples’ resentment to early British rule. The oppressive policies of British created a new class of landless laborers, which came to be known, later on, as Scheduled Castes. The British drained the wealth and resources of India in a most systematic, shrewd and unjust way.

The economic exploitation, economic drain and repressive attitude submerged the masses in ignorance, enfeebled by diseases and oppressed by wants.[x] In 1880, WT. Thortan confessed that the annual tribute, tapped India’s very heart blood and dried up the mainspring of her industrial position.[xi] Sir William Hunter remarked, there remains forty million Indians, who go through life on insufficient food.[xii]

 

Increasing disparities – Access to modern education, new opportunities of gain and legal redress was not available to the masses, because the education was expensive and its mode of instruction was an alien language – the English. The new opportunities based on modern education, therefore, were inaccessible to poor. The expensive legal procedure, involved in getting justice, could favour the `haves and poor could hardly afford to appeal and seek justice. All this developed a new kind of inequality. The emergence of new classes with new education, job and legal profile coupled with changed behavior of old surviving classes added to confusion and made Indian society A complicated organism with extremely variegated and antagonistic social forces struggling for their respective interests within it.[xiii]

 

Census Operations – Under British rule the process of Census operation began with the purpose to gather information for administrative purposes/conveniences. After consolidating its position, the British Government in India made an effort to know about the people, whom they want to rule and chalk out strategies for the colonial governance. British anthropologists worked very hard to collect data and to catalogue various castes and tribes. For the first time, the Census operations drew the attention of the rulers, intelligentsia and public to the diversity of Indian society and multiplicity of castes and sub-castes throughout India.

British rulers did not hesitate to exploit information/data on social, demographic, linguistics, religious and cultural diversities of India collected through census operations. The process of Census enumeration was far from neutral. The British retained the distinctions between different sub-castes, relevant to them for organizing labor and homogenized all those sub-castes, for which they had no use, therefore, no interest. All the floating population like Gujjars, Bhattis, Ranger Rajputs, who remained out-side caste system were fused into one. The Census operation kept Brahmins, whom, the British administrators, Christian Missionaries and Orientalists, pinpointed as the potential threat to the British, at periphery and, instigated other castes against them.

Caste was a flexible and fluid unit of Indian society. Census operations made it rigid. They codified the castes and standardized the system by placing all the jatis into four Varnas or in the categories of outcastes and aborigines.

Middleton, a Census Superintendent accepted, We pigeonholed everyone by caste and community. We deplore its effect on social and economic problems. But we are largely responsible for the system…Our land records and official documents have added iron-bonds to the old rigidity of caste. Caste, in itself, was rigid among the higher castes, but malleable amongst the lower…The government’s act for labels and pigeon-holes had led to a crystallization of the caste system, which, except amongst the aristocratic caste, was really very fluid under indigenous rule.”

 

Thus, Census operations destroyed the flexibility of caste system, led to an all-round hardening of social-system and to frantic effort by each group-for upward mobility. The first volume of Man in 1901 (the Journal of Royal Anthropological Institute) noted, The entire framework of native life in India is made up of groups of castes and tribes, and status and conduct of individuals are, largely, determined by the rules of the group, to which he belonged. Risley’s efforts, in 1901 census, of recording and putting in order numerous castes in hierarchical order like modern Manu had fossilized, imparting it a solidity, it did not have earlier.[xiv] Therefore, the Census operations instigated caste consciousness, caste animosities and made caste a tool in political, religious and cultural battles, that Hindus fought amongst themselves.

Like modern Manu, The census operations divided all the castes and communities into following groups – Brahmins, Non-Brahmins, Muslims, Anglo-Indians, untouchables, non-Hindu Communities and backward castes. This division remained a by-word even for the present leaders of Independent India.

 

Electoral Politics and Casteism – With census operations and the start of electoral politics started caste calculations, caste chemistry and pure casteism. The British authorities were aware that, in the Hindu society, caste opinion and caste loyalties always remained a cohesive regulatory force and the easiest, quickest and the most powerful mode to communicate. They were also aware of the influence of Brahmins over the whole society.

 

While introducing electoral politics in India, the British purposely and successfully divided the Hindu population into two uncompromising groups viz. `We the Non-Brahmins and `They the Brahmins and caste Hindus. They instilled deeply in the minds of millions of unlettered Hindus, venom against caste-system and the Brahmin community. The introduction of electoral politics, in the beginning of the 20th century gave rise to Power in numbers. It gave political leverage to the non-Brahmin castes on account of their numerical strength. Since then, their influence in politics has been growing continuously.

 

Ideological attack on the system by Imperial rulers – Rulers launched an ideological attack on caste-system. They depicted the Indian culture and practices as discriminatory barbarous, uncivilized and its social system highly stratified where multiplicity of communities and their cultures were exploiting each other for their own advantage. They forcefully implanted in the minds of people, the real and imaginary, evils of Hindu Social structure and its practices.

 

The Government of India Act of 1858 brought an end to company’s rule and placed India directly under the Crown. With it ended the era of expansion and commercial exploitation and the nation ushered into the era of economic exploitation and policy of divide and rule. Through sophisticated ways, the British imperialists created differences between different castes and communities, and developed a complex in Indian minds about their heritage and caste system. The British gathered information, exploited material relating to social, demographic, linguistics, religious and cultural diversities of India and flared up caste animosities. They exaggerated the distortions developed into the system and carefully avoided telling the whole truth or strong points of Indian culture. The European teachers, missionaries, bureaucrats and British easily put all the blame on caste system for peoples’ poverty, misery and deprivation. They made caste appear as one of the greatest scourges of the country, which doomed large classes of men, to mental and physical degradation and kept them away from education, prosperity and honour. Caste system, to them created an iniquitous society, exploitative and oppressive by nature, which fostered caste-conflicts and caste rivalries.

 

Conclusion

Many liberal British thinkers of that period conceded that the criticism of caste system was over-drawn. Viceroy Shore, governor general of India during 19th century, regarded caste fully as a civil and religious distinction. To him, its influence was so extensive, so minute and so intricate, as almost to defy generalization. To a certain extent, its influence may have had the injurious effects described, but infinitely less than was usually supposed and that too were wearing away.[xv] He pointed out that many castes or groups lagged in the matter of modern education and employment in the government, because the business and administration of a large portion of India was being carried on in an alien language for centuries (First in Urdu and from 1844 onwards in English).

They alo accepted that it was not so much, the social apathy, which kept the lower strata away from prosperity as ignorance, poverty, illiteracy and necessity to earn their livelihood right from an early age. For many Europeans and British, it was a difficult task to understand and appreciate the role of caste system in totality. They were mystified by the amazing pluralities and unique social structure, because of its being an indigenous system, conceptualized, developed and practiced exclusively in India. Its complete localization and unfamiliarity with the rest of world made the task more difficult. The charges, that British put on caste system were not wholly correct.

Winding up

In the end it can be concluded that seeds of dis-chord  sown by British rulers before independence,  blossomed in full after Independence especially after 1990s, when Indian politicians with vested interests tried their bes. There was a rat between them to grab  political power and perpetuate anyway – by hook or crook, as long as possible.

 

[i] Zelliot, Dr. Ambedkar and Mahar Movement, P48.

[ii] Shah TK, Ancient Foundation of Economics, p 3, Times of India, dated 10.4.94.

[iii] Indian Express, dated 18.9.90, p 8.

[iv] Srinivas, MN, Social Change in Modren India,

[v] Shore, Ibid. Pp 567-477

[vi] Ward, cited in Shore, p 66.

[vii] Hon’ble Fredrick John Shore, Indian Affairs, pp474.479

[viii] Prabhu Pandharinath H. Ibid pp 90-97.

[ix] Shah TK, Ancient Foundation of Economies, Times of India, dated April 10,1994, p3.

[x] Tarachand, History of Freedom Movement in India, Vol.I, pp283-84.

[xi] Annie Besant, India – A Nation, pp98-99.

[xii] Fisher FB, India’s Silent Revolution, pp37-38.

[xiii] Desai AR, Social Background of Indian Nationalism, p176.

[xiv] Das Veena and Kagal Ayesha, Through the Prism of Clerkdom, Times of India, dated September 16, 1990, p2.

[xv] Hon’ble Fredrick John Shore, Indian Affairs, pp474.479

April 5, 2017 Posted by | Social and political values and systems | | Leave a comment

Rights and duties

“A society that puts equality (of outcome) ahead of freedom will end up with neither equality nor freedom. The use of force to achieve equality will destroy freedom and force, introduced for good purposes, will end up in the hands of people who use it to promote their own interests.”  Thomas Sowell

 ” The central idea of old Indian or Indo Aryan culture was ‘Dharma’, which was something more than religion or creed. It was a conception of obligations to discharge of one’s duties to oneself and to others.”  Pt Nehru   

Born free, but everywhere in chains – An individual is born free, but in real life, s(he) finds oneself in chains all the time.

An individual as social-person  – A Famous philosopher Aristotle says – man is a social animal. “if a human being does not live with men or amongst men, then surely either he is god or a beast.” While living in a society, one is not supposed to care only for one’s own-self,  one’s own comfort zone, one’s own liberty/rights/needs/conveniences, and unmindful of others’. 

Rights and duties intertwined – Rights and duties are so intriguingly intertwined with each other that one cease to exist without the other. One’s rights become other people’s duties and others rights his/her own duties. Clear-cut vision and a balanced approach towards one’s rights and duties is a must for any matured/civilized society.

Fine and balanced tuning between rights and duties – A fine and balanced tuning between rights and duties is a must for any civilized society. For achieving it, effective systems of checks and balances over arbitrary use of one’s rights is a necessary.

In ancient Indian scriptures, for duties the word ‘Dharma’ is used. ‘Dharma’ embraced within itself different ideas and concepts like religion, law, duty, righteousness, morality and conformity with truth”, “ethics”, “spirituality”, or “responsibility” etc.

Whereas, Western cultures have grown around the idea of `rights forming the natural foundation of human relationship, India had evolved around the concept of duty, tolerance and sacrifice. Emphasis on duty usually makes a person or a group humble and tolerant. In Indian culture, sacrifice is regarded far more important than success, and renunciation is regarded as the crowning achievement.

All the people in the society were governed by Dharma at all times, be it a ruler or ruled, parent or child, teacher or student or man or woman (Prabhu, Pandarinath, H., Hindu Social organizations, P. 30).  The ideal of Dharma gave an abiding sense of purpose to the individual’s life, an aim to be actively striven for, cutting across class distinctions and caste boundaries, bridging the distance between rural and urban folk and between the illiterate and educated. Dharma enabled different groups to act cooperatively and to regulate the behavior of its component members.

During ancient India, Dharma guided individuals to remain true and to fulfil their duties earnestly. Molding one’s life according to Dharma is not an easy task. It requires tremendous will power and a strong character. Therefore, persons with weak faculties found it difficult to observe Dharma.

Such a system in India had prevented ancient India to exercise coercion against its working class, whereas in ancient Greece, Rome or other European countries, people were made to work under the threat of a whip. It stopped people from taking law in their own hands. While other nations passed through many bloody revolutions, Indian systems kept on adapting itself to changing times. It had filled the whole of society with a sense of duty and trained them in obedience. The sense of duty had helped the people to adjust themselves to most drastic changes in the past.  

Constitution of India on fundamental rights – The fundamental rights of Indian citizens are embodied in Part III of the original Constitution.

The Fundamental Rights guarantee civil rights to all Indians. The purpose of Fundamental rights  is to preserve individual liberty and democratic principles based on equality of all members of society. It prevents State authorities from encroaching on individual liberty. It also places  upon state an obligation to protect the citizen’s fundamental rights from encroachment by society.

Seven fundamental rights are provided by the constitution – right to equality, right to freedom, right against exploitation, right to freedom of religion, cultural and educational rights, right to property (Right to property was removed from Part III by 44th Amendment of Indian Constitution in 1978), and right to constitutional remedies.

Dr Ambedkar had said that the responsibility of the legislature is not just to provide fundamental rights but also and rather more importantly, to safeguard them. Fundamental Rights act as limitations on the power of legislature and executive, under Article 13, and in case of any violation of these rights the Supreme Court and the High Courts of States have the power to declare such legislative or executive action as unconstitutional and void. Article 12, includes not only the legislative and executive, but also local administrative authorities and other agencies and institutions which discharge public functions or are of governmental character.

 Fundamental Duties –— Fundamental Duties were introduced by the 42nd Amendment Act, 1976. Article 51-A describes the duties of Indian citizens saying that it shall be the duty of every citizen of India: To abide by the Constitution and respect its ideals and institutions, the National Flag and the National Anthem; to cherish and follow the noble ideals etc.

Develops de-centralization of control systems – Balanced exercise of rights and duties automatically develops de-centralization of control systems, misuse of authority and prevents chaos. However, a balanced outlook towards rights and duties is very difficult.

Focus of Western and Eastern societies – Western societies give more stress to “rights” of an individual. On the other hand, in India and eastern part of the world, societies put more emphasis on “duty”. Both the systems leaves something more to be desired.

Duties/Dharma of an Individual according to Indian Philosophy – Principles of Dharma, Karma and Varna are the three pillars, on which the culture of traditional Indian society is based. Dharma , along with a ‘Religious Idea’ is also a ‘Principle’ and a ‘Vision’ of an organic society, in which all participating members are independent, yet their roles complimentary. 

What is Principle of Dharma – Dharma specifies duties, privileges and restrictions of each role separately and their relationship with each other. The principles of Dharma not only regulated the behavior of an individual within the community, but also provided universal, practical and eternal guidelines to be followed in personal life, family life, community life, social life, professional life and national life. The principle of give and take guides the human relationships. People are taught to lead a simple life free of covetousness, greed or lust.

There is  a  common  Dharma,  general  norms  of conduct, which are applicable to all individuals irrespective of caste or creed. These are nothing,  but   mannerism, leading individuals to the path of righteousness and values of good conduct,  Such as

  • Smritis teaches the people to follow ten principles of steadiness, forgiveness, self control, abstention from appropriating any thing belonging to others, purity, control, correct discernment, knowledge, truthfulness and absence from anger.
  • Kautilya lists harmlessness, truthfulness, purity, absence of spite, abstinence from cruelty and forgiveness as common duties of all persons as members of an organized society. He advised people to abandon lust, anger, greed, vanity, conceit, and overjoy. According to him desires fulfilled, never extinguished, but grew stronger. Therefore, desires should be directed in proper manner towards proper objectives.
  • Manusmriti guides people to control the five faculties of sense and five organs of actions. The purpose of education and learning should be to train the faculties of a person to channelize his/her  energies towards right activities. Discipline and productivity are necessary for education.

In order to maintain a smooth relationship of people belonging to different sections of society, Dharma prescribes a separate Dharma for appropriate to their nature and customs,  Separate Dharma for different sections of society, different classes and different stages of human life. It is based on attitude and aptitude, inherent qualities, and potentialities of its members at different stages in life. Dharma of Brahmin is not the same as that of a Shudra, or Dharma of a student not that of an old man. Separate rules of conduct have been aimed to inspire every one to perform one’s own duties and obligations, giving everybody opportunities- social, economic physical and spiritual – to do their jobs well and preserve the tradition and lifestyle of all communities.

Winding up – Too much importance to rights though gives more opportunities to enjoy life, but makes individuals selfish and unmindful of others conveniences. Too much importance on duties makes a person or a group too much humble, tolerant and submissive.

 

January 27, 2017 Posted by | Social and political values and systems | , | Leave a comment

India – Unity in Diversity

“There is more power in unity than division”.  Emanuel Cleaver, US politician

IntroductionFor understanding India, it is necessary to understand its diversity. Inspite of diversity, there are many things allover India, which are similar. Only it is done in different way at different areas.And it is this fact that gives it strength and built up its unity.

Way back on December 9, 1946, Mr. V.N. Narayan had said, At best of times, India is ungovernable country of diversities, conflicts and problems.[i] A touch here, a push there may make India ungovernable. Governance of a pluralistic society, like India, is a sensitive and challenging exercise.

Mr. Nani Palkiwala expressed the same feeling after 50 years of self-rule, which gave to India empty coffers, unfulfilled promises, political instability, fractured society and perpetual divide among different groups along caste and community lines. He said, Our legal systems have made life too easy for criminals and too difficult for law abiding citizens.[ii]

India comprises of different identities India comprises people of different identities – ethnic, religious, castes, linguistic and regional identities. While, these identities lived together for centuries and presented a mosaic culture, there have been periods of discord. The diversity made the divide easy. However, the forces of unity have always been stronger than the divisive forces. It is for this reason that India occupies a special place in the global society. It is one of the oldest alive civilizations of the world. It presents a fascinating picture of unity amidst diversity, cultural richness, largeness of area and huge population. It has assimilated multi-ethnic migrants into its fold. The diversities, that exist, are many like: –

(a) Geographical diversity – India is the Sixth largest nation in the world in terms of area, covering a territory of about 3.27 million sq. kms. which is about 24% of the total world area, all divided into:-

  1. Himalayas – forming the northern boundary of India, extending from J&K in the west to Assam, Manipur and Mizoram in the East. These regions are not very well connected with the mainland. Therefore, development processes are slow.
  2. Indo-Gangetic lowland – includes Gangetic, Brahmputra and coastal plains. It is densely populated. Indian civilization spread all over India mainly from this region.
  3. Peninsular Plateau – A mass of mountain hill ranges of Aravalli, Vindhyas, Satpura, Mekala, Nilgiri and Cardamon hills separates it from Indo-Gangetic lowland. This peninsula is flanked on one side by the Eastern Ghats and on the other by the Western Ghats.

The above three areas have different climate, different quantity of rainfall, different quality of soil, different kinds of vegetation, crops and minerals. Therefore, the people living in these parts differ from each other in their needs, way of living, eating habits and approach to a problem.

(b) Ethnic diversity – The assimilation of multi-ethnic migrants into Indian society makes its ethnic diversity a striking feature. The groups, that comprise this diversity, are: –

  • Negritos – the earliest men coming probably from Africa, now represented by tribal population in some interior jungles of South India and Andamans.
  • Proto-Australoids – considered being the original builders of the Indus valley civilization. They had settled in the hilly and forest tracts of Central and Southern India and in the lower strata of North India.
  • Mongoloids – coming from China, they settled mostly in Ladakh, Sikkim, Arunachal, Assam and the North Eastern States.
  • Mediterranean – Fairly civilized people coming from Southwest Asia around 2000 BC. They are believed to be the bearers of the earliest form of Hinduism and were the architects of later Indus Valley Civilization. Later, they were pushed to the Ganga plain and down the Central and South India.   Today they constitute the bulk of population in South India and bulk of scheduled castes in the North, including Punjab.
  • Alphinoids, Dinarics and Armenoids – Coming from South Europe, now they are found in the Coorgis and the Parsis.
  • Nordics – They came to India around 2000 BC. Their concentration is now in Northwest India and among the upper castes of North India.

These multi-ethnic migrants came to India in waves. In due course of time, they assimilated into Indian Society as its integral parts. They were allowed to preserve their distinct dialects, beliefs, and values, customs and traditions, which are intact even today. Their assimilation resulted in: –

  1. Linguistic Diversity
  2. Cultural Diversity.
  3. Occupational Diversity

 (c) Linguistic Diversity – According to Majumdar RC, Roy Chaudhary HC and Datta Kalikinkar,[iii] on the basis of linguistics, Indian people could be divided into the following four groups according to their language and physical appearance: –

  1. High Class Hindus – They are known as Indo-Aryan. They account for 73% of the Hindu population. [iv] Their language is derived from Sanskrit. They are usually tall, fair skinned, long nosed, aggressive and martial people. Their religion has been masculine, ritualized and organized.
  2. Dravidians – Mostly living in South Indian Peninsula. They speak Tamil, Telugu, Kanarese and Malayalam. They account for 20% of the population.
  3. Primitive Tribes (like Kol, Bhil and Mundas) – They are dark skinned and snub-nosed. They speak languages quite different from the above two. They account for 1.5% of the population.
  4. People with strong Mongolian features – They are yellow in color, snubbed nose with flat faces and prominent cheek bones, living mostly on the slopes of Himalayas and mountains of Assam. Gorkhas, Bhutiyas, Khasis are some of them. They have their own languages. They account for 0.85% of the total population.

The last two classes of people may be regarded as descendants of the Neolithic people and do not appear to have made much progress till today. They yielded to the forces of Dravidians in the South and Aryans in the North. At present India has 18 major languages included in Eighth Schedule of the Constitution, more than 250 dialects and about 200 to 300 castes in each linguistic region.[v]

(d) Occupational Diversity – The Indian scene presents a unique diversity in occupational structure greatly affecting terms in income, standard of living, way of life, status, economic activities, purchasing power and thinking of people.

Changes in occupational pattern after Industrialization – The modernization and industrialization process, especially under the guidance of British during the 19th Century changed the scene.

  • Gradually, many traditional occupations became less paying and were regarded more hazardous and more time consuming.
  • White collared jobs gained importance.
  • The more, a person withdrew from physical labour, the more civilized, honored and qualified he was regarded by the modern society.
  • It resulted in discrediting many traditional occupations and in destruction of Indian handicrafts and cottage industry.
  • It scattered the efforts, sense of direction and manufacturing skills of millions of artisans, craftsman, weavers etc.
  • A few of them joined modern occupations.
  • The majority could neither enter the modern sector nor stick to traditional occupations considering the menial work derogatory.
  • Unskilled persons had no option, but to either join the band of agricultural laborers, industrial workers, marginal labour or increase the number of unemployed.
  • The outcome of such a development has been the casualty of workers, first, their work style, commitment, motivation and culture afterwards.
  • Many groups had lost their creativity, sense of achievement and pride.
  • Some entrepreneurs with money, education and awareness did market surveys and hijacked many traditional occupations. Occupations like mechanization of fishing or leather industry were modernized by them and made profit oriented.
  • Even less capital-intensive occupation, such as barber, washerman etc., have been taken up by educated middle class. Hitherto, these occupations were viewed with disdain and contempt by modern society. These have been, therefore, re-christened as saloon, laundry etc. It employed workers, largely from poor traditional workers, earlier practicing such occupations independently.

Nature of occupations – There are traditional and modern occupations and occupations in the organized and unorganized sector.

  • Traditional and Modern occupation – There was no choice in the matter of occupation in the traditional system. Maintaining differentiation between various occupations was the main feature of traditional system. It was community based and not individual based. It led the society to have more production, economic efficiency and specialization in various areas of activities. The system had created an atmosphere of high quality of occupational skills in different areas like spinning, weaving, pottery making, bead making, seal making, terracotta, handicrafts, brick-laying, metal work etc. The manner, in which these hereditary occupational skills were transferred, was through practice and experience; not through formal classroom lectures, which often kills the originality and verve of the people.
  • Main Workers and Marginal Workers – The Census classifies Workers into two groups namely, Main workers and Marginal workers. Main Workers are those workers who had worked for the major part of the reference period i.e. 6 months or more. Marginal Workers are those workers who had not worked for the major part of the reference period i.e. less than 6 months.

The Main workers can be classified on the basis of their nature of work into the following four categories:

  1. Cultivators
    2. Agricultural Labors
    3. Household Industry Workers and
    4. Other Workers

According to censuses, the total number of workers in rural and urban areas was as following: –

 Total number of workers (In Percentage)

Area

Persons Males Females

Rural

40.24 52.50 27.20
Urban 30.44 48.95 9.20
Total 37.68 51.56 22.73

Amongst these, a large number is that of marginal workers, who do not get work for the major part of a year. The Census operations indicate that the numbers of marginal laborer has been growing for the last two decades. Their number is higher in the rural areas than in the urban areas. About 85% marginal workers are female.

Main and Marginal Workers – (In Percentage)

Category

Persons

Workers Main

Workers

Marginal

Workers

37.64 34.12 3.52
Males 51.52 50.54 0.98
Females 22.69 16.43 6.26

 

Rural

Category
Workers  

Main workers

Marginal-workers

Persons

4013 3567 446
Males 5243 5129 114
Females 2706 1907 799

Urban

Persons

30.46 29.64 0.81
Males 48.96 48.43 0.53
Females 9.73 8.64 1.11

Source: 1991 Census, p 323

Organized sector – Organized sector is the backbone of modern economy. It provides to people, engaged in it, adequate means of livelihood and a specified position in social, economic and political world.   The reasons for its importance are –

Ø         The State authority itself and

Ø         It’s role in development.

Having full knowledge about the system, the persons working in organized sector are able to protect themselves against malfunctioning of state authority, because-

Ø         They are organized to challenge any misuse of authority.

Ø         Whenever the system fails, they can make special arrangements.

Ø         Their future is secured under various schemes.

Unorganized sector – In contrast, people in unorganized sector find themselves helpless and vulnerable, as their awareness and knowledge about the system is very limited. Very often, they are the people living below poverty line, deprived and exploited. Some of them are even unable to manage two square meals a day.

Moreover, their agony is multiplied due to growing underhandedness, insufficient and ineffective monitoring of projects undertaken for their welfare, corruption, undue pressures of influential groups and unholy alliances. The poor even do not get due wages for their labour and skill, because the wage-determination policy of the government does not recognize the value of their knowledge/skill. For example, an agricultural worker, whose work is most skilled, most arduous and working conditions most difficult, has been recognized as an unskilled worker getting lowest wages.

(e) Cultural Diversity – This diversity is based on religion and caste. According to 1991 Census, as quoted by Silverra [vi], the main religious groups, in India, are as under: –

Main religious groups –

Group

% of population

 

% increase since 1981

Hindu

82.41 22.78
Muslims 11.76 32.76
Christians 2.32 16.89
Sikhs 1.99 25.48
Buddhist 0.77 35.98
Other religions 0.38 13.19
Religion not stated 0.05 73.46

(Source: 1991 Census)

In the modern world, no society or nation can exist as a homogeneous cultural monolithically. India specially presents a unique picture of composite culture, which grew out of intermixing of people of different cultures, belonging to different identities. As India passed through various phases in the past, each and every group left its influence on its culture, which came down to the present generation in an unbroken chain of succession, with some modifications and adaptations.

The impact of different religious communities on Indian culture is as follows:

  • Vedic Hindu Culture– Vedic Hindu Culture is one of the oldest living cultures in the world. It is identified with the whole of India. To foreigners, it represents the ancient culture in its eternity. It mainly originated and flourished in northern parts of India and later on spread throughout India. The strength of Vedic culture is proved by the facts: –

Ø         Despite centuries of foreign rule over 75% of Indian population remains Hindu.

Ø         Had it become obsolete, it would have given place to other religions and cultures.

Ø         It influenced almost all other religions found in India.

The word ‘Vedic’ is derived from the word ‘Vid’ meaning ‘Knowledge’ and signifies’ ‘knowledge par excellence’. The Vedic culture came into being due to intermixing of the culture of Aryan invaders, who came to India in waves, with the culture of indigenous tribal people of India during 2nd century BC to 650 AD.

The origin of the Vedic culture cannot be traced in any single founder; neither can it be confined in one single authoritative text. Its sacred knowledge has been handed down from time immemorial, earlier by verbal transmission and later on, in written form by the ancestor to succeeding generations. It has not prescribed final absolutes. It is a constant search for more knowledge. The Rishis and Munies have always held that Vedas are not the end of quest for knowledge. It is a non-ending process. This is what the Indian culture is.

  • Buddhism and Jainism – Both the religions, originated in India itself, have an influence of the later Vedic culture, but with certain basic differences. These religions have influenced the thought, moral and life style of Indian people. Buddhism has attracted equally the elite as well as the lower strata of Hindu society. The main contribution of Buddhism to Indian culture is an attempt to draw the attention of people towards the harsher effects of the caste system, sympathetic attitude towards lesser human beings and system of organized education. Major contribution of Jainism is the principle of non-violence.
  • Dravidian culture – After the sudden disappearance of Indus valley culture, of which the most characteristic feature was its town planning, Dravidian culture with its advanced social system, industry and trade made a mark, in the South.
  • Islamic culture– After the tenth century, under Muslim rule, Islamic culture influenced the Indian culture substantially. Its influence could be seen in the rejection of elaborate rituals and caste pretensions. It preached a simple path of faith, devotion, brotherly love and fellow-ship. With the growing political strength of Muslims, the need for mutual understanding and communal harmony gave rise to Sufi tradition of Islam and Bhakti movement of Hindus. Both these emphasized the need for mutual appreciation, tolerance and goodwill. Like Buddhism, Islam also provided an alternative to people, wishing to opt out the caste system.
  • British Culture– Eighteenth century onwards, the British culture influenced the Indian culture substantially, especially that of elite and intellectuals. Access to modern education, Western literature and philosophy gave Indians the understanding of liberal and humanitarian ideas of the West. It produced many great leaders like Dadabhai Naoroji, Ferozeshah Mehta, Gokhale, Gandhi, Jinnah, Ambedkar, Tilak, Lala Lajpat Rai, Moti Lal Nehru, Jawahar Lal Nehru, Subhash Chandra Bose, Patel and many more. The efforts of missionaries, reformers and educationists influenced the thinking of the masses. Missionaries converted many people from the lower strata to Christianity. British systems gave India political and administrative unity. Institutions like Parliament, bureaucracy, and concepts like rule of law, unified nationality, a common currency, a common Judiciary are some of the contributions of the British. They gave a new economic structure based on industrialization. The British also gave impetus to social progress and brought many reforms. The British influence on Indian minds was as discussed below:

(a)  Some people welcomed rationality and other good features of Modern English culture, but wished to remain firmly rooted to the Indian Culture. They organized people and made them aware of social evils like Sati, Polygamy, child marriage, un-touchablity and many superstitions prevalent at that time. They advised the people to eradicate the same without foreign intervention. Emphasis was laid on education and science. Brahma-Samaj, founded by Raja Ram Mohan Roy in 1928, inspired the people of Bengal, UP, Punjab, Madras and other provinces, to form similar organizations and interpret religion rationally.

(b)       Some people were so influenced by the alien culture, that they developed a complex about the primitiveness of Indian society. With the help of British rulers, Christian missionaries and religious minded Westerners like William Webberforce or Charles Grant tried to Christianize such people.

©Some reformists tried to revive their own rich ancient culture and prevent the masses from being swayed away by the glamour and materialism of alien culture. Araya Samaj (1875 onwards) founded by Swami Dayanand, asserted the superiority of Hindu Vedic culture. It gave the call for ‘Back to Vedas’, as Vedas were to them the source of all knowledge and truth. Swami Vivekanand founded the Rama Krishna Mission to reveal to the world Indian Philosophy and culture.

Two aspects of Hindu culture received a good deal of attention of the Westerners. These are: –

Ø     The Caste system and

Ø     Reluctance to convert people of other religions, on the ground that all religions are valid.

The British condemned the Caste system, but the later, they enthusiastically applauded.[vii]

Hindu, Islam and Christian religions had received substantial state patronage for sufficiently long period. This way, it could be said that the composite culture of India grew out of: –

Ø         The growth, influence and refinement of values of different religions generated within the land of India.

Ø         The creative interaction between the values of indigenous religions and religions of diverse migrating or foreign communities like Islam, Christianity, Zorastarianism etc.

The wonderful process of assimilation and fusion of different cultures has been a continuous process of the India civilization. A major cultural synthesis took place during 6th and 10th century, between Vedic Hindu culture, Buddhism and Dravidian culture. Another assimilation was seen after the 10th century, when the thinking of Arabs, Turks and Afghan, mainly guided by reason, influenced Indian thought. Sufi and Bhakti movements are examples of this. These two sects taught the people to love and respect all human beings irrespective of caste or creed. These also brought changes in the nature of mutual understanding, communal amity and accommodation. Once again, a major cultural synthesis took place during the period between18th century to 20th century, with modernization and industrialization, ushered in by the British.

All the sects present in India, whether foreign or indigenous, have been influenced greatly by Hindu thinking, practices and systems. It contributed to the cultural richness of India. Such flexibility is not seen in the West. When Christianity broke away from Judaism, it departed totally from the common cultural traditions. Therefore, it is very difficult for the Western world to understand and appreciate Indian culture fully.

(f)Administrative Diversity – After integration and merger of princely states under Indian Independence Act, 1947, India reorganized the land for administrative purposes into provinces, union territories and districts on the basis of their geographical position, linguistic status, historical developments and other considerations. According to 1991 census, there are about 452 administrative districts (excluding J&K) 19 major cities, 3949 towns and 5,80,000 villages, in 25 provinces and seven Union territories. The provinces are – Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Goa, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Manipur, Maharashtra, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Orissa, Punjab, Rajasthan, Sikkim, TamilNadu, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.[viii] The union territories are – Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Chandigarh, Dadara and Nagar Haveli, Delhi, Daman and Diu, Lakshwadweep and Pondicherry.

(g)Demographic Diversity   – Just as the landmass of India has been divided into different provinces and regions, so also the Indian people could be divided into distinct units, politically and socially.

(h)Political division of Indian population – According to 1991 census, 843.9 million people, belonging to 60 socio-cultural region and sub regions, having 12 major religions and 18 major languages, have been divided politically by the government into forward class, backward class, scheduled caste, scheduled tribe and minorities for the purposes of admission in educational institutions, employment in the government and welfare planning. The breakup of Indian population is as following [ix]: –

Sl.
Category
%
A. Scheduled castes and tribes
   
A1 Scheduled Caste 15.05
A2 Scheduled Tribe 7.51
Total A 22.56
B. Non-Hindus Communities
   
B1                                            B1 Muslims (Other than STs) 11.90
B2 Christians (Other than STs) 2.16
B3 Sikhs (Other than SCs/STs) 1.67
B4 Buddhists (Other than STs) 0.67
B5 Jains O.47
Total B 16.16
C. Forward Hindu Communities  
 
C1 Brahmins 5.52
C2 Rajputs 3.90
C3 Marathas 2.21
C4 Jats 1.00
C5 Vaishyas 1.88
C6 Kayasthas 1.07
C7 Other Hindu caste groups 2.00

Total C

17.58

Total A + B + C

56.03
D Backward communities 43.70
E 52% of the religious groups under B may be treated as OBCs  

8.40

F Approximate derived population of OBCs  

52.00

 (i) Social division –      Like religion, caste system is an integral part of Indian society. Starting with the arrival of numerous Aryan hereditary kinship and tribal groups in waves, from different parts of the world and their mixing up with the indigenous people gave birth to caste system. Caste system accommodated different groups with diverse belief and way of living, under Hinduism, and bound them into a single cultural system.   The assimilation of numerous racial, professional, immigrants, tribal and other groups into Hindu fold was done through caste-system by assigning each new group a separate caste status.

Different identities – The political and social divisions, discussed above, have given birth to a set of different identities, is as discussed below:

  • Equal Identities – Although drawn from different cultures or regions, they find themselves at the same level of acceptance in society like Tamils and Bengalis.
  • Marginal or Inferior Identities – Almost in all the traditional societies, women, old, children or immigrants are regarded as inferior. Also some sections of society were perceived as inferior in spite of constitutionally guaranteed equalities like untouchables in India.
  • Deviant Identities– The people, who reject general norms, evaluation and standards, come in this group, such as anti-social elements, drug addicts etc. They are looked down with contempt, though they are insiders to the system.
  • Hated Identities– People, seen as outsiders to the society, are sometimes hated, some-times feared such as British rulers in India. They face many problems of interaction, because of their externality.
  • Religious Identities– Believers of different faiths constitute religious identities. The different religious communities present in India could be divided into people : –

Ø belonging to faiths originated in India like Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism.

Ø Migrated to India due to persecution or oppression in their homeland like Jews, Bahai, Zoroastrians, or Tibetans.

Ø Converted to alien religion like Christianity and Islam, the religions of the conquerors.

Necessary to maintain proper balance and harmony for unity – To maintain proper balance and harmony between different sections with so many diversities and numerous identities is a delicate and a difficult task. Too much stress on identities can create problem, confusion and chaos. Situation can become more complicated, if identities are pigeonholed.

In modern times, a person can bear more than one identity at a time. The more a person enriches one’s personality; wider becomes his/her identity. Modernization, technological developments in the field of communication and transportation give added dimensions to the issue of identities.

Unity in Diversity in India

Absorptive nature of Indian culture – In spite of having so many diversities, which unite and divide the nation simultaneously, the dominant pattern that emerges in Indian history is one of accommodating different groups through assimilation and synthesis.

India has developed an atmosphere, where different identities have co-existed, generally in harmony and sometimes in rift. In its long process of evolution, each identity has been carefully nurtured and preserved. It never tried to liquidate or absorb them, artificially, into one main culture of the land. Instead, it absorbed the good points of other cultures and allowed them to flourish and contribute in enriching the composite culture of India.

The multi-centricity has given the Indian society its predominantly syncratic character, its pluralistic tradition and its absorptive nature of internalizing alien influences. Many times, there had been strife, contradictions and discords amongst different identities, so much so that, at times, India appears to be a land of contrasts. Nevertheless, most of the times, the Indian society has been able to develop an attitude of reconciliation rather than refutation, cooperation rather than confrontation and co-existence rather than mutual annihilation.[x]

Factors that Unite India – India exhibits a fascinating picture of unity in diversity. There is co-existence of varied belief, patterns and thoughts due to racial intermixing and cultural mingling. More than anywhere else in the world, it holds a multitude of thoughts, processes them and practices them. This is the reason for its being one of the oldest, continuous and uninterrupted living culture in the whole world.[xi] The factors, which keep its unity and continuity intact, are: –

  • Tolerance – The spirit of tolerance and firm belief in the principles, ‘Live and let live’ has always been the part of Indian ethos.
    • Tolerance is most evident in the field of religion. Hindu faith in an all pervading omnipresent god, multiplicity of god and goddesses as representing some portion of the infinite aspect of the Supreme Being, inspired it to accommodate people of all faiths. Hinduism concedes validity to all the religions and does not lay down strictures against any faith or reject any religion or its god as false. That is why, all the twelve major religions of the world are present and flourishing in India without any hindrance.
    • Hinduism has adopted the path of assimilation. Therefore, it does not force others to convert. It does not impose its beliefs, practices and customs on others. Hindu religion has neither repulsed any trend vehemently, nor allowed others to sweep its established culture off the roots.
  • ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ – Tolerance is not confined to religion alone. It is seen everywhere in the Indian way of life. Indians believe in ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ – the whole world is one family.
    • Truth, Ahimsa, peace and non-aggression are the hallmark of Indian culture. The people endure injustice and unfairness until they are pushed right to the wall.
    • John Fischer mentions, Even during Bengal famine, an extreme situation – when necessity knows no laws, people did not take law in their own hands, nor was there any violence. No grocery stall, no rice warehouse, none of the wealthy clubs or restaurants were ever threatened by a hungry mob… They just died with docility, which to most Americans is the most shocking thing about India.’[xii]
    • Many times in the past, Indians had accepted oppression and exploitation without much protest, while such situations, elsewhere in the world, would have led to bloody revolutions.
    • Even today, the people are tolerating the criminalization of politics, corruption, scams and scandals and inefficiency of the administration without much protest. Administration is one such area, where tolerance is harmful, as it not only hinders the development, but also pushes the nation backwards.

Pride in Heritage and value System – C. Rajgopalachari said, If there is honesty in India today, any hospitality, any charity…. any aversion to evil, any love to be good, it is due to whatever remains of the old faith and the old culture.

Indian philosophy, containing a vast reservoir of knowledge, still commands the respect and attention of an average Indian. Basham says, The Vedic literature found in Vedas, Upanishads, Sutras and Smritis contain an ocean of knowledge in a jar.[xiii] Its values give to the people, a purpose to live for and ideals to be achieved. Its Sanatan Dharma, nurtures the basic instincts of human beings over nature, after a deep study of natural instincts, inherent attributes and natural behavioral pattern and takes care of the basic physical, mental and spiritual needs of the human beings at different stages of life.

The Vedic literature is a magnificent example of scientific division and orderly arrangement of rules, in a few words, in different branches of human knowledge, covering almost all the aspects of life, be it phonetics, arts, literature, medicine, polity, metrics, law, philosophy, astrology or astronomy. The priestly schools had devised a most remarkable and effective system of transferring knowledge to succeeding generations in the form of hymns, restricting it only to those, possessing brilliant feats of memory and capability to keep extreme sanctity. Only after raising oneself from ignorance, a person could be able to understand the greatness of the Indian value system.

Like a jeweler, one could spot out gems from amongst worthless pebbles. A knowledgeable person could pick up knowledge and leave the undesired obsolete elements developed in it with passage of time. This gold mine of knowledge inspired not only Indians, but foreigners as well. Intellectuals from various countries have translated it in their own languages and reinterpreted it for a rational mind.

Principles of Dharma, Karma and Varna – The foundation pillars of the Indian civilization are the principles of Dharma, Karma and Varna. Each are discussed in details in the chapter Indian Social Structure-Caste-system and casteism. The doctrine of Dharma defines the duties and vocations for different sections of society, ensures social harmony and prevents rivalries and jealousies.

  • Doctrine of Varna gives the Indian Society a stable, sustainable social structure, which distributes and organizes performance of various functions. It has made it possible for the people to lead a quality of life and ensured the continuity despite numerous foreign invasions, migrations and assimilation of various groups.
  • Doctrine of Karma makes the inequalities, prevalent in the society, tolerable to an average Indian.

Conclusion – Many principles and cultures developed in the past, elsewhere in the world, had created such a wave that swept over the entire world for some time. An anti-wave, replacing such waves, emerged soon. It wiped off the previous influence. The Vedic culture, however, has proved to be an exception in this regard. There had been periods, when the Vedic culture became weak, especially under foreign rules. But it re-emerged every time, and whenever it re-emerged, it did not destroy other sects, it assimilated them within itself. It happened due to basic tenets of Vedic culture along with tolerance, which are very close to every Indian. These principles have contributed to the growth of the Indian society as a whole in a systematic way. It organized orderly performance of various functions needed to provide a quality of life to its people. It prepared an atmosphere for co-existence of different sections of the society – be it ruler or ruled, be it rich or poor. It served to give Indian society coherence, stability and continuity; and held together different castes and communities having diverse languages and practices for generations – thus making unity in diversity a reality.

******

[i]1 Quoted from The Tribune, dated 21.6.92, p21.

[ii]   Palikawala, We the People – The Lost Decade, p3.

[iii]3 Majumdar RC, Roy Chowdhary HC and Datta Kalikinkar, People of India, IV edition, and 1978.

[iv]   Francis SRS, Advanced General Studies, p153.

[v]   Khan, Democracy in India, p8.

[vi]   Silverra DM, India Book, p19.

[vii]   Sharma A, Hinduism of Our Times, p75.

[viii]   Four new states – Delhi, Uttrakhand, Vanachal and Jharkhand – are likely to be created in near future.

[ix]   Report of Mandal Commission, Chapter XII.

[x] Khan, Democracy in India, pp 4-5.

[xi] The other three being Egypt, Mesopotamia and Greece

[xii] John Fischer, India’s insoluble Hunger – 1947, pp 7-8.

[xiii] Basham, Wonder That Was India, p51-52.

 

January 18, 2017 Posted by | Social and political values and systems | | Leave a comment

Fusion of many cultures in India

Introduction – As India passed through various phases in the past, each and every social, political or religious group has left its influence on the composite culture of India, which has come down to the present generation in an unbroken chain of succession, with some modifications and adaptations. All the sects present in India, whether foreign or indigenous, have left their influence on its indigenous  religion – Hinduism, its thinking, practices and systems. All the religious communities present in India have also influenced the culture of India.

 Following cultures have contributed in enriching the composite culture of India : –

 The growth, influence and refinement of values of different religions generated within the land of India.

 The interaction between value-system of indigenous religions of India and religions of diverse migrating or foreign communities like Islam, Christianity, Zorastarianism etc.

Vedic Hindu Culture

Vedic Hindu Culture is one of the oldest living cultures in the world. It mainly originated and flourished in northern parts of India and later on spread throughout India. The word ‘Vedic’ is derived from the word ‘Vid’ meaning ‘Knowledge’ and signifies’ ‘knowledge par excellence’.

The Vedic culture came into being due to intermixing of the culture of Aryan with the culture of indigenous tribal people of India during 2nd century BC to 650 AD. The origin of the Vedic culture can not be traced in any single founder; neither can it be confined in one single authoritative text.

Its knowledge has been handed down from time immemorial, earlier by verbal transmission and later on, in written form by the ancestor to succeeding generations. It has not prescribed final absolutes. It is a constant search for more knowledge. Vedas are not supposed to be the end of quest for knowledge. It is a non-ending process(Neti-Neti).

The strength of Vedic culture is proved by the facts: –

 Despite centuries of foreign rule over 75% of Indian population remains Hindu.

 Had it become obsolete, it would have given place to other religions and cultures.

 It influenced almost all other religions found in India.

Buddhism and Jainism

Budhism and Jainism has influenced the thought, moral and life style of many Indians. Buddhism attracted equally the elite as well as the lower strata of Hindu society. Buddhism drew the attention of people towards the harsher effects of the caste system, sympathetic attitude towards lesser human beings and system of organised education. Major contribution of Jainism is the principle of non-violence.

Dravidian culture

After the sudden disappearance of Indus valley culture, of which the most characteristic feature was its town planning, Dravidian culture with its advanced social system, industry and trade made a mark in the South.

Islamic culture

After the tenth century, Islamic culture influenced the Indian culture substantially. Its influence could be seen in the rejection of elaborate rituals and caste pretensions. It preached a simple path of faith, devotion, brotherly love and fellowship. With the growing political strength of Muslims, the need for mutual understanding and communal harmony gave rise to Sufi tradition of Islam and Bhakti movement of Hindus. Both these emphasized the need for mutual appreciation, tolerance and goodwill. Like Buddhism, Islam also provided an alternative to people, wishing to opt out the caste system.

British Culture 

Eighteenth century onwards, the British culture influenced the Indian culture substantially, especially that of elite and intellectuals. Access to modern education, Western literature and philosophy gave Indians the understanding of liberal and humanitarian ideas of the West.

Some of the contributions of the British to India are political and administrative unity, many democratic institutions like Parliament, bureaucracy and concepts like rule of law, unified nationality, a common currency, a common Judiciary. They gave a new economic structure based on industrialization. British-rule gave an impetus to social progress and brought many reforms.

The British influence on Indian minds was as discussed below: –

  • Many reformers welcomed rationality and other good features of English culture. They advised people to interpret religion rationally and make efforts to eradicate social evils like Sati, child marriage, untouchablity etc. prevalent at that time.
  • Some people were so influenced by the alien culture, that they developed a complex about the primitiveness of Indian society.
  • Some reformists tried to revive their own rich ancient culture and prevent the masses from being swayed away by the glamour and materialism of Western culture. It gave the call for ‘Back to Vedas’.

Two aspects of Hindu culture received a good deal of attention of British: –

 The Caste system and

 Reluctance to convert people of other religions, on the ground that all religions are valid.

The British condemned the Caste system, but the later, they enthusiastically applauded. iv

Hindu, Islam and Christian religions had received substantial state patronage for sufficiently long period.

Assimilation and fusion of different cultures has been a continuous process of the India civilization. A major cultural synthesis took place during 6th and 10th century, between Vedic Hindu culture, Buddhism and Dravidian culture. Another assimilation was seen after the 10th century, when the thinking of Arabs, Turks and Afghan, mainly guided by reason, influenced Indian thought. Sufi and Bhakti movements are examples of this. These two sects taught the people to love and respect all human beings irrespective of caste or creed. These also brought changes in the nature of mutual understanding, communal amity and accommodation.

Once again, during the period between 18th century to 20th century, a major cultural synthesis took place with modernization and industrialization ushered in by the British.

Winding up

Many principles and cultures developed in the past, elsewhere in the world, had created such a wave that swept over the entire world for some time. An anti-wave, replacing such waves, emerged soon. It wiped off the previous influence. The Vedic culture, however, has proved to be an exception in this regard. There had been periods, when the Vedic culture became weak, especially under foreign rules. But it re-emerged every time, and whenever it re-emerged, it did not destroy other sects, it assimilated them within itself.

Despite of having different kinds of diversities, most of the times, the Indian society has been able to develop “an attitude of reconciliation rather than refutation, cooperation rather than confrontation and co-existence rather than mutual annihilation.”v

It has happened due to basic tenets of Vedic culture along with tolerance, which are very close to every Indian. The principles of Varna, Dharma and Karma have contributed to the growth of the Indian society as a whole in a systematic way. It has organized orderly performance of various functions needed to provide a quality of life to its people. It prepared an atmosphere for co-existence of different sections of the society – be it ruler or ruled, be it rich or poor. It served to give Indian society coherence, stability and continuity; and held together different castes and communities having diverse languages and practices for generations – thus making unity in diversity a reality.

January 13, 2017 Posted by | Social and political values and systems | Leave a comment

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