Many of you might have heard about the caste system of India. Sadly yes, it is true that India has a caste based society. Though the castes are usually linked to Hindus but almost all religion in India are affected with it.
Caste system (जाति व्यवस्था – Jati Vyavastha) is one of the greatest evil of Indian society (भारतीय समाज - Bhartiya Samaaj). This system is over 3000 year old social stratification (विभाजन – Vibhaajan) system of the Indian society. In many ways, this system is the best example of severe social discrimination (भेदभाव – Bhedbhaav) as well as exploitation of a class (वर्ग – Varg) by other classes in a multi-class society. The discrimination was such severe that people from one class (upper caste) would not touch the people from another class (lower caste). These people of lower caste are usually termed as अछूत (Achut- Untouchable). Under constitutional laws such discrimination is illegal and punishable under law. However, such system does exist in present Indian society though the discrimination is not as severe as it used to be some 65 years ago, when the constitution of Independent India gave equal rights to each and every citizen of India.
But how such discriminatory system came into existence?
The caste system has its origin in the ऋग्वेद (Rig Ved), one of the oldest scripture of Hinduism. It describes these social classes which are called वर्ण (Varn). There is four basic varnas in the Indian society which are:
1. ब्राह्मण – Brahman – Priests, Teachers, etc
2. क्षत्रिय – Kshatriyas – Warriors
3. वैश्य – Vaishyas – Traders, Farmers etc
4. शूद्र – Shudras – Workmen
It was assumed that the Brahmin (Upper caste) will perform the task like rituals, teaching, etc. The Kshatriyas will perform the duty related to warfare. The Vaishyas will take care of economy. The Shudras will help above 3 castes. The system was a representative as to how the society should work. At some point of time, the 5th class was also added into the society which consist of out-caste (Chandala – banish from the society). The 4th and 5th class together make so called the lower caste.
In the same scriptures which talk about the classes also mention clearly that every person is born as शूद्र (Shudra) and based on this his education as well as occupation, he or she will elevates to any of four classes. However, at some of time, the system was made closed and the classes would be made hereditary. This is the point where the problem of caste based discrimination and exploitation started. Since then it has robbed the aspiration and potential of millions of people by forcing a non-voluntarily enslavement onto them.
To tackle this menace, soon after the independence of India in 1947, the Indian government has implemented the laws which give the equal status to every citizen (नागरिक – Naagrik) of India and at the same time, recognized the social stratification of Indian society. Commission as well as law has been passed and implemented for the welfare (कल्याण – Kalyaan) as well as protection against the caste based discrimination respectively. B. R. Ambedkar, a lower caste himself, from India is considered a pioneer in the field of uplifting the lives of Untouchables. He also wrote the constitution of India and envisaged the above-mentioned laws. The law has empowered the people from the lower caste to stand equal in social, academic and political sphere.
It was assumed that the laws will eradicate the caste system. But did it actually solve the problem? What about the mindset of present Indian society about the caste system? Have people mindset changed over the 65 years of Indian Independence? Why the issue related to Untouchables, the lower caste still clouds Indian society?
If you will ask any Indian about it, many will humbly accept it while claiming that the problem has been solved to greater extend with the present generation and the masses in urban cities. However, the matrimonial pages on each and every newspaper (समाचार – पत्र – Samaachar-Patr) will falsify such claims where people specify their caste and looking the partners with same caste as an inter-caste marriage (विवाह – Vivaah) is not allowed by the Caste based Indian society. News of atrocity (क्रूरता – Krurta) against the lower caste mass are quite common.
In my opinion, the caste based society has no relevance in the present time and because of its discriminatory conduct. Every person has a potential and every society must nourish it to evolve into a developed and civilized society.