Caste System in India
India is a country located in Southern Asia that has very attractive features. It is the second most populous nation in the entire world. Politically, India is one of the largest democratic countries of the world. Despite India’s striking features, it has a controversial culture of the caste system. Moreover, discrimination in terms of ranks is a rampant practice in the nation and has been the primary cause of disharmony. The caste system is one of the leading causes of stagnation in development and a loophole for political mass deception. What is worse, people are obliged to belong to classes where they were born, i.e. there are closed ranks. For this reason, the caste system should be abolished in the republic of India.
Notably, Indian culture comprises various traditions amalgamating together to give one rich culture. Primary cultural practices include religious practices that entail Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, etc. Another important phenomenon is the caste system in India where there is rampant discrimination on the basis of a class of birth (Beteille, 1965). Besides, Indian cuisine forms an important aspect of Indian culture whereby people eat the food with fingers. Indian art and architecture also add up to the rich culture. Additionally, customs and celebrations play a significant role in augmenting the tradition. Furthermore, there are holidays that include the Diwali festival and a five-day festival known as the festival of lights. Lastly, the caste system remains an integral part of Indian culture and has been alive to date.
Politically, India is one of the populous democracies of the world. However, its politics has lots of corruption allegations and discriminations on the basis of caste, sex, and even religion. Going back to contemporary India, the caste system seems to have made immense contributions to shaping the political dynamics. Caste system entails stratifications on the basis of classes known as Varnas, which are hierarchical (Deshpande, 2010); Brahmans are at the top of the hierarchy. Brahmans were mainly priests and scholars. Kshatriyas came in second to Brahmans and they were politicians and soldiers. Third in the hierarchy were Vaishyas who were the merchants. Fourth in the hierarchy were Shudras who were laborers, peasants, artisans, and servants. Last in the hierarchy were Pariahs or Harijans who were the untouchables.
Apparently, caste is a form of differentiation in India that in itself is not bad. It becomes wrong when discrimination becomes a part and parcel of the rank such that dimensions overlap one another. The practice has become a problem in India when there appeared outright biases on the basis of ranks in distribution of resources like wealth, power, prestige, and income. The caste system in India is a closed system and thus poses a barrier to progress to those born in lower ranks (Bouglé, 1971). Markedly, associations between people of different classes are prohibited as well. As such, caste system is retrogressive to Indian unity.
The culture of the caste system has given way to a division that affects development of democracy to date. The system is working politically, but is not feasible in the socioeconomic realm. In trying to formulate policies on equality, the problem of castes emerges. Though, there seems to be a radical transition in the caste system, especially in urban areas of India (Srinivas, 1995).
Castes play a crucial role in Indian wedding culture. A wedding remains limited to members of the same class and family members have a mandate to prepare and organize for the marriage. This culture significantly hampers unity in India and limits the degree of association. Moreover, the caste culture limits people from interacting and getting exposure to new ideas since social mixing is not possible (Bouglé, 1971). Therefore, the nation’s aim of uniting its citizens remains a great challenge to attain. Therefore, the Indian wedding culture slackens the pace of development in the country. For instance, if one is poor and from a lower class, \he would seek a needy spouse from the same class, thus perpetuating poverty. This culture entirely remains divisive and is thwarting the government’s initiatives on uniting the country.
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The caste culture is still retrogressive in the sense that it continues to widen the gap between the rich and the poor in India. Despite the government’s attempt to bridge the gap, the culture continues to pose a barrier for the policies due to class-limited aspirations of individuals being restricted to their caste of birth (Srinivas, 1995). Therefore, stratification is oppressive, in a way leading to a widening gap between the poor and the wealthy. Notably, the rich become richer while the nation’s poor become poorer even more inadequately.
The rigidity on predetermining choices according to the hierarchy continues to hinder progress made in freedom of choice and education for all in India. This limitation of growth and development to those born in lower castes hugely hampers development progress in the country. The majority of the Indian population is in the lower class and thus languish in abject poverty (Bouglé, 1971). Furthermore, the government’s attempt to reserve slots for lower class citizens faces a challenge. The barrier is because the majority of the lower class citizens is yet to attain minimum thresholds.
Discrimination is rampant due to the caste system in India. There is outright discrimination against those in the lower hierarchy, thus rendering most people backward. Therefore, the country’s per capita income remains small (Beteille, 1965). The myth of caste loyalty is etched in the minds of Indians and many people are not conscious of their rights and do not strive to improve their situation. Therefore, one believes in suffering in order to be born in higher castes in the afterlife as a reward for loyal service. Surprisingly, most Indians in lower ranks rarely complain about their positions and are devoid of self-belief. The complacency is a major setback to the nation’s achievements as most citizens are reluctant to embrace civilization, thus stagnating the pace of development initiatives (Srinivas, 1995). The idea is that living a virtuous life guarantees birth into a higher caste in a subsequent life. This tendency encourages complacency and lazy citizenship that is less productive in the country and stagnates development initiatives.
Similarly, the caste system continues to affect India’s political climate to date. Historically, political leaders were the Kshatriyas who were second in ranking to the Brahmans. Besides being the second, the Kshatriyas were limited to politics and by extension soldiers (Deshpande, 2010). The categorization meant that people from other castes could not become politicians. This seclusion is dictatorial and hinders democracy of India that aspires to give every citizen a chance at vying for leadership positions. Caste system denies the nation’s leadership that have greater talents from other hierarchies (Dirks, 2011). To date, favoritism is rampant on the basis of one’s place of birth and family. Besides, people from higher ranks tend to have wealth and this gives them a competitive edge in politics in that they can buy votes since the electorate is subject to manipulation. Divisions that the politicians perpetuate hinder government efforts to have unity in the country.
Another political aspect of the caste system is evident in India, especially in the designing of the British rule. The British came up with modern stratifications so as to contain any revolts. Therefore, colonialists got into an alliance with landlords in India and maintained the caste structure (Beteille, 1965l). As a result, the class structure continues to exist even today. The struggle of the Communist party of India against the caste system from 1930 to 1968 made a difference, but did not succeed in eradicating the caste system. Lack of a strong and powerful agrarian movement was the cause of failure in the quest to destroy the caste system under the British rule in India. The bourgeois leadership had a compromising attitude that could not eliminate atrocities and caste oppressions. Numerous loopholes have given the caste system a lifeline and it still exists to date.
Social Reform Movement against the caste system advocated against injustice, exploitation, untruth, etc. The anti-caste movement was crucial in improving awareness on caste exploitations, but could not exterminate the system due to incapacity to mobilize the peasantry to form an agrarian revolution (Beteille, 1965). Social movements had the desire to attain freedom, but did not succeed in eradicating the caste system. This failure is because movements could not mobilize and unite citizens to form a powerful force against the oppressive system. As such, citizens remain under oppression under the caste system.
In post-independent India, the Indian bourgeoisie made compromises in order to retain power. They did not strive to get rid of the caste system, but instead perpetuated relations with imperialists and landlords (Deshpande, 2010). The arrangement catered for their selfish interests, thus attempting to superimpose capitalism. Notably, the parliamentary system in post-independent India was based on electoral regimes. Besides, the parliamentary democracy in India reinforces stratification on the basis of choosing candidates and candidates’ appeal to voters. Caste’s persistence is visible in the conduct of the ruling class in the parliament (Dirks, 2011). They adamantly refuse to accept a suggestion of introduction of proportional representation by the Communist Party of India (Deshpande, 2010). The mentioned move could abolish voting individuals on the basis of religion, class, or community and shift focus to voting for the party instead.
Collaboration between the Indian bourgeoisie and landlords continues to pose a barrier to attainment of a complete democratic revolution and sustains the caste system to date. Lack of mobilization of people to form a strong front has been elusive to modern day leaders of the Indian republic (Deshpande, 2010). Thus, perpetuation of class discrimination is still visible as the right diagnosis continues to be elusive, thus hampering development initiatives to improve living standards for all in the country.
Conspicuously, the political class in India endeavors to find solutions for the caste problem, which continues to affect the nation negatively. Similarly, introduction of positive discrimination is an attempt to redress outright discrimination of the caste system over the years. Reservations made for the backward class in terms of jobs and education culminate into another problem with the upper class and further brings a new issue (Srnivas, 1995). Notably, the endeavor seems to bring significant reforms and is worth sustaining as the political statehood continues to seek a lasting solution (Deshpande, 2010). Concessions are just but one way of resolving the caste problem, which has deep roots in the country. Reservations for the Scheduled Castes (SC), Scheduled Tribes (ST), and Other Backward Classes (OBC) have many critics. As a result, many believe that the practice stagnates Indian development since it is still a different form of division. Additionally, critics say that jobs distribution is not of merit and, therefore, the pace of development lacks in the country. The positive discrimination approach continues to cause tension, especially with the upper class who feels left out. Conversely, lower class citizens see the act as pitting toilers to struggle among themselves for fewer slots reserved for them (Dirks, 2011). In a sense, reservations fall short of addressing the caste problem and create other problems as well.
Noticeably, very little has been achieved in terms of development in India since independence. This fact arouses consciousness of the oppressed class that continues to raise tension. The present day political leadership is taking advantage of growing tensions and strives to turn the situation into politics (Dirks, 2011). They endeavor to separate the growing consciousness of the Dalits from the Backward castes so as to reap political fortunes. Their primary goal is to appease lower-class citizens, but not commit to attaining a lasting solution to their problems. Apparently, they scheme to secure a voting block from oppressed citizens. In the end, a clear-cut distinction is imminent and ther is no unity of purpose on the part of lower class citizens.
Shockingly, the appeal of the caste leadership is not to strengthen the unity of purpose of transforming the pathetic situation of the socioeconomic system. Notably, the appeal is to retain power and to elect their brethren to high political positions. The overall result is duality of the social consciousness in the handling of the struggle against modern day class exploitation that is separate from the fight against social oppression (Dirks, 2011). This separation weakens the unity of purpose, thus sustaining caste system to the benefit of the leadership that continues to abuse power. As a result, lower class citizens remain behind in terms of development way below the country’s level.
Communists aspire to change the dynamics of power by integrating the struggle against social oppression with the fight against class exploitation. This change may agitate for better economic policies and ensure development of all citizens and thus the country as a whole (Deshpande, 2010). Conversely, a number of caste leaders object to such motives as fulfillment of such integrations would destroy their political interests. Their bargaining and political maneuvers would receive a big blow. The communist movement has been vocal in fighting against all kinds of oppressions and has insisted that reservations are not enough. Recently, the communists’ push for expansion of affirmative action policies in the private sector has met huge resistance. Politics in India has perpetuated the caste system and oppression of lower class citizens (Dirks, 2011). Politics also prevents attainment of desirable means or policies that can address the problem of the caste system in India.
It is vital to note that as much as the government aspires to employ an inclusive approach to addressing the caste problem, it is not enough for much is to do with revolutionizing the human mind. An inclusive human being is more capable, more efficient, more balanced, and more productive to the nation. Notably, the caste system has been dwindling in urban areas of India and this evidence alone attests to the fact that the caste system is retrogressive (Dirks, 2011). This reduction in the caste influence is because urban centers are more developed when compared to rural areas where the caste system is the order of the day due to the globalization effect.
From the ongoing discussion, it is imperative to note that the caste system has perpetuated the impunity in the republic of India. Markedly, the gap between the rich and the poor is on the increase while politics has become a dirty game. Similarly, there is more division and tension is rife in the country. Ultimately, the caste system is discriminating and retrogressive and, therefore, it has no place in the modern world. For the development progress of the republic of India, it is imperative to understand the socio-cultural impact and design peaceful ways of abolishing the caste system.
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Beteille, A. (1965). Caste, class, and power: Changing patterns of stratification in a Tanjore village. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
Bouglé, C. C. A. (1971). Essays on the caste system. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Deshpande, M. S. (2010). History of the Indian caste system and its impact on India today. San Luis Obispo, CA: California Polythechnic State University.
Dirks, N. B. (2011). Castes of mind: Colonialism and the making of modern India. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Srinivas, M. N. (1995). Social change in modern India. New Delhi: Orient Blackswan.