Caste-ism: Lessons for modern India

By : Shreepal Singh

We may summarize the historical realities about Caste-ism,  which are peculiar to India, thus:

  1. Varna system or caste-ism, as it is known today, has a well founded spiritual logic in its origin. Its roots are struck very deep in the public psyche even in modern India.

  2. This caste system, though originally conceived and applied in its pristine form in the remote antiquity of India for the spiritual good of the collective social life of human beings, had been long ago (also in very ancient times) completely distorted by those who had vested interests in such distortion by intentionally and artificially incorporating into it an element of acquiring and inheriting it by birth as its foundation. This distortion has turned an otherwise highly efficacious spiritual social tool into the most injurious tool of social injustice that has ever been witnessed by human history.

  3. This phenomenon of turning a virtue into a vice was very well understood, recognized so and opposed since ancient times by all the great spiritual personalities of India, without exception. The earliest example borne by records of such opposition is Lord Buddha and the latest one is Mahatma Gandhi.

  4. Despite opposition by such great Indian leaders, this vice could not be eradicated till today. Rather, in modern India, despite her egalitarian constitution that guarantees to its citizens non-discrimination on the ground of caste, the vice of caste-ism has assumed monstrous proportions. The people in India, even in the so-called modern scientific age, have become more conscious of their caste identities than in recent past. Today, political forces are being organized and State power is being secured by advancing the caste consciousness and nurturing the caste antagonism among different sections of people.

  5. In face of the facts that this vice of the caste-ism is being strengthened rather than diminished and that the relevant provisions of Indian constitution for securing caste equality have so far proved ineffective, there is imperative necessity for this country in the interest of her national survival against the twin odds of civil strife and all-round fierce competition raging globally to experiment with an alternative and better remedy than provided by her constitution to cure the ill of caste-ism..

  6. As the adage goes, ‘what cannot be cured, has to be endured,’ the system of Varna, or castes, may be accepted by the Indian constitution in order to reform it beyond recognition (much like the ancient system of Panchayat Raj that has been accepted and reformed by the Indian constitution). How could the Varna system be reformed? How would it appear in its new and reformed form?

  7. Varna system may be incorporated into the national constitution, which must have its foundation in one’s conduct. There may not be any privilege attached to any Varna, which may be restricted to classically four in number, but only social identity and accompanied social respect or disrespect attached to that Varna. Vocations of people may be categorized and assigned specific varnas and the individuals falling in a category may be assigned that particular Varna. Committing a crime should automatically degrade a person to the lowest category. Depending on one’s vocation, an individual may change his Varna, up or down, several times in one’s life.

  8. This approach needs a serious national thinking by modern India. It would steer India away from crime and social injustice, and towards virtues (which are associated with progressively higher rungs on the Varna scale) that are universally cherished by humans. It may work as a social check on the sliding down of the individual’s character and an encouragement to one’s efforts to rise up to become a better human being, and awake to the higher truth present everywhere. The reformed Varna system could provide the necessary social deterrence to stay away from vice and encouragement to cultivate virtues, which is much required by India today. Varna system could not be more benevolent than this in its effects. Indeed it was not designed to be more yielding in its effect than this even in those ancient times when it was conceived in its original for

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Stephanie Ellison
    Dec 28, 2015 @ 19:12:58

    I am with you on this. How do we make this happen?

    Like

    Reply

    • Authors of posts
      Dec 28, 2015 @ 19:31:59

      Please read the article “Castes in India: Why they were …….” The solution is indicated there, if really one wants to destroy caste-ism (and does not have ulterior motive to achieve something else in the garb of destroying caste-ism).

      Like

      Reply

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