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

Bane of Hindu Society – Casteism (2)

By Parmanand Pandey
Mahatma Gandhi’s signal contribution to annihilation of untouchability is unprecedented. Frankly speaking, no serious attempt was ever made to root out the inhuman and senseless practice of untouchability before Mahatma Gandhi. It is beyond our comprehension as from when the practice of untouchability started in the Hindu society. It is also a matter of great surprise that how the Hindu society which considers itself to be so tolerant and magnanimous think of perpetuating this sinful, outrageous and atrocious practice of untouchability?
The present generation may not even be able to imagine that how horrendous it was in nature and practice only a few decades ago. If we go by the historical books written by reformers, we find the hair-raising and heart-rending saga of the nefarious practice. It is said that untouchables were not allowed to tread or traverse on the paths that was being used by caste Hindus. If at all any untouchable thought of going on that path, he or she had to tie a broom in his or her waist from behind so that once he or she had moved on the path, it had to be swept by the broom. So much so, an untouchable was not allowed to use footwear even at the time of festivals or marriages. Untouchables were not allowed to cross the path of any caste Hindus.
If one goes by the Vedic scriptures, one finds that the classification of Hindu society was existent but there is no trace of untouchability in any scriptures at least in theory. Let it be hastened to be added that this does not mean that society as found during Vedic period was in any way the ideal one. It was vicious and rotten to say the least. It is, therefore, difficult to exculpate the Vedic literature or society for perpetrating atrocities on untouchables. In one of the texts has been ordained that if a Shudra was found to be reading Vedas or Vedic literature his tongue should be cut and if he hears it then molten glass should be poured into his ears and there was no harm if he was blinded for witnessing the Vedic rituals. The authenticity of these terrible injunctions is not very confirmed. But if one goes by other sources, one finds its authenticity is dubious. However, this does not in any way exonerates the Vedic society for its rigours against Shudras. Infact, it conducted itself in most intolerable and condemnable manner.
It is yet another enigma how four Varnas got split into thousands of castes, layer after layer, each caste and sub-case considering it superior or inferior in relation to other ones. Over the years it became so fossilized that it was an easy task for any fissiparous force to take advantage of the divisions and sub-divisions among Hindus.
This type of crime can be committed only by a race which is destined to self-destruction. It hardly needs to be said that this weakness of Hindus was the reason for their downfall. Hindus, who have been geographically associated with vast expanse of South East Asia, were defeated and humiliated number of times by the foreign aggressors. The assailants although were never very strong, intelligent or superior in arms as compared to Hindus but they were certainly more cohesive and united vis-à-vis Hindu adversaries. What is even more shocking is that even after repeated aggressions by the external forces, Hindus never realized and analyzed their weaknesses.
This actually requires dispassionate research in most objective manner as to how casteism grew and became monstrously strong. The tragedy is that it is very difficult to find objective researchers. Most of the persons who claim, rather deceptively pose themselves, to be researchers suffer from the disease of heavy jaundice and order to obtain the certificate of secularism they find the easy way of blaming one or the other caste of Hindus particularly caste Hindus.
Their (Researchers) aim is not to root-out the evils but to further perpetuate it by arraigning one section against other and in the process further weaken or divide the Hindus. The need is to annihilate caste with roots and branches. But how to achieve the goal is most pertinent question and is to be seriously pondered over.
 (This article was written on April 13, 2013 and posted at: Life and Law)

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