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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Hurdle in the development of India: CASTEISM

Caste (social), rigid social system in which a social hierarchy is maintained generation after generation. The term is often applied to one of the five hereditary classes established among the Hindus on the Indian subcontinent.
According to the ancient sacred literature of India, Aryan priest-lawmakers defined the caste system, placing their own priestly class at the head of the system with the title of earthly gods, or Brahmans. Next in rank were the warriors, the
Aryan. The next is the Vaisyas, the farmers and merchants. The fourth of the original castes was the Sudras, the laborers. Entirely outside the social order and limited to doing the most unappealing tasks were those people of no caste, the Harijans or Untouchables. This last caste was eventually abolished by a separate clause in India's constitution. The four original castes have been subdivided again and again over many centuries, until today it is impossible to tell their exact number.

It is accordance to the ancient Hindu scriptures that there are four ‘Varnas’. In the Bhagavad Gita the varnes are decided on the basis of Guna and Karma. The four varnas as per the Manusmriti are Brahmins–teachers, scholars and the priests–the Kshatriyas–kings and warriors–the Vaishyas–agriculturists, artisans and the traders–and the Shudras–service providers or labours.

This theoretical system postulated Varna categories as ideals and explained away the reality of thousands of endogamous Jātis actually prevailing in the country as being the result of historical mixing among the "pure" Varnas - Varna Sankara. All those, including foreigners, tribals and nomads, who did not subscribe to the norms of the Hindu society were contagious and untouchables. Another group excluded from the main society was called Parjanya or Antyaja. This group of former "untouchables" (self described now as Dalits) i.e. downtrodden, was considered either the lower section of Shudras or outside the Varna system altogether. Passages from scriptures such as Manusmriti indicate that the varna system was originally non-hereditary.

Although many Hindu scriptures contain passages that can be interpreted to sanction the caste system, they also contain indications that the caste system is not an essential part of Hinduism. The Vedas hardly place any importance on the caste system, mentioning caste only once (in the Purush Sukta) out of tens of thousands of verses. Most vedic scholars believe even this to be a subsequent and artificial insertion. In fact, none other than B. R. Ambedkar concluded after a thorough study that this is a much later interpolation and gave strong scholarly evidence to support his conclusion. In the Vedic period, there was no prohibition against the Shudras listening to the Vedas or participating in any religious rite.

In Early Evidence for Caste in South IndiaGeorge L. Hart stated that "the earliest Tamil texts show the existence of what seems definitely to be caste, but which antedates the Brahmins and the Hindu orthodoxy". He believes that the origins of the caste system can be seen in the "belief system that developed with the agricultural civilization", and was later profoundly influenced by "the Brahmins and the Brahmanical religion". These early Tamil texts also outline the concept of equality. Saint Valluvar has stated "pirapokkum ella uyirkkum", which means "all are equal at birth". Likewise, Saint Auvaiyaar has stated that there are only two castes in the world: those who contribute positively and those who contribute negatively. From these, it can be inferred that the caste system is more of a socio-economic class system.
The Indian caste system includes rigid, hereditary membership in the caste into which one is born, the practice of marrying only members of the same caste, restrictions on the choice of occupation, and restrictions on personal contact with members of other castes. The caste system was made a part of Hindu religious law. The stringency of the caste system of the Hindus broke down greatly during the period of British rule in India. Later, further reform of unjust social and economic aspects of the system were made. It was Jyotiba Phule, Dr B. R. Ambedkar who played the major role in the fight against casteism.

The caste war in india has been for thousands of years and the untouchables have been facing the music for a quite long of time now. Though born in the same religion still the Shudras of the untouchables were not allowed to listen to the scriptures and if by chance they heard a word for it the punishment was to pour boiling oil into their years. It some states of India the shudra were to carry a broom tied to his waist indicating the common people to keep aloof. Though, created from the same God still kept on distance from the people.

The atrocities manifested on the untouchables were so cruel that they were made to lead the life of animals. In the villages, the people of the lower caste are not allowed to collect water from the wells, not allowed to sit with the people of the other caste, etc. they have to do all the menial jobs which the people of the other castes find below their dignity. It was the effort of the father of the nation Mahatma Gandhi who started the revolution and gave the name to the untouchables as ‘Harijan’. Harijan is a word of Hindi–the native Indian language– created from the combination of two words—Hari–name of God–and–Jan—the people. The people in India have been fighting this division in the society from time unknown but the situation happens to be the same as it was.

Since the independence to disrespect a person on the basis of caste, creed, colour, etc has become a punishable offence. The people of the lower castes are given privileges in education, jobs in order to help them to come at par with the common people. Still the bridging of the common people is a long way to go.

The system of castes in India is a blot on a person not by the circumstances which are beyond his control—birth. Unlike the caste system in east Africa–Masai–which is on the basis of age group, in Australia–Aborigines–on the basis of genealogical descent and among the European royalty on the economic and social status. In India one born in a particular caste has to follow the caste norms strictly and no matter what one achieves in life still he/she has to maintain the social guides created for the particular caste.

Many have been voicing against the atrocities against the lower castes but the situation remains the same.

The book–End Of Casteism–is the testimony of the atrocities being done on the people of the lower caste in southern India. The author of the book T.M Mani has penned the life of the dalits in India and the inhuman treatment which they are to face even after 60 years of independence. The book is a vivid description of the lives of the downtrodden, who are made to lead the life of mere animals or sometimes worst than them. It is a first hand experience of the life which the dalits lead as T. M Mani was one of them before converting to Islam for which he says that in Islam the treatment is a equal and castes has no limitations in this religion. The book contains the struggle of the author since the age of 12 till the age of 64. The author who is a veteran dalit leader has nicely portrait the circumstance which made him a struggler. The description in the book regarding the various sections of the dalits in southern India bifurcated on the basis of their work has nicely carried on. T M Mani has been working in about 90 villages in order to make people realize that all are born equal and there should not be any discrimation on the basis of caste.

In his book the author has described his struggle against the vicious caste system of India and his struggle to break the bonds. Reading through the book the reader can find the reality which has been hidden by the camouflaged slogan of developing India. The cities may have been to some extent cleared from the caste war but the villages are still the worst ones to eye this inhuman and heart sinking acts.

On the eve of book release many renowned guests delivered their reaction. Prof. Z M Khan said, “The book is the combination of experiences with the struggle”. Further on the topice he said, “The book is a description on the life which the dalits are made to lead even today and the problems which they face in their day to day life. It describes that escape from the live below the dignity of an animal at many places is a very difficult gesture. The book seconds to the theory of Dr Ambedkar—change of place or change of religion is the only remedy for a life of equality”. He finally concluded on the statement, “No philosophy flourishes until you provide environment to it”. On the occasion Mr. Ausaf Ahmed said, “The book starts with the description of a night where four people are drenching in rain but they cannot find shelter as they are from the lower caste. In the other chapter people of the lower castes are looking for food and licking the leaves which are in the dustbin left over by the higher caste after food. Not only this, the people of lower caste are not allowed to move freely whereas the animals are beyond any restrictions on their movement. The book has the description of the six generations of the author who were subjected to the authorities of the upper caste”.

M. Ghulam Muhammad, publisher of the book and the owner of Vergal Publication said, “The book has been appreciated by many since its first edition in Tamil language. The University of Madras has taken the book for the research purpose. This book is the autobiography of the author depicting his struggle for years down line on war against the ill-treatment at the hands of the upper caste”. He also added that the demand of the book has made him print it in English and the further more he is planning to translate this book into Hindi and Urdu.

Bhai Tej Singh the president of Ambedkar Samaj Party said, “Even in the independent India it is shocking to read that the people of the lower castes are not given the equal rights as compare to upper caste Hindus. The atrocities perpetrated on the people of the lower caste are heinous and painful even when we have the fundamental rights in our constitution which say that all have right to life”.

India has progressed in the sphere of science and technology, education, economic, etc but the lives of the natives if still the same at some places and on has to take the initiative to eradicate this evil for the roots of India. After independence when a person asked Dr Ambedkar that he is always talking on the topic of dalits and their uplifting, why is he not advocating other issues he replied, “There are many issues in India, I have take only one of it and has left others for the other people to handle”. Till date the issue of casteism is in the blood of India and the people of the lower castes are treated badly.

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