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The Indian Caste System

The origin of the caste system that introduced social injustice in India is difficult to trace. But its roots in religion are quiet indisputable. The Hindu scriptures bear references to the caste system and it is often assumed that class distinctions are an offshoot of Hinduism. However some of the other religions practiced in India like Islam and Christianity also follow a caste based distinction of believers.

In days gone by, people were segregated into groups based on traditional occupations and this led to the formation of four main castes, the Brahmins who took up intellectual and spiritual roles, the Vaishyas who were into trading and commerce, the Kshatriyas who were rulers and warriors and the Shudras who formed the skilled work force. There was also one class of people under this system designated to perform menial duties like scavenging and removing dead bodies. This group of Indians along with nomads, tribal dwellers and foreigners were unequally treated and called the “untouchables”. Members of higher caste groups considered it impure to interact with the untouchables and would not allow even their shadow to fall on them. The untouchables stayed outside villages and had no access to common wells and other sources of water. They also had no right to worship at temples and were severely humiliated by the upper caste groups.

The caste system and its ramifications were accentuated during the British rule that lasted for several decades in India. Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of the Indian nation who later won freedom for the country from the colonial rulers called the untouchables as “Harijans” meaning “children of God” and worked towards their emancipation. Since then, the Indian caste system has undergone a great many modifications, yet continues to exist.

Since Independence, the Indian caste groups have been divided into three categories based on their backwardness. Every state has a community list to segregate people into scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and backward classes. Special privileges are given to members of these backward communities for education and employment and untouchabilty is now considered a sin in India.

In spite of these measures to promote equality, the reservation policy that endorses the well being of backward communities has its own limitations. This system has reduced opportunities available to higher classes and so created a different kind of inequality. The merits of the individual have not been appropriately considered under the reservation policy. Caste based clashes are still heard of frequently though the magnitude of these attacks is less now. Consequently the caste system continues to be a vicious circle engulfing India and has proved to be a curse on Indian Culture.

Here are a couple of books on the Indian Caste system for further reading.

Buy Dalit And Indian Caste System from Flipkart.com

Buy Evils Of The Caste System from Flipkart.com

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