Indian Caste System (ICS): A Status Report

The Caucasians, Meditterians, Africans, Native Munda Tribes of India interminagled to produce the complex human genetic landscape of India. Early Caucasian racists mingled their ideas with Jain and Buddhist traders to produce the sophisticated ICS we see today. The ICS has been constantly been challenged from within and has evolved by making constant adjustments up and down within the hierarchy. It is through these minor adjustments that the ICS has remained strong and vibrant. The ICS is very much part of Indian culture within not only the group of Hindu religions but also Christianity, Islam and Jainism. However, the ICS penetration into Sikh religion and the tribal regions of India is pretty weak. The penetration of ICS into Sri Lankan and Burmese Buddhism is also very weak.

The first people in India to benefit from the British education system were the Brahmins and their resentment against British for being caste agnostic made the Brahmins revolt. However, the same culture that over threw feudal system in Europe opened the British education system to non-Brahmin castes, like in the case of Dr. Ambedkar. Through Ambedkar’s work we find the first academic challenge to the ICS. The next big challenge came from Periyar’s Dravidian¬† rationalist movement, which till today has been providing a substantial challenge to the ICS from Tamil Nadu.

The next big challenge to the ICS came from the implementation of Mandal commission report in 1993 and the rise to power of lower castes in Uttar Pradesh, where the two backward caste parties Samajwadi Party (Yadav caste) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (Dalits) alliance formed the government. The ICS heartland of India, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar were now being challenged from inside by lower castes. The political landscape of India has since then has changed, with a consequence that from then onwards, even the extreme right wing parties like the BJP also had to propose backward caste candidates for the post of Chief Minister, Kalyan Singh in UP, Yedurappa in Karnataka, Uma Bharati in Madhya Pradesh, and Narendra Modi in Gujarat.

Just as the rise to power of Nelson Mandela contributed very little in substance to empowerment of Africans in South Africa, the rise to power of the lower caste in India has contributed very little in substance to their empowerment. In fact, such cosmetic empowerment provides an excuse for postponing the implementation of reservation in government offices based on actual numbers. Quantitative changes are more important in a democracy than small cosmetic gestures. Only such substantial changes can move India forward to a modern democratic process that transformed Europe in 1800s, Russia and China in 1900s. Will the Indian subcontinent follow them in the 2000s to the modern democratic era or will it regress to fascism as in Germany, that is the big question?

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