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Casteless , caste-ridden and caste-system based society

Some people hold ‘caste-ridden Indian society’ responsible for miseries and exploitation of millions of downtroddens. Therefore wish to change it .....




  #1  
11-05-2008
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Arrow Casteless , caste-ridden and caste-system based society


Some people hold ‘caste-ridden Indian society’ responsible for miseries and exploitation of millions of downtroddens. Therefore wish to change it into casteless society. For creating a casteless society, new forms of cooperation and support-systems have to be cultivated. However, so far they have not suggested any alternative scheme to substitute it. Also Indians are not sure of new systems and are reluctant to abandon this institutions of proven value. Total elimination of caste seems to be a distant dream.


Creation of a classless society is not the solution for deprivation on downtrodden. Solution lies in solving its root causes - issues like poverty, illiteracy, population-explosion, mass-scale unemployment. Usually Power rests with those having either physical strength or wealth or knowledge. Knowledge brings in both force and wealth. Therefore education for all is a must.


There is difference between ‘caste-system’ and ‘casteism’. Unchecked growth of casteism due to ‘politicisation of caste’ has to be arrested at its earliest. Different groups emerge naturally in every society out of functional necessity. Every society, anywhere in the world, has always been and is still classified. Basis of stratification may be class, caste, religion, region, language or occupation. Each society devises its own principles for statification for its sustainable development as well as for taking care of the interests of its people.


Western societies are stratified on basis of class. Its focus is on individual. Individuals of same economic and cultural level form one social group/class. Social status of a person depends on material success and control over power/authority. Wealthy class usually rules over poor classes in societies formed on class basis. In India stratification begins with a social group, called caste. It consists of individuals having similar thinking, customs, language, style of living, or occupation. Rules of endogamy, ritual purity, interdependence, specialisation and hierarchical order of social units were its important traits. It separates wealth from status, power from authority and knowledge from temptations of worldly comforts. All individuals within a caste group – irrespective of ones financial position – are equal having similar rank, rights and duties.



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  #2  
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Arrow Casteless , caste-ridden and caste-system based society

Different castes were ranked in social hierarchy on basis of their being ritually clean or unclean, nature and social relevance of their work, contribution of their activities for social subsistence, training required to perform their duties well and amount of self restraint/self discipline, they exercised. The system clearly specified duties, privileges and restrictions of each role separately and managed their relationship with each other and encouraged self-discipline, self-control and self-direction.Sreess on one’s responsibilities/duties rather than on rights, combined with principle of inter- dependence provided its own system of checks and balances over arbitrary use of one’s authority and led to automatic decentralization of authority in the past.


Change one must. Past should not be idolized. Any system, which in light of modern times appears to be ineffective or inefficient should be replaced by a better one. But it will be suicidal to sacrifice something to an increasing passion for change. Changes must be based on constant interpretation of past experiences and opinions.


Many intellectuals and social reformers regard that in its purest form, Varna system followed by caste system, was one of the most scientific social systems ever evolved anywhere in the world. It is based on the principle and a vision of an organic society. Society as an organic body needs services of all its constituents equally. All participating members are independent, yet their roles complementary. Key to understand the system is not in seeing it as a framework of hierarchical layers of social order, each fitting neatly below other, but as a series of vertical parallels, each part doing a particular function. All are equally important and indispensabe, need equal attention and care for balanced growth of the whole system. Co-ordinated functioning of all parts together keeps whole system fit and alive.


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  #3  
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Arrow Casteless , caste-ridden and caste-system based society

What philosophers of ancient times like Plato and Aristotle dreamt, ancient India experienced it in real life. Stratification in their ideal society was quite similar to Varna’ system, followed by caste system. Plato had divided its ‘ideal society’ into four groups according to the aptitute, assigned jobs accordingly and did ranking in following order -
  • Philosopher Kings” (Brahmins of Varna system) having intellectual acumen for perforing intellectual work and setting norms society.
  • Army men” (Kshatriyas of Varna system) - Warrior to protect nation from invasions and maintain law & order within country.
  • Business Community” (Vaishyas of Varna system) - To do transactions and,
  • Slaves” (Shudras of Varna system) - To serve the above three groups.
Almost all principles of a good organisation are found in caste system. It provides strong structure based on principles of ‘Varna, Dharma and Karma”, keeps its members comfortable and satisfied, assigns duties to different sections of society according to their natural instincts and qualities and instills amongst people feeling of interdependence and team-spirit etc. Caste-system believes in lofty principles like “Vasudhaiv Kutumbkam” (whole world is one family), “live and let live”, “Self restraint”, “automatic checks and balances” “division of labour” along with “to each according to his needs and from each according to his capacity” etc. etc.
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  #4  
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Caste system is a natural response of mixing up into a single cultural system of numerous social multi-ethnic groups, coming from different parts of the world at different point of time in waves, with indigenous people of the land. Beauty of caste system lies in the way, it provided a mechanism to assimilate numerous social groups into its mainstream, be it immigrants, locals, tribal, professionals or other groups.It assigned each incoming group a seperate caste identity. Society remained stable, while offering a place to a new community. The system neither disturbed its existing internal social order nor prevented any new group to join it.


Without any conversion, caste system made new groups its integral part. It never tried to annihilate their faith, originality, internal order, customs, culture or language.Instead, it gave them freedom to prosper/change according to their internal rhythm.


For over 2000 years, Varnas remained the same, never more or less than four. Their order in precedence remained the same.iAs far as castes were concerned, from time to time, they rose and fell in their social order, some died out and new ones were formed. First faint trace of caste may have been found in later Vedic literature. around 5th century AD, many traders were organised into guilds in which, some authorities have seen origin of commercial castes. These can be called castes in making. Even up to 7th century AD, people showed no clear knowledge of the existence of castes. Huan Tsang, in Seventh century was well aware of the existence of Varna, but not of castes.Instead of Varna, caste became a dominant factor afterwards, a natural unit of Hindu society, running through the entire fabric of its social structure.
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  #5  
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Arrow Casteless , caste-ridden and caste-system based society

It took different shades and meaning with changing times and places. Once changed, the system never returned to its original form. Its adaptability and absorbtive naturehas saved it by erosion from within and assault from outside.Its character during Indus Valley Civilization was altogether different from what exists today. It is still in a transient phase. It is different in context of village, locality, region or religion. It has not become obsolete so far despite all its weaknesses, otherwise it would have given place to other systems.


Caste-system worked so well and efficiently in ancient India that when the world was passing through Dark Age, India was full of light. First few centuries are recognized as the golden period of Indian history. Caste system had wisely organised all activities of society properly. Decentralized self-regulated systems managed various activities in social, intellectual, political, and economic life and controlled its malfunctioning or disfunctioning. The system encouraged self-discipline, self-control and self-direction. During this period, arts, commerce, crafts, philosophy and knowledge flourished magnificently.Its people reached a high level of intelligence having specialization in different areas. Many travelers visiting India, from alien lands at different points of time, confirmed that ancient India possessed huge wealth, knowledge, and quality of life. It was a cheerful land.


During medivial India, caste system was a major force for failure of Islam, Christianity and other religions to make headway even after mass conversion. Through it, Hindus could retain their cultural identity, while living under alien rule, whether it was of Mughals, Portuguese or British. It acted as a shield, which helped people to forget and rise above their racial clanship, tribal and similar biological groupings of society and accept a workable arrangement of social existence based on cultural hierarchy and occupational self-government.
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  #6  
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Arrow Casteless , caste-ridden and caste-system based society

British rulers made caste and community tools for Indians to fight amongst themselves. They redefined caste-system and politicized it according to their administrative convenience. On surface, everything appeared fine, but in reality different communities were divided on the ground of race, religion, caste, creed, or place. British Raj spread its Empire and perpetuated its rule by taking the path of discrimination and adopting policy of ‘divide and rule’ through -


i Start of ‘Census operations’ - which instigated caste consciousness and caste animosities. Middleton, a Census Superintendent remarked, We pigeonholed everyone by caste and community. We deplore its effect on social and economic problems. But we are largely responsible for the system…Our land records and official documents have added iron-bonds to the old rigidity of caste…. The government’s act for labels and pigeon-holes had led to a crystallization of the caste system, which, except amongst the aristocratic caste, was really very fluid under indigenous rule.”


ii Introduction of ‘Electoral Politics’ on communal basis - Minto-Morley Reforms known as Government of India Act of 1909 was the first effective dose of communalisation of Indian politics. British rulers successfully divided Hindu population into two uncompromising groups, viz. `We” Non-Brahmins vs `They” Brahmins and caste Hindus. It gave rise to “Power in numbers”..


iii ‘Policy of Reservations’ – British rulers devised a novel method to distribute and balance power on ‘preferential basis’. 1905 to 1940 was the period, when idea of Reservation/positive discrimination was conceived, experimented and established firmly. It opened up various channels of confrontation. Muslims and non-Brahmin castes resented dominance of Brahmins in education and administration. To restrict Brahmin’s entry in Government jobs and make it available to non-Brahmins communities, British rulers started practice of “Preferences” by giving them financial assistance and preferences in education and Government employment at local and provincial level. It served double purpose for them - getting credit for amelioration and protection of downtrodden and keeping natives busy in their in-fights.
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  #7  
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Arrow Casteless , caste-ridden and caste-system based society

Even today there is no respite from casteism. The seeds of ‘divide and rule’ sown by British imperial rulers blossomed in full in independent India. Government jobs are still a bone of contention between different sections of society. It leads to a keen competition and creates permanent split in Indian society. Though urbanization and industrialization has helped to lessen the rigidities of caste system in recent past. But present-day politics encourages sectional forces, which are are vocal and aggressive in attitude about their rights, but ignore their duties. Political expediency and opportunism became order of the day. Casteism, corruption, criminalisation etc. are some of the direct consequences.


Despite these undesirable developments, not only in the past but at present also, caste system is quite popular amongst Indian masses. It still covers almost entire social fabric of India and gives Indian society a distinguished identity, a solid social structure with a system of thought, a way of life and sense of direction. It has given Indian society coherence, stability, continuity and led to its all round growth. It has prepared atmosphere for co-existence of different castes and communities generation after generation despite numerous foreign invasions, centuries of foreign rule, migrations and assimilation of various groups having diverse languages and practices into it. It has provided unity of culture, which binds together all people of Indian peninsula from one end to the other, thus making unity in diversity a reality.


Caste, which is nothing else but a large extended family bonded by same language, customs, thinking and way of living, still commands respect and attention of Indian masses as a natural, valid and useful institution. An individual is a natural member of a family, which is the unit of an extended family, extended family of Kula (clan), Kula of a tribe (Vish) and a tribe of a Jana or Jati (Caste). Caste is second only to the family and is a natural, dear and inevitable unit of other fundamental social institutions mentioned above. Not only Hindus, but other sects living in India, with all their egalitarian faith, whether foreign or indigenous, like Muslims and Christians, Sikhs or Buddhist, could not remain immune from its caste system for long. They have also been greatly influenced by it and have absorbed many of its practices and systems.



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  #8  
11-05-2008
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Arrow Casteless , caste-ridden and caste-system based society

Weakening of caste system in social arena and its growing politicization has made life difficult for all sections of society. Aversion of people from traditional and moral values has created confusion in the atmosphere. Their total concentration is on pursuit of money and materialistic pleasures by hook or crook . Erosion of basic moral and human values has turned life of men, “nasty, brutish and short”. Favoritism, in-discipline, violence, corruption, and chase of materialism based on ruthless competition have weakened the social fabric beyond repair. Scientific progress has endowed man with tremendous power both to preserve and destroy, but at slightest provocation, he does not hesitate to unleash destructive powers accessible to him. There are alarming disparities of power, wealth and culture amongst different sections of society.


There is complete centralization of control systems in the hands of a few Individuals and groups with political, money or muscle power, who control destiny of millions and have say in almost every walk of national life.Attempts for social changes make a virtue of narrow loyalties of caste and religion, generating sub-cultures like favoritism, lure for easy money, nepotism and, in-discipline in the society. Caste and communal conflicts are increasing. There are sectarian and regional imbalances generating social and psychological tensions. The work culture has been degenerated.Under-currents of caste politics have made the task of governance difficult, making the governance of the nation difficult and ineffective. The administration has become incompetent to solve the burning national issues. It has turned the vision of national development into an empty dream.


Vivekanand said, It is we, who are responsible for our degradation.Each nation like each individual has a theme in this life, which is its center, the principle note, around which every other note comes to form the harmony. If any nation attempts to throw off its national vitality or the direction, which has become its own through the transmission of centuries, it dies.“The main reason of our economic and spiritual degeneration is that we have not correctly followed the “Varna System”. This is the main reason of poverty and unemployrnent and one of the main reasons that there is untouchability”. He suggested that for the growth of a self-contained and self-regulated society, it was necessary to encourage education amongst the masses, all the occupations be given equal importance, people no be forced to adopt their hereditary occupations and difference of income derived from various occupations be narrowed down to the minimum.
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