In the Vedas, we see the beginning of casteism. The original idea of caste was that of colour (Varna’). The fair-skinned Aryans looked down upon the dark-skinned people. In those early days, occupations were hereditary and were divided among the four castes (the varnas).
The task of learning, teaching and performing religious ceremonies became the monopoly of the Brahmins. Next to them came the Kshatriyas. the warrior caste. Thirdly, came the vaishyas, the commercial classes.
Lastly, came the fourth caste, the Sudras, the descendants of the dark- Skinned. That way, caste became the very root to Hindu society.
During the epic age, the four castes became more defined. The whole Hindu society was now divided into narrow water-tight compartments Based on castes. The castes system became more and more rigid.
A time came when there started a sort of revolt against the privileges Of certain castes, as also against the complexities of religious rituals. Lord Buddha and Mahavira led the emergence of a new faith in which castes had no role to play.
This faith gave a severe jolt to the rigid feeling of Casteism. However, the cast system bounced back by the framing of laws by Manu Maharaj during the reign of Harshvardhan.
By the end of 10th century A.D., the Hindu society was completely split up Into numberless castes and sects. The truly national spirit was decaying, national unity was threadbare and vulnerable.
Defence of the country was supposed to be the sole responsibility of the Kshatriyas-the professional soldiers. And consequently, the Muslims overcame the Hindus with ease. This menace of caste- system cost India dearly.
But as time went on, things began to change. However, the change was not for the better. In Medieval Age, the Mohammedans began to demolish Hindu places of worship, to inter marry with Hindu girls and to convert Hindus of lower castes to Islam.
Then came Ram Guru Ramanand, Bhagat Kabir and Guru Nanak whose teachings threw cold water on the flaming feelings of casteism and sectarianism. They sought to abolish the caste distinctions from the soil of India. They did their best to brine of India people of all castes, sects and communities together.
The fraternal atmosphere among the people of all castes generated by the saints and seers of the time was short-lived. The tussle between the high castes and the low caste Hindus again became active when it was fanned by the fanatic character of Aurangzeb.
Then the British rulers invigorated it for their vested interest of ruling over India with Divide and Rule policy. Time changed, regimes changed but the canker of casteism kept gnawing at the very vitals of Indian society.
Mahatma Gandhi had opposed all along his life untouchability. India became a free nation in 1947 and then a sovereign. The founding fathers of our constitution felt that the existence of a number of water-tight compart ments rooted in casteism prevents the growth of a truly national spirit.
It leads to prejudices, jealousy and friction. Democracy is impossible under these circumstances. So they incorporated in the country’s constitution such healthy principles of justice, liberty, equality and fraternity, irrespective of caste, colour creed and sex, as would help in making the caste-system less and less rigid.
A new dimension was added to the problem by the government itself when it appointed an All India, Backward Classes Commission in the early fifties. The government wanted to amend the constitution with a view reserving posts in public employment not only for Scheduled Castes Tribes but also for socially and educationally backward classes.
Kaka Kalelkar, who headed the commission, had accepted caste as the main basis of identification of Backwardness. The government accepted the report of the commission.
It set in motion the process of job-reservation. Lakhs and lakhs of Indians are possessing fake certificates of
People are right when they say that merit has become a casualty due to this policy of job reservations on the basis of castes and classes. Originally job-reservation for the Scheduled Castes and tribes was meant for just ten years.
But the ruling party at the national level looked on this segment of society as their ‘Vote Bank’ and went on extending the period of job-reservation to please and placate it. Unfortunately, this process of uplift of the downtrodden through job reservation has proved’ to be politically biased.
In every election of assembly and parliament, the campaign has been caste-oriented. Even those who profess to be secularists work out caste-permutations to win elections. Kham combination used by Congress in Gujarat was forged to pool the votes of Kshatriyas, Harijans, Adivasis and Muslims together to win the assembly elections.
Another such combination was made by secularists of Bihar by bringing together Yadavas, Koeries, Kurmis Harijans and Muslims to win elections there. In fact, politicians of different hues do not practise what they profess. To safeguard their vested interests they resort to petty caste-politics.
There seems to be no end to this national menace, later resigned. Casteism has affected and afflicted all spheres of life in India. Even the spread of education has not solved the problem. People are not yet changed at heart.
In remote villages, a cobbler still does not accept a glass of water from a broom-master. The high-caste people do not allow the low Castes to draw water from the village well. A carpenter does not allow a Sweeper to sit beside him on the same cot.
The only sensible cures that come to mind are- moral determination to end the scourge, staunch spread of education, economic betterment of the poor, social propaganda against casteism, encouragement to inter-caste marriages, strict administrative action to administer justice.
It will be the right thing if columns of caste or surname are deleted from the applications or admission me of all types. Politics of convenience should, in no way, be allowed to replace the politics of principles.