Like almost every other country in the world, India was colonized by ‘Great’ Britain. They were the rulers of the world and sat on the King’s throne. Every start has an end and so did their power. Most of the countries manage to take on certain aspects from their colonized time. Although India took the good bits like democracy and English, they are still backward in a lot of other aspects.
India is known for a lot for their food, festivals, even the ever-growing population; the nation is also known for the Caste system, one of the greatest evils of the country. A tradition that has been part of India from medieval times, which grew during the British rule; as they saved jobs in the government for people of higher castes.
In the Hindu religion, there are four major castes the Brahmins, who were supposedly the knowledgeable ones and the priests. The Kshatriyas who were the warriors. The Vaisyas the farmers and traders and finally the Sudras who were the servants. Outside the caste system lived the Dalits or the ‘untouchables’ who were considered impure, because of a superstition that they could contaminate people just by touching them.
Your caste defines you in a lot of ways. Your applications for education to the food you are allowed to eat, it covers almost all areas. “I don’t understand the reason behind dividing people on the basis of their caste, marking them lower or higher in the society when they are not responsible for which religion or caste they are born into or to be honest, forced on them,” Vaisakh said. What initially started within Hinduism, had soon been spreading into other religions as well.
Racism, around the world, is all about the race of the person but in India, it has a lot of different aspects. It’s just not about the colour, but the family one is born into and their position in society. Racism exists right from when you are born until the day you die – in every minute of your life, be it your education, job or even family.
The rural population has lived by stories and beliefs of their ancestors; who followed and affected the caste system – a system that defines you and shapes you into who you are going to be. Everything they do links them back to this system. “Some take advantage of the caste system to propel their life while the deserved gets pushed behind in jobs, studies or any other cases for the matter,” explained Vaisakh.
Be it politics, jobs or even colleges, a number of seats are reserved for those of supposedly lower castes. “I hate that we need to reserve jobs for certain segments of the society, should be based on skills rather than caste. It’s the same as discrimination against a race.” Says Kiara. There are certain jobs, like the government and public sector, are usually reserved for people of the lower castes. Even dedicated political parties for certain castes like ‘Lingayat or the Gowda Party’ have been registered, just to protect their interests.
Marriage is one of the biggest aspects of the caste system. Marrying a person of the same caste is vital and anyone who does otherwise is considered an ‘outcast’. “I dislike that it restricts our basic right to choose who we marry,” said Nithya. This whole notion of only being married to people of the same Caste is the basis of racism. This restriction affects a lot of the younger generation as they want to try and break free of this long-lived system.
“It restricts our basic right to choose who we marry,”
“Differentiating people on the basis of caste or religion is something really stupid, and unless society gets a hang of it, I believe the country is going no way forward,” added Vaisakh. This whole aspect of the caste system changes the way people think. Many have tried escaping the system by converting to other religions; but even that didn’t give them peace, as they yearned for structure within their freedom. ‘There is no way to leave the system that defines you’
Times are changing and the younger generation is more aware of the evils of the caste system, but they are not changing fast enough. In the twenty-first century where the world is fighting for equal rights between races and the sexes, the children of India are still fighting to have their own identity. To be counted by who they are and not their ancestors. It’s time India sees the caste system for what it actually is: racism in disguise.
*Names changed to protect anonymity.