Monday, June 23, 2008

CASTE SYSTEM AND CASTEISM



WHAT IS CASTE SYSTEM?

A caste is a combined social system of occupation, endogamy, culture, social class, and political power. Caste should not be confused with class, in that members of a caste are deemed to be alike in function or culture, whereas not all members of a defined class may be so alike.The Indian caste system describes the social stratification and social restrictions in the Indian subcontinent, in which social classes are defined by thousands of endogamous hereditary groups, often termed as jātis or castes. Within a jāti, there exist exogamous groups known as gotras, the lineage or clan of an individual, although in a handful of sub-castes like Shakadvipi, endogamy within a gotra is permitted and alternative mechanisms of restricting endogamy are used (e.g. banning endogamy within a surname).

According to the ancient Hindu scriptures, there are four "varnas." The Bhagavad Gita says varnas are decided based on Guna and Karma. Manusmriti and some other shastras mention four varnas: the Brahmins (teachers, scholars and priests), the Kshatriyas (kings and warriors), the Vaishyas (traders), and Shudras (agriculturists, service providers, and some artisan groups). Offspring of different varnas belong to different Jātis. Another group excluded from the main society was called Parjanya or Antyaja. This group of former "untouchables" (now called Dalits) was considered either the lower section of Shudras or outside the caste system altogether.Unfortunately this system is still followed today largely on the basis of birth, It is believed that a person is born into one of four castes based on karma and “purity”-how he or she lived their past lives. Those born as Brahmans are considered [or worthy of] priests and teachers right form the birth on the basis of genearation wise traits or gunas ; kshatriyas as rulers and soldiers; Viasyas as merchants and traders; and shudras/sudras as labourers. Within the four castes, there are thousands of sub-castes, defined by different profession. region, dialect, and other factors.

WHY IS IT A HUMAN RIGHT ISSUE AT PAR WITH RACISM ?

Established during the formative years of Hinduism, Caste system has prevailed in one of the most ugliest forms known to humanity. Although based on religious principles practiced for some 1,500 years, the system persists today for economic as much as religious reasons. Traditionally, although the mostly political power lay with the Kshatriyas, historians portrayed that the Brahmins as custodians and interpreters of Dharma enjoyed much prestige and many advantages. The caste supremacy complex has given rise to rigid caste segregation and subsequent social, economic degradation of lowest of its castes to the extent of "untouchablity". More than 160 million people in India are considered “ Untouchables ”-people tainted by their birth into a caste system that deems them impure, less than human. Untouchables are literally outcastes; a fifth group that is considered so unworthy that it wasn't included in the caste system. Because they are considered impure from birth, Untouchables [considered unworthy of doing any other job], have been forced to perform jobs that are traditionally considered “unclean” or exceedingly menial from ages . Even today when manual scavenging is banned in India on papers, One million Dalits work as manual scavengers, cleaning latrines and sewers by hand and clearing away dead animals for very little pay. It has been found that despite official ban many Municipal Corporation Departments across India [mostly villages where there are dry toilets] still have employed many Dalits to do the job with bare hand, carrying it on head, like the same way they used to do from ages. Millions more are agricultural/leather workers trapped in an inescapable cycle of extreme poverty, illiteracy, and oppression. Human rights abuses against these people, known as Dalits, are legion. A random sampling of headlines in mainstream Indian newspapers tells their story: “Dalit boy beaten to death for plucking flowers”; “Dalit tortured by cops for three days”; “Dalit ‘witch’ paraded naked in Bihar”; “Dalit killed in lock-up at Kurnool”; “7 Dalits burnt alive in caste clash”; “5 Dalits lynched in Haryana”; “Dalit woman gang-raped, paraded naked”; “Police egged on mob to lynch Dalits”. “Dalits are not allowed to drink from the same wells, attend the same temples, wear shoes in the presence of an upper caste, or drink from the same cups in tea stalls,” said Smita Narula, a senior researcher with Human Rights Watch, and author of Broken People: Caste Violence Against India’s “Untouchables.”Human Rights Watch is a worldwide activist organization based in New York. India’s Untouchables are relegated to the lowestjobs, and live in constant fear of being publicly humiliated, paraded naked, beaten, and raped with impunity by upper-caste Casteist Hindus seeking to keep them in their place. Merely walking through an upper-caste neighborhood is a life-threatening offense.Nearly 90 percent of all the poor Indians and 95 percent of all the illiterate Indians are Dalits, according to figures presented at the International Dalit Conference that took place May 16 to 18 in Vancouver, Canada Crime Against Dalits Statistics compiled by India’s National Crime Records Bureau indicate that in the year 2000, 25,455 crimes were committed against Dalits. Every hour two Dalits are assaulted; every day three Dalit women are raped, two Dalits are murdered, and two Dalit homes are torched. No one believes these numbers are anywhere close to the reality of crimes committed against Dalits. Because the police, village councils, and government officials often support the caste system, which is based on the presumed religious teachings of Hinduism, many crimes go unreported due to fear of reprisal, intimidation by police, inability to pay bribes demanded by police, or simply the knowledge that the police will do nothing. “There have been large-scale abuses by the police, acting in collusion with upper castes, including raids, beatings in custody, failure tocharge offenders or investigate reported crimes,” said Narula. That same year, 68,160 complaints were filed against the police for activities ranging from murder, torture, and collusion in acts of atrocity, to refusal to file a complaint. Sixty two percent of the cases were dismissed as unsubstantiated; 26 police officers were convicted in court.

Despite the fact that untouchability was officially banned when India adopted its constitution in 1950, discrimination against Dalits remained so pervasive that in 1989 the government passed legislation known as The Prevention of Atrocities Act. The act specifically made it illegal to parade people naked through the streets, force them to eat feces, take away their land, foul their water, interfere with their right to vote, and burn down their homes. Since then, the violence has escalated, largely as a result of the emergence of a grassroots human rights movement among Dalits to demand their rights and resist the dictates of untouchability, said Narula. Enforcement of laws designed to protect Dalits is lax if not non-existent in many regions of India. The practice of untouchability is strongest in rural areas, where 80 percent of the country’s population resides. There, the underlying hardcore and rigid religious principles of Hinduism dominate.
Dalit women are particularly hard hit. They are frequently raped or beaten as a means of reprisal against male relatives who are thought to have committed some act worthy of upper-caste vengeance. A case reported in 1999 illustrates the toxic mix of gender and caste. A 42-year-old Dalit woman was gang-raped and then burnt alive after she, her husband, and two sons had been held in captivity and tortured for eight days. Her crime? Another son had eloped with the daughter of the higher-caste family doing the torturing. The local police knew the Dalit family was being held, but did nothing because of the higher-caste family’s local influence.

10 comments:

navayan said...

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www.chiropracticmarketingsecret.com Illiteracy means inability to read and write. It is the root cause of ignorance which frustrates all development efforts of the government and the community. Eradication of illiteracy in a country like Bangladesh with so vast a population is undoubtedly a gigantic task. It is the social responsibility of all the literate people. men and women.To make some concerted efforts to remove illiteracy from society. The government of Bangladesh has already undertaken some important Programs in this regard. To provide primary education for at least 70 percent of children of six to ten years of age by the end of 1990. The government has launched a pro gramme called the Universal Primary Education (UPE) Project. There is another education program in which each primary school in a community is to be regarded as a Community Learning Center (CLC). The objective is to involve increasingly the parents and the members of the community in the educational activities of the school. The adults and the out-of-school youths will come to the school in the afternoon or in the evening after their work. Here they will receive not only basic education but also practical training in their vocations. The mass media, especially radio TV and newspapers can play a vital role in marking the people more conscious of the importance of literacy in the life of a nation. They can broadcast and publish regular features on various aspects of basic education. adult education and mass literacy.

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Anonymous said...

Untouchable or dalits are those whose choose to renounce their caste tag and/or choose to live on their own. In Hinduism, caste isn't what others set for you to follow. It is what you choose to do and is based on karma yoga. The hereditary concept in varna system came into being through ages, as it is often the case that a child takes up the family business/occupation etc because that is what they tend to do best. Varna system existed & will exist in other forms. Eg. Feudal system. As of now you can find people taking up the job of sweeper, cleaner etc. and getting paid less than security personnel & teachers who in turn are getting paid lesser than politicians. I guess that might equally amount to Racism and is a Human Rights issue. Doesn't it?

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