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Social and political Values and Systems in India.

Hinduism and Caste System in India

 “Traditional living had been an anchor, keeping our boat in safe harbor, Now that the anchor had gone and the boat is at the mercy of wild waves on a stormy ocean.

“In modern understanding of Hinduism and ‘caste-system’, element of “Hindu” caste’ has been highlighted and mis-interpreted;  and element of ‘system’ has been suppressed.”

 

Introduction, Spot out gems – Hinduism is not a religion, but a way of life. It not only means religious festivals, worship statues of deities. Hindu philosophy of life and its Vedic literature is “An ocean of knowledge in a jar”. It guides humans to lead a decent way of living life under all circumstances and face the challenges of life coolly without losing balance of mind. Its philosophy, sacred texts, values and systems guide people how to live a quality of life and make it enjoyable. A knowledgeable person can spot gems from this ocean of knowledge; pick them up and leave like worthless pebbles the undesired, obsolete elements developed into the system with passage of time. 

Difficult for Western World to understand the nuances of Hinduism – Hinduism does not believe to follow rituals blindly or show off religiosity, as Westerners think. The substance of the knowledge, learning and research work of Rishis-Munis (sages and saints) was put in the form of rituals for the benefit of common-men. Certain practices/guidelines were shaped in the form of rituals by intellectuals and prescribed for the benefit of common-men. These rituals and guidelines inspired people to lead a harmonious and healthy life. And as far as knowledge is concerned, Hinduism believes in the concept of ‘Neti, Neti’, meaning that pursuit of knowledge is a never ending process. 

Deep roots of Hinduism and its caste system in India – Throughout the world, from time immemorial, many systems, structures and principles have been evolved for the benefit and harmonious/peaceful living of all the members in a society. They have remained in vogue for some time, then faded and gave way to new structures, systems and concepts. However it does not apply to Hinduism and Caste system.

Has Hinduism or caste system, an obsolete phenomenon in India. No, it is not! –Had it become obsolete, it would have given place to other systems. At present, in India, about 79.8% of the population identify themselves as Hindus, (roughly about 966 million people) as per 2011 Census of India, who have faith in the Vedic principles of Varna, Dharma, and Karma. (14.2% of the population follow Islam and the remaining 6% adhere to other religions, such as Christianity, Sikhism, and Buddhism etc.). Both Hinduism and its caste system can not be ignored, as an adolescent phenomenon, as its hold on the public mind is still very strong. 

So much and so that, Muslims and Christians, Sikhs or Buddhist, living in India could not remain immune to it for long, though their respective religions believe in egalitarian society.  Muslims, with all their equalitarian faith, formed caste groups. Christians in Kerala were earlier divided into sections, which later on took a caste character.  Sikhs could not overcome caste feelings.  Even Roman Catholics in South India, converted by missionaries in the 16th century, brought their caste feelings with them.[i] The hold of the caste system, on the public mind, is also confirmed by the fact that whenever any system does not work well, public itself removes or replaces it.  The caste system still offers people legitimate goals, strengthens the feeling of inter dependence, mutual respect and improves the quality of life. The following facts proves the strength of caste-system even today:

  • Had it become obsolete, it would have given place to other religions and social structures.
  • Despite centuries of foreign rule, about 79.8% of the population identify themselves as Hindus, (roughly about 966 million people) as per 2011 Census of India, who have faith in the Vedic principles of Varna, Dharma, and Karma. 14.2% of the population follow Islam and the remaining 6% adhere to other religions like Christianity, Sikhism, and Buddhism etc.
  • Caste system has influenced almost other communities living in India and having faith in different religions.
  • In the past, whenever any new social groups desired to join the mainstream, neither they were not prevented, nor the existing internal social was disturbed. All the incoming groups were given enough freedom to prosper according to their internal rhythm. Hindu society never annihilated the faith, way of living, internal order, customs, culture or language of new groups.

World entered into the era of modernity and technological advancement – With process of modernization and technological advancements, happened during late 20th and beginning of 21st centuries, knowledge has progressed at such a fast speed, that human beings are unable to compete/cope with it. Even a genius like Newton, (an English mathematician, physicist, astronomer, theologian, and author, described in his own day as a “natural philosopher”, widely recognized as one of the most influential scientists of all time, and a key figure in the scientific revolution)  had said, “I am like a child, who is picking pebbles at sea-shore while the great ocean of knowledge lies before me.”

 During modern period, drastic changes have happened in the social, political and economic spheres due to industrialization, modernization, technological advancements, Information technology and mass-media sector. Era of materialism and consumerism started and progressed. Human’s way of thinking, behaving, style of living and pattern of relationships have been transformed almost completely geographically, socially and politically. New ideas, concepts, systems, strategies and management techniques have emerged.

In addition to it, concepts of Welfare state and Development Administration have increased the aspiration and expectations of the people considerably, especially after the World Wat II. Spread of education, public awareness and exposure the developments happened elsewhere in world added fuel into fire.

All these changes have put additional pressure on the traditional values and systems. Many challenges have come on the way. Sincere efforts are being done now by governments of different nations, organisations, researchers, scientists and ordinary people collectively make a difference to find out solutions to those challenges.

Balance between old values and new systems – New concepts, values and systems  always challenge old way of thinking and behaving, no matter how useful they are! Also it has been observed that people watch growth of any new ideology or system with suspicion. It is a difficult task to convince people about its utility. Sometimes undesirable elements/evil practices  develop into the system due to changing atmosphere/circumstances. What is needed, is to maintain a fine balance between old values and the new ones, while applying concepts in real life situations.

Preference to present over pastOld values, old ways of thinking, and ideologies should not be discarded. It will be proper first to analyse them rationally, then reject. In changing atmosphere, nothing can be more disabling than its idolization of past; nothing can be more needed than the constant interpretation of past experiences and present circumstances. Present should be a constant challenge to the opinions of past.

Part I

Hind, Hindustan, Hinduism, Hindu Philosophy

Ancient India was referred to as Bharatvarsh before it came to be known as Hindustan. Derived from the Sanskrit term ‘Bharata’ that means ‘the cherished’, this name dates back to the ancient ‘Hindu Puranas’ (Hindu scriptures). According to it, the legendary Emperor Bharata was the first conqueror of the entire Indian subcontinent and the founder of the famous Bharata dynasty. After him, the Indian land is known as ‘Bharatavarsa,’

Significance of the terms ;Hind’, ‘Hindu’ and ‘Hindustan’ and Caste – The start of the terms Hind, Hindu, Hindustan and Hinduism and Caste has historical significance.  

Hind/Hindustan – Persians conquered the then Indian subcontinent and Greece in 5th century BCE. They called the land beyond Sind river( which runs mostly through present day Pakistan, Jammu & Kashmir in India and Western Tibet) as Hind or Hindustan (‘Stan’ in Persian means ‘land’ or ‘country,’ much like ‘sthana’ in Sanskrit means ‘place’).

HinduPeople living there were called Hindus (that refers to people, the Indo-Aryans). Their religion and culture were termed as Hinduism. These terms have been in use in Greek since Herodotus (4th century BCE)..

From Hindustan to IndiaBy the 13th century, India became a popular alternative name for Hindustan. During British Raj, Latin term “India” has been widely in use. The Indian sub-continent, where Indo-Aryan culture is strongly based, has been usually called India instead of Bharat or Hindustan, there. The term ‘Hindus’ evolved to ‘Indos’ and made its first ever appearance in Old English in 9th century and re-emerged in Modern English in the 17th century. After Independence, it is known as the “Republic of India”.

Hinduism as a culture/civilization, philosophy and religion – Hinduism presents one of the oldest,  continuous and uninterrupted living culture and civilization in the world. Sometimes, during 19th century, English writers had added ‘ism’ to Hindu. it is  not possible for the aliens to understand the true meaning, ethos and nuances Hinduism. Hinduism is not a religion like Christianity or Islam. ‘Hinduism’ is  ‘a way of life’ and ’fusion of various beliefs’, mainly based on the principle ‘Dharma’.   

Believers in Hindu Mythology think that Hinduism as a culture has always existed and is beyond the limits of time. As a culture and civilization of the indigenous people living beyond Sindhu River, it has always existed. Later on, a large number of social groups migrated from elsewhere and willingly merged into the mainstream of Hindustan.

Others believe that Hinduism as a Vedic culture originated during the period of Indus Valley Civilization (around 3300–1300 BCE) on the Indo-Gangetic Plains, (in northern parts of India) and matured by 2600–1900 BCE), and spread/flourished throughout India during 1500 BC and 500 BC. The blending up of migrating social groups, their language, values, systems  and culture with that of the indigenous people living in the region gave rise to Vedic Culture of Hinduism.

Hinduism as a religionHinduism is not merely a religion like other religions, i.e.  Christianity or Islam. The term ‘Religion’ (as a set of religious beliefs) was shaped much later, during Renaissance movement of 14th/15th centuries, Before the colonization of India, the religion of Hindustanis was as Sanatana Dharma. As far as Hinduism is concerned, it is a magnificent example of scientific division and orderly arrangement of rules, in a few words, in different branches of human knowledge, covering almost all the aspects of life, be it phonetics, arts, literature, medicine, polity, metrics, law, philosophy, astrology or astronomy. It speaks of everything- on staying healthy, social evils, improving concentration and tenets of behavior, which are relevant even today.

According to the philologist Max Müller (the 19th century), the root of the English word religion is the Latin religio. The word means “to bind together.” For the first time the word was used in the 1500s to distinguish worldly things from spirituality  and  morality and set the domain of the church. Since then, Religion means belief in or worship of God/Gods and a system of religious beliefs and practices. It originally meant reverence for God or the gods, careful pondering of divine things, piety.

Western thinkers have defined Hinduism as a religion/religious tradition/set of religious beliefs. They have  literally translated the Sanskrit word ‘Dharma’ into English as ‘religion’. Hinduism was used as a religion only after the colonization of Indus Valley civilization and under the influence of Europeans, especially the British.

At present, Hinduism (15%) is said to be one of the oldest and largest religion in the world after Christianity (Christianity 33%) and Islam (24.1%). The Upanishads (Vedic texts) were composed, containing the earliest emergence of some of the central religious concepts of Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. Its roots are traced back to prehistoric times, over 5,000 years ago. Hinduism spread through parts of Southeastern Asia, China, Korea, and Japan. Hindus worship a single god with different forms.

Part II

Hinduism as a Philosophy

Many intellectuals and reformers regard Hinduism, its values and systems, culture and philosophy, in its purest form, as one of the most scientific ideology ever developed anywhere in the world. It has taken thousands of years to take a shape of principle. It cannot be found in one single authoritative text, nor can it be attributed to one single author.

‘Vedas’, ‘Smritis’ ‘Sutras’, ‘Upanishads’, Ramayana and Bhagvat Gita are not merely the scriptures/religious/spiritual books, but also a perfect guide to lead a happy life. These Epics “contain an ocean of knowledge in a jar.”[i] The ”Rig Veda” , dated to between 1500–1200 BCE is said to be the oldest  complete religious holy book that has survived into the modern age. Laws of Manu, (date of publication uncertain but believed to be about 200 BC) was a hybrid moral-religious-law code and one of the first written law codes of Asia. According to Hindu tradition, the Manu Smruti records the words of Brahma. Manusmriti is also called the Mānava-Dharmaśāstra or Laws of Manu (human). In spite of its age, it has sustained paramountcy in the Hindu culture. It was also the code of conduct for inter-caste relationships in India.

Mode of transferring sacred knowledge to succeeding generations – In the beginning, the priestly schools had devised a most remarkable and effective system of transferring knowledge to succeeding generations in the form of hymns, restricting it only to those, possessing brilliant feats of memory and capability to keep extreme sanctity. Later on, it was put together in ‘Vedas’, ‘Smritis’ ‘Sutras’, and ‘Upanishads’.

Hindu philosophy covers almost all aspects of human life – The Vedic literature is a magnificent example of scientific division and orderly arrangement of rules, in a few words, in different branches of human knowledge be it phonetics, arts, literature, medicine, polity, metrics, law, philosophy, astrology or astronomy.

Mahabharata and Ramayana are the two great epics of India, which covers almost all the aspects of human life. It commands the respect and attention of an average Indian. It has guided the people to live a quality of life here in this world, but and also to improve the status of one’s re-births after death.  Its rituals are techniques for leading a harmonious life. It speaks about everything, be it in the sphere of spirituality or material well-being – on staying healthy, overcome social evils, improve concentration and mannerism, which are relevant even today.

Teachings of Bhagvat Gita Following are lessons of Gita give an exercise to human minds in the same manner as yogic exercises to bodies:

  • Detach from illusions and attach to Divine. Give priority to divinity. See divinity all around.
  • Have enough knowledge/intellect/devotion to see the truth as it is.
  • Attachment is the cause of all distress.
  • Detachment is the way to progress and prosperity.
  • The attainment of True Knowledge is the ultimate aim of all such deeds.
  • Fight for right cause in life is the ultimate solution to all problems.
  • Live a simple life-style that matches your vision.
  • Always remain steady.
  • Renounce the ego and attain salvation leading to unending peace and happiness.
  • Every act should be done in moderation.
  • True Knowledge is far Superior to the knowledge of the Sacred Scripts.
  • Stress is on Detachment and Equanimity. Happiness and unhappiness should be considered alike. For achieving detachment or renunciation, Knowledge and intellect play an important role.

This gold mine of knowledge inspired not only Indians, but foreigners as well.  Intellectuals from various countries have translated it in their own languages and reinterpreted it for a rational mind. reinterpreted it for a rational mind. Today, when Indians are getting away from their roots, it can make their feet firmly grounded on earth and  instill right values in them

Only after raising oneself from ignorance, a person could be able to understand the greatness of the Indian value system. Like a jeweler, one could spot out gems from among worthless pebbles.  A knowledgeable person could pick up knowledge and leave the undesired obsolete elements developed in it with passage of time.

When in the past, the rest of the world was passing through the Dark Age, India was full of light. The first few centuries are recognized as the golden period of Indian history. During this period, arts, commerce, crafts, philosophy and knowledge flourished magnificently. Its people reached a high level of intelligence having specialization in different areas. It was rich in literary, philosophical and religious fields.

An inspiration for all – Values and principles of Hindu philosophy have always remained an inspiring icon of peace, harmony, compassion and other human values for the whole universe. Caste system has worked as one of the instruments to maintain the continuity of Indian culture and civilization without interruption.

Part III

Hinduism and caste system as a culture

India presents one of the oldest, continuous and uninterrupted living civilization in the whole world known as Hinduism. (Other well advanced civilizations of ancient world were of Egypt, Greece and Mesopotamia). One of the prominent features of Indian civilization is its ‘Caste-system’. Caste system is a unique way of stratifying the society. It has been conceptualized, originated and practiced exclusively in India. It has given a distinguished identity to Indian society.

General principles of Hinduism guide people to live here on the earth happily and lead a quality of life, and then after death, enable soul to make its onward journey worthwhile. It tells common-men about the purpose of human life. The rituals, customs, traditions of a society should not be mixed up with the basic principles of Hindu . Following are some of the basic principles of Hindu Philosophy:-

Atma (Self) and Parmatma (Creator of Universe) – In Hinduism, according to Principle of non-duality, the Creator’/’Bramhan’/’Parmatma’ (God) and the ‘Creation’/ ‘Atma’ (every living thing in this world). Atma and Parmatma are the integral part of the same God, and therefore inter-linked. The ultimate purpose of human life, according to Indian thought, is to unite with the ultimate Reality, the Divine/Brahman. 

Brahman’ is a key concept found in the Vedas, and it is extensively discussed in the early Upanishads. The Vedas conceptualize Brahman as the Cosmic Principle.[10] In the Upanishads, it has been variously described as Sat-cit-ānanda (truth-consciousness-bliss) and as the unchanging, permanent, highest reality.

Parmatma/Brahman is the creator and destroyer of the entire Universe. He is Supreme, the Ultimate Reality in the universe. He is all-pervasive, infinite, eternal truth and bliss which does not change, yet is the cause of all changes. HE is present in all the objects, including human body.

Atman The predominant teaching in the Upanishads Atman means ‘eternal self’. The atman refers to the real self beyond ego or false self. It is often referred to as ‘spirit’ or ‘soul’ and indicates the true self or essence which underlies our existence. Atman is the spiritual identity of soul within the body of each and every human being and inside every other living being, be it an animal or a tree. It is an integral part of the supreme, ultimate reality Brahman, which is the “world soul” or “cosmic soul.” It is the eternal essence of the universe and the ultimate divine reality.

Human body – Every human has two components – the body and the soul. Soul is indestructible. Body, which is  (made up of eight elements earth, water, air, sky, fire, mind, intellect and ego) does not retain its original form or shape even during one life time. Similarly, body Death merely changes the form of the body. 

Principle of Reincarnation – Hinduism believes in the Immortality of the soul, and the ‘Principle of Reincarnation’ which means that the soul is a deathlessness entity. After death it is reborn again and again depending on the deeds of previous birth till it attains salvation. After several births and deaths of body, one can reach a state of immortality. But once it attains Salvation, it is not born again.

Ultimate purpose of human life, Moksha/SalvationThe ultimate purpose of human life is Immortality/Salvation/Moksha, get rid of the pangs of rebirth and death. In order to set itself free from the cycle of multiple rebirths and deaths, one should do follow the path of ‘Dharma’. Good deeds of human can help to reach up to the stage of salvation. One needs to practice continuously detachment (restrain one’s senses from drifting towards the objects of pleasure) and balanced mindset.

Avatars to save humanity from evil – According to Western philosophers Hinduism believes in Avatars. According to Hindu mythology (based on some truth and some imagination), the Supreme power visits the earth from time to time in some form of Avatars to save humanity from evil. So far these Avatars have visited the earth – Matsyavatar (fish), then to Kurma (tortoise)); Varaha (wild boar); Narsimha (half animal half mam); Vamana (dwarf); Parushrama with axe (tool); Rama, the Maryadapurusha; Krishna the playful and serious avatar; and ninth, Budha the enlightened one. The world is awaiting for the 10th avatar in the form of Kalki, a genetically supreme bionic man. (‘Know your religion through its philosophy’ by Prakash Shesh, the Speaking tree, TOI, January 14, 2016, p. 20)

Righteousness always wins over Evil – Stories about each Avatars inspire and encourage masses to follow the path of virtue and keep themselves away from evils. Different rituals, traditions, and customs give to the people, a purpose to live for and ideals to be achieved. 

Rituals, customs, traditions of any society should not be interpreted blindly either by insiders or outsiders without understanding the basic principles/ purpose behind them and should not be mixed up with negative thinking, derailed practices or superstitions. its basic principles. Festivals like Dussehra, Janmashtami etc. are celebrated to give the people the message that mark that ‘Virtue always wins over Evil’.

Concept of Right And Wrong, according to Indian philosophy – Right and wrong are relative terms. The idea of sin and virtue, good and evil are creations of the mind. They reflect the needs of society and therefore bear not much value. Truth lies somewhere in between various differing opinions. Yesterday’s Right/truth/Justice may be today’s wrong/falsehood/injustice, and today’s right tomorrow’s wrong. Truth is like a chameleon in reverse. It always assumes colors other than those of its environment. People chase truth/justice without embracing it. To understand it one needs a balanced approach. A rational opinion about it can be formed only by keeping these four variables in mind:

  • Desha (region) – The culture of a place, in which a person is born,
  • Kala (time) -The period of historical time, in which a person
  • is born,
  • Shrama (Effort)-The efforts required of him at different stages of Life,
  • Guna (Quality)-Aptitude and innate psycho-biological traits.

Positive and negative Mindset of human beings (Gunas) – Hindu philosophy believes that the whole world of activities is a result of complex intermixing of three basic qualities of human nature Satva, Rajas and Tamas. When born, a person, is like a clean slate – pure, formless, undifferentiated Consciousness. What s(he) writes on it, depends on the relative strengths of three Gunas –Tamas, Rajat and Sattva. The categorization in these three groups is usually depend on degree of attachment-detachment, austerity, Purity/cleanliness of body, speech and mind, charity and positive or negative thinking.

‘Satva’ Guna (Positive mindset) – ‘Satva’ is associated with peace purity, knowledge with clarity in  thinking positive attitude and consistency in actions. (1) Fearlessness, (2) Cleanliness of mind and body, (3) Devotion towards God, (4) Acquisition of true knowledge, (5) Suppression of the senses, (6) Study of scriptures, (7) Recitation of God’s name, (8) Taking pain in following one’s own code of conduct, (9) Simplicity of mind, inner self and senses, (10)Non-violence in all its forms, (11) Speaking Truth in a pleasant manner, (12) Absence of anger, (13) Non attachment, (14) Peace of mind, (15) Not speaking ill of others, (16) Kindness towards all, (17) Forgiveness, (18) Patience, (19) Lack of ego and (20) Feeling ashamed while doing something against Laws or Traditions.

‘Rajas Guna’ (Having power to control people and events)) – Rajas represents itself by power, passion, action, energy and motion. Rajas Guna drives people towards passion, power, ambition, and love for comfortable living. It often makes an individual self-centred. It does not care much about any particular value. It can contextually be either good or bad. 

‘Tamas’ (Negative mindset) – Individuals with Tamas or negative thinking are the victims of ignorance, sloth carelessness. It usually suppresses good qualities and leads towards `Adharma (immoral behavior), Alasya (laziness) and Agyan (ignorance). Tamas/negative mindset manifests (1) the show off, (2) pride, (3) ego, (4) anger, (5) harsh words, (6) lack of knowledge and (7) falsehood. Persons with negative mindset usually responsible for different kinds of social evils, exploitation and miseries of the people.

Lesson – In order to keep oneself away from negative mindset, one should first ‘Think’ before taking any step, then ‘evaluate’, and try to be Creative and confident, while setting goals.

Inter-play of the three qualities determine personality of a person – Inter-play of these three qualities determine the personality, Inter-play of the three qualities determine the tendencies, potentialities, limitations, traits and character of different individuals and give them direction for action. The material world through senses attracts human mind towards a mirage/illusion or attachment. Many a times, attachment leads to impurities. Freedom of mind from attachment/illusion is consciousness. In order to become civilized, one has to keep in control and observance of cleanliness – of body, speech and mind. The purpose of human life should be to overcome Tamas, refine Rajat and inculcate Sattva.

Principles of Varna, Dharma and Karma, The Foundation pillar of Hinduism

Principles of Dharma Varna and Karma are the core values of Indian ethos. Together these principles have given  a sustainable social structure and a distinct identity to Hindu society.

Doctrine of Varna – Hinduism has provided legitimacy to the Varna/Jati Pratha and prepared a political and social framework for Hindu society. Doctrine of Varna has provided continuity and stability despite numerous foreign invasions, migrations and assimilation of various groups.

Numerous castes and sub-castes emerged within each Varna. ‘Varnas’ were never more or less than four and always remained the same. Castes had its ethnic roots as denoted by Jati and a ritualistic and symbolic significance in its Varna aspect. Each caste found its place under a Varna on the basis of their nature of work, its being ritually clean or unclean and amount of self-discipline, they exercised.

According to Hindu philosophy, individuals differ from each other in natural endowments, intelligence, aptitudes, attitudes, skills, personal needs and other innate characteristics.  Their physical strength, mental capacity and moral aspirations, like and dislikes, inclination and expectations are not the same. Different activities should be assigned to different sections of society according to its natural endowment/inclinations, qualities and aptitudes/psychological characteristics.

Hinduism believes that individuals differ from each other in natural endowments, intelligence, aptitudes, attitudes, skills, personal needs and other innate characteristics.  Their physical strength, mental capacity and moral aspirations, like and dislikes, inclination and expectations are not the same. Different activities should be assigned to different sections of society according to its natural endowment/inclinations, qualities and aptitudes/psychological characteristics.

Stratification of Hindu society based on Gunas (Qualifications) – Division of labour in Hindu society is was based on the Gunas. Hindu society is classified into four social groups ie Varnas according to their attitude and aptitude – Brahmins (Learners) possessing qualities of “Sat and “austerity, busy in pursuing knowledge; Khhatrias (Warriors and men of action ), Having quality of Rajas, Vaishyas (Business men)and Shudras (workers under the guidance of above three groups).

Initially, according to Smritis it was not birth, but the qualities and deeds, which fitted one into a particular group. But, later on, upbringing, atmosphere and convenience tended to make these groups hereditary. At present, employment/occupation/profession of people depend on number of formal degrees/ diplomas/certificates.

Numerous castes and sub-castes emerged within each Varna – As population increased and more and more indigenous and foreign social groups were merged into the Hindu-fold, Vedic Varna system gave rise to caste system.. ‘Varnas’ were never more or less than four and always remained the same. Castes had its ethnic roots as denoted by Jati and a ritualistic and symbolic significance in its Varna aspect. Each caste found its place under a Varna on the basis of their nature of work, its being ritually clean or unclean and amount of self-discipline, they exercised.

Castes had its ethnic roots as denoted by Jati and a ritualistic and symbolic significance in its Varna aspect. Each caste found its place under a Varna on the basis of their nature of work, its being ritually clean or unclean and amount of self-discipline, they exercised.

This way, Principle of Varna defines, distributes and organizes performance of various functions systematically within society.

Principle of Dharma Scholars have repeatedly commented that the word ‘Dharma’ is not translatable in English. Words like law righteousness, ethics, morality all together are not enough to give justice to the meaning of Dharma. The principle of Dharma embraced within itself religion, law, duty, righteousness, morality and conformity with truth”. Along with its being a religious idea, Dharma was also a principle and a vision of an organic society, in which all participating members were independent, yet their roles complimentary.

Dharma has defined the roles, duties and vocations of different sections of society on the basis of their attitude and aptitude roles. it has organized systematically the performance of various functions, provided  a quality of life to its people and has organized inter-relationship of various sections of society.

Common Dharma for all – There is a common Dharma, which is applicable to all. These are the norms and values of good conduct, which lead individuals to the path of righteousness. All the people in the society are governed by Dharma at all times, be it a ruler or ruled, parent or child, teacher or student or man or woman. Principle of Dharma has given universal, practical and eternal guidelines to be followed in personal life, family life, community life, social life, professional life and national life.

Specific and separate Dharma for different sections of society – Principle of Dharma specifies role, duties, privileges and restrictions of each role separately. It prescribes a separate Dharma appropriate to each Varna, each class and each stage of human life.

The prescribed rules by principle of Dharma are in tune with the nature. They regulate the behaviour and inter-personal the relationship of its component members. In order Dharma prescribes Separate roles for different communities is based on inherent qualities, aptitude and potentialities of its members. The Dharma of Brahmin is not that of a Shudra, or the Dharma of a student not that of an old man.

Follow Swadharma – ‘Dharma’ advices people to follow honestly their own duties, ‘Swadharma’. Following one’s own Dharma gives everybody else opportunities to live and prosper socially, professionally, economically, and spiritually according to their own rhythm. It thus prepares atmosphere guides people to do their jobs well well as others traditions and culture.

Will power to follow the path of ‘Swadharma’ – Moulding life according to Swadharma is not an easy task. It requires will power and a strong character. Therefore, persons with weak faculties finds it difficult to observe Dharma. Dharma along with Karma was the means, through which a person approached the desired goal of life, the ultimate aim being salvation from the cycle of birth and death.

Principle of Karma with Detachment – Doctrine of Karma guides people to remain true and to fulfil their duties earnestly, enables different groups to act cooperatively. It makes the inequalities, prevalent in the society, tolerable to an average Indian. It has ensured social harmony and prevented rivalries and jealousies. 

Central Theme of Gita – Karma is the central theme of Bhagwat Gita. The Philosophy of Gita is simple. It guides people ‘Rely on one’s own Laws and Traditions. Do one’s own duties/deeds without hesitation and with complete devotion towards God, and achieve what is generally achieved by such deeds.

Every act should be done in moderation – Gita teaches that control over mind is necessary for purification of Soul. And for purification of Soul, one should fulfil the duties assigned to him in proper manner and in moderation.

Detachment – Detachment is the doorway to self-realization and to have control over restless mind. If a person wants peace of mind, he should not try to feel elated with the feeling that he is the doer of the deeds. Dedicate the results of all your deeds to God. Then one can keep the mind free from attachment towards the results of his deeds. In that manner one can reach beyond the scope of the three qualities – (saintly, worldly lethargic).

Prepares atmosphere of co-existence Together these principles of Varna, Dharma and Karma have prepared an atmosphere of co-existence for different sections of its society – be it ruler or ruled, rich or poor; and  have held together different castes and communities having diverse languages and practices for generations – thus making unity in diversity a reality.

Sanatan Dharma [Eternal values) according to Hinduism – It is said that “Things that are  perfected by nature are better than anything else.” Sanatan Dharma nurtures the basic instincts of human beings over nature, after a deep study of natural instincts, inherent attributes and natural behavioral pattern and takes care of the basic physical, mental and spiritual needs of the human beings at different stages of life.

Sanatana means eternal or beyond the time and Dharma means duty. Sanatan Dharma is the Universal Truth, which sustains the very core of Universe and its beings. It tells about general norms of conduct at different stages of life. Its rules are universal, eternal, applicable to all human beings  and much above race, caste or creed. Even today these are as relevant as it was earlier.  

Many learned sages and intellectuals, belonging to different communities studied for centuries, the natural instincts, behavioral pattern, inherent attributes and felt needs (physical, mental and spiritual) of people at different stages of life. They attached great importance to social values. On basis of their experiences and deep thinking,  a program of eternal values – a compact life package known as ‘Sanatan Dharma’ was formulated. The whole scheme is in conformity with time and forces of nature. Indian philosophers and Epic writers attached great importance to social values.

Work is WorshipHindu Philosophy has taught people that Work is Worship. All kinds of work are worth pursuing and respectable, if done in its sincerely. No work is superior/high or humble/inferior/derogatory/ or waste. Any work done in its true spirit could never be derogatory or a waste.

Work is done not so much for its external reward, but for the intrinsic satisfaction towards realization of ‘Swadharma’. Society assigns everybody a specific task to do as per one’s own karmas and destiny. Proper assignment and performance leads the whole society to live quality of life. While performing Swadharma without hesitation, a person gets earns a rightful place in the society and a feeling of being an integral part of the society, not an outsider to it. Society itself assigns each one a specific duty to do. Do the duties/deeds assigned by the society without hesitation and with complete devotion towards God, and achieve what is generally achieved by such deeds.

Hindu culture tells assured people that proper performance of Swadharma with honesty and sincerity assures both, worldly honour and spiritual happiness. The work of a priest, warrior, manual worker or yogi, all are equally important for the society and are, therefore, right, respectable and worth pursuing.

The idea of white-collared jobs, blue-collared jobs and menial/derogatory jobs is the contribution of Western world. After industrial Revolution, . It has attracted the attention of common men to a great extend in modern times.

Assignment of work on the basis of Attitude and aptitude – Principle of Varna believes in Principle of ‘Division of Labour’. According to it, individuals differ from each other in natural endowments, intelligence, aptitudes, attitudes, skills, personal needs and other innate characteristics.  Their physical strength, mental capacity and moral aspirations, like and dislikes, inclination and expectations are not the same. Different activities should be assigned to different sections of society according to its natural endowment/inclinations, qualities and aptitudes/psychological characteristics.

Gunas the basis of stratification of Hindu society – Varna system has classified Hindu society into four Varnas/social groups according to their Gunas (Qulifications) – Brahmins (Learners); Khhatrias (Warriors), Vaishyas (Business men) and Shudras (workers under the guidance of above three groups). “Sat” or “austerity is required for pursuing knowledge, “Rajas” is the quality needed for actions of courage, bravery, power and protection of the weak. Initially, according to Smritis it was not birth, but the qualities and deeds, which fitted one into a particular group. But, later on, upbringing, atmosphere and convenience tended to make these groups hereditary.

As against this system, employment/occupation/profession of people depend on number of formal degrees/ diplomas/certificates.

Eternal values (Sanatan Dharma) according to HinduismIt is said that “Things that are  perfected by nature are better than anything else”. Sanatana (eternal/beyond the time) Dharma (duty) is the Universal Truth which sustains the very core of Universe and its beings. It tells about general norms of conduct at different stages of life. Its rules are universal, eternal, applicable to all human beings  and much above race, caste or creed. Even today these are as relevant as it was earlier.  

Many learned sages and intellectuals, belonging to different communities studied for centuries, the natural instincts, behavioural pattern, inherent attributes and felt needs (physical, mental and spiritual) of people at different stages of life. On basis of their experiences and deep thinking,  a program of eternal values – a compact life package known as ‘Sanatan Dharma’ – was formulated. It attaches importance to social values.

Sanatan Dharma nurtures the basic instincts of human beings over nature. It takes care of the basic physical, mental and spiritual needs of the human beings at different stages of life. The whole scheme is in conformity with time and forces of nature.

For living life fully and fruitfully and aging gracefully, a person has to pass through four stages of life and perform different duties in different stages of life. Sanatan Dharma defines clearly rights and duties of human beings at each stage of life and achieve Sachchidanand (Bliss, consciousness and knowledge). It teaches to do the duties sincerely at right time and  right age of life. According to it, there is one pre-stage followed by four stages in human life. These stages are:-

Different Stages of human life – For living life fruitfully and aging gracefully, every person passes through four stages of life, At each stage s(he) performs different duties. Sanatan Dharma prescribes clearly rights and duties of human beings at each stage of life and achieve Sachchidanand (Bliss, consciousness and knowledge). According to it, there is one pre-stage followed by four stages in human life. These stages (Ashramas) are:-

Pre stage of Balyavastha or Childhood – The first 5 or 6 years of infants’ and toddlers’ life is the pre-stage of learning. It is the best period of human life. During this  period, the ground for  learning is prepared at home under the full-time attention, loving care and guidance of his parents. A child learns and understands the first lesson of real life, about human relationships and mannerism. Constant interaction between parents and children prepares an atmosphere for development of child’s mental and physical faculties and character. It is the responsibility of parents to shape the attitude of their children. Obedience is expected from child.

First stage of human life, Brahamcharya Ashram – Brahmacharya Ashram stage of human life is the right time for learning. Students should lead a simple and disciplined lifestyle. They should devote their time to acquire knowledge without bothering much about their comfort zone. Teacher’s job is to impart knowledge, shape attitudes, cultivate skills and build work habits of their students, so that after completing their course, people are better adjusted in real life environment. They should help students to develop their mental and moral faculties and guide them to have control over their senses, mind and intellect. At this stage society rears, protects and gives its best as heritage to coming generation.

Second Stage of human-life, Grihasthashram/Family-life – This phase is the most energetic time of human life, to rejoice the life, may be as a family-man (Grahastha/housholder) or a bachelor.

Grihasthashram has been given a high place of honour. Life offers opportunities to utilize one’s intellectual and physical capabilities. During this phase a man or woman to pursues and fulfils the dreams/desires or 4 goals of life, with greater emphasis on first three – Dharma (piety, morality, duties), Artha (wealth, health, means of life), Kama (love, relationships, emotions) and Moksha (liberation, freedom, self-realization).[7] 

At this stage, Householders are directly or indirectly in contact with the whole society. They give protection to their dependents in consistent with their capacity, dictates of their knowledge and conscience. Dependents include elders, children, members of extended family and strangers in need of help. They contribute to other sections of society, They are responsible to sustain people belonging to other three Ashramas, to look after their management and the needs (like provision of food and financial help).

Third Stage of life, Vanaprastha Ashram/Adulthood – Grihathashram is conceptually followed by Vanaprastha Ashram. It is time to lead a retired life. After fulfilling familial liabilities, time comes in life to start process of withdrawal, delegation of authority to next generation, detachment from familial bonds and renunciation of worldly pleasures. More time should be spent in contemplation. Time can be utilized by doing social service and attending spiritual discourses.

Running after luxurios life style or Material success at this stage is not the aim. It is the time for ‘Simple living and high thinking’. Elders can provide extended care, to help in taking decisions, maintaining discipline within their respective groups and taking care of and helping weak and helpless members like poor, widows or destitute.

Fourth Stage of life, Sanyas (renunciation) – It is a time to prepare oneself to leave this world and go to an unknown world. It is time of complete detachment, resignation and renunciation. Realization of spirituality and wisdom is the aim. A person is completely free from any obligation.

Hindu philosophy considers these four stages as a facet of Dharma concept, something essential to completing the full development of a human life and fulfilling all the needs of the individual and society.[3][7]

Earlier, when human life was not so complicated and men were closer to nature, people could follow the principles of Sanatan Dharma without much difficulty. With the erosion of moral values and life becoming more and more complex, it became difficult for people to practice it.

Knowledge, necessary for understanding – Vedas tell that creation and quest for knowledge is a constant process, without any beginning or an end. It is a never ending process (‘Neti’, ‘Neti’). Indian  Sages (Rishis and Munies) believed that even Vedas are not the end for quest for knowledge or prescribes any final absolutes.

According to Gita, Senses are superior to the body, Mind is superior to the Senses and Knowledge or intellect is superior to the Mind. Knowledge is better than Abhyas (practice), Meditation is better than Knowledge. Renunciation of the fruits of action is still better than Meditation for peace.

Knowledge is necessary for giving Karma its due meaning, direction and value. Gita says that ‘action’/’deed’ should be combined with intellect (positive energies). Ignorance leads to futile efforts destroying direction. There are choices before everyone – either to take any action with knowledge and positive attitude or do a deed with ignorant/negative mindset.

Self-discipline, self-reliance and self-restraint – Hindu culture gives importance to the considerations of self-discipline, morality, and knowledge. Hindu culture suggests all to lead a self-restraint and self-disciplined life in all respect, be it in the matter of daily routine, occupation or inter group relationship.

Earlier, Hindu society ranked different social groups on the basis their lifestyle and discipline they observe and usefulness of their work to the society as a whole. Knowledge, spirituality, morality, hygiene, cleanliness of body and mind (concept of purity and impurity) were the considerations, which determined the social, economic or political status of a group within society vis-a vis other social groups. Purer a varna or caste was, higher it was considered. And the higher it was, greater were the self-restrictions on its behaviour through rituals.

Discipline was inculcated amongst ignorant masses, and a sense of direction was given to them through infinite variety of rituals, prayers, practices, customs and meditation.

Tolerance and acceptance/interdependenceHindu culture values interdependence, acceptance and tolerance as –

(a) It accepts that there are different paths leading to God and be humane; (b) It gives complete liberty to worship any god or goddess of their choice, as well as use their own methods of worship; (c)It does not impose its own codes of conduct on other faiths; (d) It is liberal enough to see atheism as a legitimate pursuit.

Ethos of Hinduism – Hinduism firmly believes in the principles, ‘Live and let live’, ‘Vasudhaiv-Kutumbakam’ (The whole world is one family). Truth, Ahimsa, peace and non-aggression are the hallmark of Hindu culture. It can be seen everywhere in common men’s way of life and is the integral part of Indian ethos. Indians  endure without much protest injustice and unfairness until they are pushed right to the wall. It has prevented its people to exercise coercion, force, violence or aggressions.

Concedes validity to all the religions – Tolerance is most evident in the field of religion.  Hindu faith in an all pervading omnipresent god, multiplicity of god and goddesses as representing some portion of the infinite aspect of the Supreme Being, inspires it to accommodate people of all faiths.  Hinduism concedes validity to all the religions and does not lay down strictures against any faith or reject any religion or its god as false.  That is why, all the twelve major religions of the world are present and flourishing in India without much hindrance. 

Entered into modern era without any cultural break – In the past, intolerance of people elsewhere in the world had compelled the people to work under the threat of a whip or led to bloody revolutions as had happened in ancient Greece, Rome or other European countries. However, tolerance in India had kept on adapting itself to changing times and had prevented people from taking up the path of violence. It is continuously internalizing the changes and has kept on adapting itself to changing times. India has entered the modern era without any cultural break.

Administration is one such area, where tolerance is harmful, as it not only hinders the development, but also pushes the nation backwards. Hindu people tolerate inefficiency of the administration, corruption, scandals, scams, even criminalization of politics without much protest. They do not mind much oppression and exploitation by powerful lobbies in the society. Elsewhere in the world, such situations would have led to strong protests/bloody revolutions.

Hinduism a wonderful example of assimilation and Inclusiveness – More than anywhere else in the world, India holds a multitude of thoughts, processes them and practices them. There has been co-existence of varied belief, pattern and thought due to inter-mixing and cultural mingling.

Beauty of Hinduism lies in the way, it assimilated numerous social groups coming from different parts of the world at different points of time in waves immigrants, locals, tribal, professionals or others – into its mainstream unlike Islam or Christianity. It does not believe in conversion or imposing its beliefs, practices and customs on others. Hindu religion has neither repulsed any trend vehemently, nor allowed others to sweep its own established culture off the roots.

Caste-system used as a mechanism for inclusion of other groups – Caste system assigned each incoming new group a separate 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 develop itself. 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 all incoming groups freedom to prosper/make changes into their systems according to their internal rhythm.

Modern India – Everything is moving at a very fast speed in India due to globalization and modernization. It has influenced the thinking, mannerism and life-style of its people in big way. The whole atmosphere is in a state of turmoil. People are gradually loosing faith in traditional values and systems. Even institution like family has lost its sheen.

Political institutions are almost paralyzed because of corruption. And economy of the country is in a critical condition. It is question of ‘demand and supply’. Government does not have enough resources and infra-structure to meet public demands.

It is quite a tough job for India to cope with the new challenges. C. Rajagopalachari says If there is honesty in India today, any hospitality, any charity…. any aversion to evil, any love to be good, it is due to whatever remains of the old faith and the old culture. Now India is desperate to pick up the lost threads of its true culture, beliefs and trying to create an atmosphere where different identities could once again live together in harmony and can proudly say we belong to a nation known as India, Hindustan, and Bharat. 

IV Caste system

In the present understanding of caste, element of caste is dominant and a system has been considerably suppressed. The reality is that the roots of caste system are so deep that it is virtually impossible to think of India without caste system. Castes has its ethnic roots as denoted by Jati, and a ritualistic and symbolic significance in its Varna aspect. It has been one of the dominant features still running through the entire social fabric of India. Caste-system is inseparably related to Hinduism by traditional customs, values and systems. It is having both religious and social sanction behind it.

Don Martindale has described caste as “Caste was the system of social life, in which Hinduism was expressed. …  Caste and Hinduism succeeded in doing in India, what no state, no conqueror and no economy was able to do – the establishment of a single unified system of society throughout the whole of India (accommodating numerous semi-autonomous communities arising at many times and in many places), a system of society, which was able to comprise a greater range of local differences in a single system than any society has previously accomplished.”

Meaning of the term caste – The term “caste” was unknown in India. The terms ‘Varna and jaati’ were used earlier in ancient and medieval India to identify different social groups and sub-groups. The term ‘Caste’ has been in use ever since British came to rule India.

The term caste has originated from Portuguese “casta” meaning race, breed, ancestry, and from Latin word “Castus” “casto” meaning pure, chaste. Application to Hindu social groups was picked up by English in India 1610s from Portuguese casta “breed, race, caste,” earlier casta raça, “unmixed race,” from the same Latin word. The current spelling of English word is from this reborrowing.

Terms Varṇa (वर्णः) and Jaati – Varna is a Sanskrit word which means type, order, colour or class. ‘Jati’ which comes from the Sanskrit word ‘Jana’. ‘Jaāti’ refers to thousands of endogamous social groups, sub-groups and sub-sub- groups coming under each Varna, living across the subcontinent. A jati may be divided into exogamous groups based on the same gotras. (Dumont, Louis (1980), Homo hierarchicus: the caste system and its implications, University of Chicago Press, pp. 66–67) Castes have its ethnic roots as denoted by Jati, and a ritualistic and symbolic significance in its Varna aspect.

The origin of the words ‘Varna or Jaati’ can-not be found in one single authoritative text like Bible or Kuran, nor can it be attributed to one single founder, Jesus Christ or Mohammad Sahib. It is the development of thousands of years. to develop with the association of numerous social groups into it at different point of time. It started with the arrival of Aryans hereditary kinship and tribal groups in India in waves, from different parts of the world.

It is virtually impossible to think of India without caste system. It has bee one of the dominant features still running through the entire social fabric of India. Caste-system is inseparably related to Hinduism by traditional customs, values and systems.

Origin of the terms, ‘Varna‘/‘Jaati’ and ‘Caste’ – The origin of the words ‘Varna or Jaati’ can-not be found in one single authoritative text like Bible or Kuran, nor can it be attributed to one single founder, Jesus Christ or Mohammad Sahib. It is the development of thousands of years. to develop with the association of numerous social groups into it at different point of time. It started with the arrival of Aryans hereditary kinship and tribal groups in India in waves, from different parts of the world.

The term Caste was recorded officially in 1840 for the first time by European colonizers, to mean persons belonging to the same hereditary social group. Instead of using ‘Varna or Jati’ separately, they merged both the terms into one. Since then, the meaning and understanding about caste system has been changed drastically.

Caste system, a development of Thousands years Its origin of Caste-system can’t be found in one single authoritative text like Bible or Koran, nor can it be attributed to one single founder like Jesus Christ or Mohammad Sahib. It has taken thousands of years to develop with the association of numerous social groups into it at different point of time.

Different shades and meaning with changing times – Caste system has survived the vicissitudes of time, and saved itself by erosion from within and assault from outside. Credit of its prolonged life goes to its adaptability, flexibility and absorptive nature , which has internalized even the alien influences. It has taken different shades and meaning with the changing times and places. Once changed, it never returned to its original form. 

Wonderful process of assimilation – Wonderful process of assimilation and fusion of different social groups has been a continuous process of the Hindu civilization. It contributed to the cultural richness of Bharat.  All the sects present in India, whether foreign or indigenous, have been influenced greatly by Hindu thinking, caste system, its practices and systems.

Such flexibility is not seen in the West. When Christianity broke away from Judaism, it departed totally from the common cultural traditions.  Therefore, it is very difficult for the Western world to understand and appreciate Indian culture fully.

Different stages of making and evolution of Varna/caste Following are the different stages of the evolution of Varna/caste –

Caste during Ancient period As Basham has pointed out, Caste system may well be called a natural response of many small and primitive groups of people, who were forced to come to terms, with a more advanced economic and social system. Caste system provided a mechanism, by which numerous discrete tribes, all sorts of groups and associations arising for political, sectarian or other reasons could be internalized and preserved within the whole.

Pre-Vedic period – The making of caste system can be traced from the times of pastoral tribal society. Roughly ten millennia ago, people lived  in small migratory groups, living the life-style of wandering “nomadic herdsmen”. These small groups mostly lived in hilly areas, not far from rivers. Tribal communities were nomadic or semi nomadic and egalitarian. They depended on nature for its subsistence.

Settled agricultural society – Then came the period of making of the agricultural societies. People started  cultivating land and settled down Gradually pastoral tribal society transformed into a settled agricultural society, confining its activities and life within a small area or territory. Clans and tribes settled permanently in different parts of the country. As reflected in ‘Rigveda’, during early stages of Vedic Age people ceased to be a wandering people, started a settled life.

Entry of Aryans – Aryans arrived in India in waves at different points of time. Aryans, after entering into India first conquered its original inhabitants of Northern part of India, colonized and established kingdoms, then Deccan and then south. During the period, it was possible to have high ranks, but not high social classes.

Development of structures and systems – Socio-political structures and systems were evolved leisurely over about 2000 years (roughly between 2000 BC to about 600 BC) and kept on coping with the changes slowly, time had brought in. In the beginning people hardly possessed more than what was needed for their subsistence/survival. The practice of cultivation, rise of crafts and iron tools transformed the egalitarian society into fully agricultural and stratified society sometime during 6th century BC.

Initially a simple class division was seen in the social structure, i.e. nobility and the ordinary tribesmen. Slowly, possession of land, slaves and hired laborers started. People started producing and possessing more than they needed. The kings collected their surplus yields.

The power of kings gradually increased. For regular collection, administrative and religious methods were devised. Vedic society is considered as the most advanced civilization in every respect – be it its social structure under “Varna System”, or its Hindu culture or style of governance. Society was relatively egalitarian one. There was no distinct hierarchy of socio-economic classes or castes.

Castes during Vedic Period – Historical time of the origin and slow but steady evolution of Varna system is estimated around 3300–1300 BCE; mature period 2600–1900 BCE. It was the period of beginning of Indus Valley Civilization.

Initially, Vedic Culture originated and flourished in northern parts of India (on the Indo-Gangetic Plains of the Indian subcontinent) and later on spread throughout India during 1500 BC and 500 BC. It had emerged when migrants groups mixed up with the indigenous people (popularly known as Hindus). Rules of endogamy, ritual purity, interdependence and hierarchical order of social units were the main features of Varna system. Observance of restrictions for self-discipline, clearly defined rights and duties and specialization were its important traits.

Developments happened during this period – This was also the time when numerous Aryan hereditary kinship and migrating tribal groups arrived here in waves, from different parts of the world and mixed up with its  indigenous people.

The assimilation of numerous racial, professional, immigrants, tribal and other groups into Hindu fold gave birth to caste system. Caste system accommodated and bound them into a single cultural system. Each incoming new group was assigned a separate caste name. Hindu religion has neither repulsed any trend vehemently, nor allowed others to sweep its established culture off the roots.Caste during Position of castes during Medieval Period Many changes took place, during these periods, in the caste system. Turks, Afghans and Mughals continuously invaded India. Invasion of Ghazni (998-1030 AD), and others, the establishment of Slave Dynasty (1206-1290), Khilji Dynasty (1290-1320), Tuglak Dynasty (1320-1412 AD) Sayyed Dynasty (1414-51) Lodi Dynasty (1451-1526) and Mughal Empire (1526 to 1757) continuously pressurized Hindu Social system. It resulted in the downfall of Hindu Raj and old Hindus values. Earlier they drained out the wealth of the nation to foreign lands.  But afterwards, they conquered and made India their homeland.    The religious reaction of Hindus to Muslim excesses resulted in rigidity of rituals. During this period Hinduism turned inwards.

Imposition of Zaziya on Hindus and the intolerance of rulers towards their Hindu subjects made it difficult for Hindus to preserve their identity and indigenous culture.  The conscious efforts by them to preserve their values and honour, made the caste rules and rituals stricter and more rigidly applied than before[i]. Many social evils like Sati Pratha; Dowry, Purdah system etc. took birth.

Besides, the feudalistic attitude, extravagance and luxurious life style of Mughal rulers and those at the helm of authority, increased the disparity between the rulers and the ruled.

The institution of caste was independent of the government.   It made the Hindu society stable but not static. Decentralized self-regulated systems were the mode in the social, political, and economic life of the country.  The influence of caste system was immense on public minds because:

  • The cultural endowments formed the basis of social status.
  • The ranking was not based on wealth or material gains, but on intellectual and spiritual attainments and on self-discipline.
  • As late as the eighteenth century, the hierarchical order of different castes was not established over large parts of the sub-continent.  The position of Brahmins was at the top and that of Shudras at the bottom, but in between the two, there was an ambiguity about the status of several castes, which was acceptable to all concerned.  This, itself, gave a large element of fluidity in the system.
  • There was a close association of caste with occupation.  As leading sociologists pointed out, in addition to their hereditary occupation, agriculture and army were open to all sections of society. These professions were open and accommodated many groups – indigenous or alien.
  • There was no dearth of employment for aspiring workers.  A substantial labor market existed.  The basic qualification for belonging to any group was mainly the possession of qualifications to do that specific job.
  • Members of any caste group did not exercise monopoly over a profession. It is an established fact of Indian History that Brahmin or even Shudras sometimes became the kings. Khatriyas and Shudra were accepted and revered as philosophers or spiritual teachers.  In order to increase their strength, there were times, when inter caste marriages took place in the past.
  • Upward mobility was possible for different groups.  Agriculture and military service were accessible to anybody.  The recruits in Military came from all strata of society including the lowest in the ritual terms.  There was no discrimination in recruitment and treatment of soldiers of any kind on the basis of caste.  Rajput status was given to soldiers.[Jain Girilal – The Hindu Phenomenon p9, 1994.]
  • Alternative ideologies and styles of life were available in India.[ii] The plurality of society provided automatic checks and balances and controlled the arbitrariness or unbalanced growth of power of any group.  Indian peasantry in UP, Bihar and MP were armed.  In fact, non-Kshatriya peasant provided leadership of most armed bands, which were numerically predominant and economically and politically strong at the village level. 
  • The monopoly of powerful peasant was a reality of the rural life of Medieval India. The Brahmin strongholds were the centers of learning.
  • The floating population, consisting groups like Gujjars, Bhattis, Rajput rangers, who remained outside caste system, were so strong, that they terrorized settled agriculturists for centuries.
  • Forests, which competed with arable land in size and importance, till the 18th century, gave shelter and food to large sections of society and served as havens for those in search of escape from society.     Caste system acted as a major force, through which Hindus retained their cultural identity, while living under an alien political order, whether it was Mughal, Portuguese or British.  It was the major force for the failure of Islam, Christianity and other religions to make headway in India even after mass conversion.
  • The local character of caste system, during pre-British period, made close interaction and cooperation between different castes, a reality.  Still they enjoyed a large measure of freedom in respect of their internal customs, rituals and life styles.  All the activities of urban or rural areas were confined within a small area, having very little links with the outside world because of the slower means of transport.  Only merchants visited different distant places. 
  • The local societies used to be self-sufficient mutually `supporting and caring for each other.  All castes, living in a village or city, were bound together by economic and social ties and had a strong bond of mutual dependence.  Rituals required the participation of all castes. Even untouchables were assigned important social duties. Harijan women helped all castes at the time of child birth, sweepers beat drums in front of Hindu’s houses or in front of a procession at the time of an important ceremony, village barber spread news, arranged marriages and served food during celebrations.  Occasionally non-Brahmins or Harijans served as priests of temples of goddesses like Sita or Kali, where all castes made offerings.
  • There was not much disparity between different forward or lower castes.  The tropical climate of the country compelled the people to the distribution of surplus, as it was difficult to store anything for long.
  • There was hardly any question of all India tyranny of any caste group.  There was not a single group identifiable as very strong-dominating all the others, or as an enemy to defeat.  Laws remained unmodified and flexible with the capacity to adapt to local customs and situations.  People in power and position cared for the lower castes in order to acquire and retain local followers. The system made upper castes generous in matters of food, drinks and loans, when required.[Sriniwas MN,  Times of India, Dated September 9, 1990, p 6.]
  • Teachings of Shri Chaitnya, Nanak, Kabir, Bhakti and Sufi saints gave some breathing space to the rigidity of caste system, which suffocated the society during medieval India.

Pr. Rajni Kothari says comments that till medieval times: –

  • There was a hierarchical social order, through which infinite ambiguities had been at once tolerated and regulated.
  • A multi-cultural framework of governance existed, which had restrained hegemonical and majority’s dominating tendencies.
  • A highly flexible ethics code was there, through which constant and continuing distortions, clash of personalities, major paradoxes in elite behaviors and instances of humiliation, acrimony and hypocritical behaviors in the conduct of public affairs were managed.[Times of India, dated July 28, 1997,  p13.]

Pr. Shah says, The scheme of life practiced in India for more than 2000 years showed a comprehensive and coordinated planning, which has yet to be correspondingly conceived of or similarly attained in any other part of the world.[i]

Hinduism and Caste system during British Imperial ruleEnd of Mughal rule – The downfall of Mughal Empire had started around 1750. That was the time when a British trading Company stared conquering India. The Government of India Act of 1858 brought an end to company’s rule and placed India directly under the Crown. With it ended the era of expansion and commercial exploitation and the nation ushered into the era of economic exploitation and policy of divide and rule. Since then, the meaning and understanding about caste system has been changed drastically.

Ideological Attack on Hinduism and Caste System – British rulers made purposely an ideological attack on Hinduism. They developed a complex in the minds of Indian intellectuals about efficacy of caste system. British rulers portrayed Hinduism as “discriminatory,” “iniquitous,” “exploitative,” “oppressive” “barbarous,” “uncivilized” and “highly stratified”.

Ward alleged “Not only is the caste contrary to every principle of justice and polity, it is repugnant to every feeling of benevolence. The social circle is almost invariably, composed of persons of the same caste, to the careful exclusion of others. It aims one class of men against another; it gives rise to greatest degree of pride and apathy. It forms a sufficient excuse for not doing an act of benevolence towards another, that he is not of the same caste, Ney, a man dying with thirst will not accept a cooling drop of water from the hands or the cup of a person of a lower caste.”

British rulers had intentionally highlighted the weaknesses and suppressed the salient feature of caste as a system. They held caste system responsible for evil social practices, feudalistic attitude, backward thinking, belief in dogmas and superstitions sustained by a unique set of rituals, and whimsical concept of purity and pollution.

The regenerating and degenerative role of British rule – Karl Marx had remarked that British had a double mission in India, one destructive, the other regenerating; the annihilation of the old Asiatic Society and laying the material foundation of Western Society in Asia.

The regenerating character was concerned with social transformation through modern education, modernization in economic sphere, political unification of the country and laying foundations for many democratic institutions.

The reactionary and destructive character can be seen the way British rulers divided and ruled the country and their adverse effect on the social and economic position of India. System of giving Preferences to certain social groups fanned Communalism and Casteism. They misused the data collected by Census Operations for political reasons. System of holding Elections has led evil practices to like – Vote-bank politics, criminalization of politics and corruption.

Why Western world is mystified – Western world is mystified by amazing pluralities and unique social structure of India based on caste. It is difficult for the western world to understand the role of Hinduism or caste as a system – past or present – in Indian society. Complete localization and unfamiliarity makes it difficult to understand caste as a system in its totality and to know the nuances, the nature, role (both in the past as well as in present) and value of caste as a system. Because –

Conceptualized, originated and practiced exclusively in India – Caste system is a unique way of stratifying the society. It has been conceptualized, originated and practiced exclusively in India. Hinduism and its have given a distinguished identity to Indian society.

Caste not class basis of stratification – While in Western world, usually anthropologists, historians and sociologists identify ‘class’, as universal basis of stratification within a society, Indian society has been stratified socially on the basis of Varna/caste-system.

Power and social status associated with wealth – In materialistic Western societies, wealth has always been associated with power, authority and social status. In India, its Caste system has separated wealth from status, power from authority, pursuit and achievement in knowledge from temptations of worldly comforts. The status of a person or a caste is ranked on the basis of knowledge, discipline and moral standards, and not on the basis of material success, or control of power. Similarly the greatness of a nation is judged by the way government governs the nation, and not on the basis of the size of a state or its treasury.

Stress on duties rather than rights – Whereas, Western cultures have grown around the idea of `rights‘, forming the natural foundation of human relationship, caste system evolves around the concept of “duty, tolerance and sacrifice”. Emphasis on duty usually makes a person or a group humble and tolerant.

No conversion – Unlike Christianity or Islam, Hinduism has made new groups its integral part without any conversion and brought them under one umbrella without annihilating their own faith.

Misuse of Census Data – The knowledge of such diversity of Indian society and multiplicity of castes and sub-castes helped the rulers to instigate caste consciousness, caste animosities and make caste a tool in political, religious and cultural battles that Hindus fought amongst themselves from now onwards without any sign of relief even as of today.

Started Practice of “Preferences’ in Education and Government jobs – During the end of 19th century, British rulers started practice of “Preferences” by giving non-Brahmins 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. Later on, it gave birth to the ‘Policy of Reservations’.

Reformists during early 20th Century – Modern education, Western literature and philosophy widened the mental horizons of visionary national leaders and reformers. They welcomed rationality and other good features of and made good use of liberal, and humanitarian ideas/thoughts of Modern Western World. But at the same time destructive nature of new policies alarmed national leaders. National leaders got alarmed at the erosion of Indian Culture and divisible policies of the rulers. They realized the impact of British racial discrimination and their repressive policies on the Indian people.

The destructive character of British imperialism lit the fire and gave birth to national movement. Economic loot, political subjugation, assertion of lordly superiority over the subject on the ground of race, assumption of a haughty exclusiveness, persistent insulting and supercilious behavior towards all Indians, exclusion of Indians from all places of authority and responsibility and denial of their capacity for self-governance united Indians against British rule.

Reformists talked about the greatness of Hindu Vedic culture and about Vedas as the source of all knowledge and truth. Swami Vivekanand founded the Rama Krishna Mission tried to reveal to the world Indian Philosophy and culture. Some reform institutes like Vivekanand’s or Rama Krishna Mission or Theosophical Society of India tried to familiarize the Western World, too, to the charm and graciousness of Indian Culture.

They advised people not to be swayed away by Western culture. First they should know their own heritage and try to revive what is good in it. They gave a call to “Return to Vedas”. He said, “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 the direction which has become its own through the transmission of centuries the nation dies.”

Rational Interpretation of Hindu systems and values – Many intellectuals leaders and reformists did the rational interpretation of Hindu philosophy, values and systems, telling the masses that –
•Knowledge alone is the key to truth.
•Vedas has been conceived through intellectual contemplation and empirical observation and Upnishads (speculative interpretation of Vedas or Mythology) are the creation of human imagination.
•Their rationality is in conformity with the laws of nature.
•No one belongs to any social group because of birth. It is inter-changeable and depends on ones thoughts and deeds.
•True religion does not discriminate mankind in terms of race, colour, nationality, caste or gender.
•The most noble task of every individual is to work for the enlightenment and uplift the weaker persons.
•The markings of Indian culture are simplicity and solidity.

Hinduism and Caste Post Independent India – From 15th of August 1947 onwards, Independent India is committed to democratic, secular and egalitarian principles as enshrined in the Constitution of India. Preamble of the Indian Constitution promises to secure to all its citizens: JUSTICE, social, economic and political; LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship; EQUALITY of status and of opportunity; and to promote among them all FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the Nation.

After Independence, many of the discriminatory practices and deformities developed into the thinking and systems have been brought to an end slowly but steadily. Hinduism or Caste system don’t enjoy legal or religious sanctions.

In social arena, both Hinduism and caste-system have become quite liberal. Old style of authority and power exercised by caste-elders has already diminished except for a few rural areas especially in Haryana and Rajasthan. Restrictions or interactions between different castes arising due to considerations for purity and pollution are fading away from public life even from rural areas. Traditional barriers on marriage, hereditary occupations and commonality are loosing its importance. Expulsion from castes means little, while earlier it meant complete social ostracism.

But ever since mid-sixties, political leaders of modern India have found both Hindu religion and caste as the easiest and most powerful tool to sway public opinion emotionally and to create a larger vote bank for them. In a way, it may be called ossification of both, fallen into the hands of power brokers and vote guzzlers.

Under-currents of power-politics has pushed the real-issues like poverty, unemployment, inflation etc into background. Present Modi government has taken some bold decisions to undo some past mistakes. But single person alone or with the cooperation of a few of his sincere colleagues cannot bring desired results overnight. 

In the present day vote-bank policy, based deeply on the game of numbers, the voice of the backbone of society, the real sincere and honest middle class, is being continuously throttled mercilessly. Being the government of a welfare democratic government, the Authorities talk, think and plans about the social development of lower castes/class or about upper business class for economic reasons.

In a democratic country the presence of a strong opposition party with positive thinking is  important. However, at present there is a near complete absence of an Opposition party, which can keep a check over the arbitrariness of party in power and keep a balance. 

Conclusion –  After analysing the whole picture from beginning till end, it can be said that Hindu way of life along with its caste system das created an atmosphere, where different social groups, castes and communities could live most of the time with peace and harmony. It has inspired all sections of society to lead a self-restraint and self-disciplined life in all respect, be it in the matter of daily routine, occupation or inter caste relationship, in order to move up and earn respect of society. Most of the times, the Indian society has been able to develop  an attitude of reconciliation rather than refutation, cooperation rather than confrontation and co-existence rather than mutual annihilation.” (Khan, Democracy in India, pp 4-5)

Linking untouchability with Hindu’s Varna system is unfair. Conquered groups, individuals or groups engaged in unclean occupations, clinging to the practices, which were not considered respectable such as using foul language, persons born illegitimately or the groups involved in anti-social activities were treated as Shudras. In the biginning of 20th century, Shudras were divided into two – Touchable and untouchables for political reasons.

Similarly, Hinduism can not be blamed for the individual’s misery or deprivation. According to it, Adharma” (immoral behavior), “Alasya” (laziness) and Agyan (ignorance) are responsible for all evils, like poverty, unemployment, exploitation and miseries of people. 

Sir John Shore (Sir John Shore, the Governor General of India during the period 1793-1798) had observed that in spite of being their rulers, Hindus regarded Britishers at par with the lowest natives, no matter how strong or powerful were they. Even some Brahmins associated with unclean jobs like, Mahabrahmins performing last rites, have also been treated, more or less like Shudras. There were some instances in the past, when non-Brahmins or Harijans served as priests of temples of goddesses like Sita or Kali, where all castes made offerings. 

It is only a half-truth that Varna system has given the lowest rank to Shudras in social hierarchy, but Hinduism and its caste system have never prevented Shudras or others to rise in the scale of society or to earn respect of the society. In the past, people belonging to lower strata held position of power/superior status or earned respect of Hindu society. Many warrior kings of Shudra and tribal origin sought Brahmins’ help to acquire Kshatriyas status for themselves. Many Shudras were accepted and revered as philosophers or spiritual teachers like .

In ancient India, Lord Rama, a king, ate half-eaten berries of Shabri – an untouchable. Lord Krishna’s foster parents Nand and Yashoda, who in today’s classification would be called OBC, get more respect than his real Kshatriya parents from Hindu society. Vashishtha, the principal of the conservative school of Brahmanism, was the son of Uravshi, a prostitute. Vishwamitra, the maker of the very Gayatri Mantra, the quintessence of the Vedic Brahmanism, was a Kshatriya. Aitreya, after whom the sacramental part of Rig-Veda is named as Aitreya Brahamana, was the son from a non-Aryan wife of a Brahman sage. Vyasa of Mahabharata fame and Balmiki, the original author of Ramayana, both untouchable according to present standards, were not ashamed of his origin and are highly respected persons all over India.

In middle ages, Sant Ravidas, Namdev, Tukaram, Malika, Sunderdas and several other saints, belonging to lower ranks, earned the same respect as any higher caste saint. There had been instances of people of lower ranks becoming kings.

Therefore, it is only to blackmail and incite emotionally the illiterate and ignorant people. Hinduism or caste system are not wholly responsible for Shudra’s isolation, deprivation, exploitation, low social status. They are treated inhumanly by anti-social elements. Their low status in traditional Hindu Society is because of their mannerism and foul language. Now nobody forces anybody to do menial, unsavoury and unclean jobs. Earlier the position was different. Past is past. Now every one has choice in matter of job. It is because of economic reasons and unemployment problem that people, irrespective of caste or creed do menial work. 

All troubles of lower strata of society started after the downfall of Hindu Raj and old Hindus values. Continuous invasions by Turks, Afghans and Mughals who earlier drained out the wealth of the nation to foreign lands and afterwards made India their homeland and ruled the country for centuries. It resulted in Hinduism turning inwards and observing all the rituals rigidly and blindly to save its distinct identity under foreign rule. Afterwards, feudalistic attitude, extravagance and luxurious life style of Mughal rulers and those at the helm of authority, increased the disparity between the rulers and the ruled.

Then during British rule in India, modernization an industrialization process has made many traditional occupations obsolete or less paying. Some jobs were regarded more hazardous and more time consuming. White collared jobs gained importance and manual work was discredited. People tried their best to escape from menial work.  More, a person withdrew from physical labour, more civilized, honoured and qualified he was regarded by modern society.

The British apathy towards indigenous skills, knowledge and occupations pushed millions of rural artisans, craftsman and small scale farmers, for whom work was essential for survival, backwards in a very subtle manner. It resulted in discrediting many traditional occupations and in destruction of Indian handicrafts and cottage industry. It scattered efforts, sense of direction and manufacturing skills of millions of artisans, craftsman, weavers etc.

A few of them joined modern occupations. Majority belonging to different castes could neither enter modern sector, nor could stick to their traditional occupations considering menial work derogatory and lost their creativity, sense of achievement and pride. Masses had no option, but to either join band of agricultural laborers, industrial workers, and marginal labor and increase number of poor and unemployed. Outcome of such a change has been casualty of workers first, afterwards their work style, commitment, motivation and culture.

Recently empowerment of backward and untouchable castes has becoming once again a buzz -word in political arena. Poverty is the most pervasive phenomenon, which cuts across all the barriers of caste religion and region. It has been estimated that despite numerous developmental plans, schemes and legislation, including Reservation Policy in higher education and jobs, there are about 500 million Indians are living in squalor.

There are many reasons responsible for their deprivation, agonies and poverty other than caste. Population explosion, illiteracy, unemployment, lack of awareness about opportunities to progress, insufficient wages in unorganized sector, indebtedness, politicization of caste system, obsolete forest and land policies and half-hearted implementation of developmental plans.   

Therefore, it can be said that it is not the malice of castes-Hindus, but the circumstances, that are pushing untouchables and some other backward castes away from the mainstream. Suffering from centuries old enslavement, suppression and ostracism deteriorated severely the condition of lower strata of society, stopped growth of their personality and made them dependent on others for their livelihood.

It is a humanitarian obligation of any civilized society to bring suitable changes to uplift and empower the submerged sections of society. Generally law follows social changes. But in India, after the Independence, the political leadership in their hurry and enthusiasm, tried to foster social changes through law.  In order age-old imbalances and cumulative disparities of power, wealth and culture, they have started politicization of Caste-system. They tried to integrate the whole country by turning it into a casteless society.

Unfortunately, instead creating a better future, it has generated other complications. Its paternalistic policies for bringing the submerged sections of the society into mainstream and creating a casteless society has not yielded the desired results, because –

  • Thes policies are devised by self-proclaimed leaders and administered by bureaucrats belonging mainly to the elite of urban society,
  • Plans are not rooted in local priorities or skills. The beneficiaries do not choose, design and implements the projects.
  • It has often represented patronage networks of those doling out the money.
  • So far, it has mostly benefitted the rural elite.

Recently, many reformers and religious/spiritual institutions are focussing their attention on community development. Many self-help groups (NGOs) have emerged all-over India. They bypass the government mechanisms and go straight communities.

Wherever properly harnessed, efforts of such self-help groups have yielded rich dividends. For example the Parsi and Christian communities, institutions run by Veerashaivya Mutts of Karnataka, Ramakrishan Mission, Radhaswami Satsang, Satya Sai Baba, Sadhu Vasvani and many others are practising community based approach for the development of humanity. They provide far better municipal, civic, educational, and medical services than the government.

Hinduism and Caste system, not obsolete so far – In-spite of all the accelerated changes in the society due to modernization process and tough times, The roots of Hinduism and  its ‘Varna/jati-Pratha’, now known as caste system, are so deep that it is virtually impossible to think of India without Hinduism and its caste system. Caste-system is inseparably related to Hinduism by traditional customs, values and systems. Hinduism and caste system is going strong in India because it has both religious and social sanction from Hindu society behind it.

Both Hinduism and its caste system have not become weak or obsolete in social arena even today, though during the very long period of its evolution, some evil practices caste system have developed. Many  many ideological attacks were launched on Hinduism and its caste system from time to time.  But so far, both have survived   the vicissitudes of time and saved itself from erosion from within or assault from outside.  Still, both these institutions give present Indian society a distinguished identity and a solid social structure with a system of thought, a way of life, and sense of direction. People should never forget that mostly traditional living is like an anchor, which keeps the boat in safe harbour. Once that the anchor goes, the boat is left at the mercy of wild waves on a stormy ocean.

Winding Up

Hinduism and Caste system, not obsolete so far – In-spite of all the accelerated changes in the society due to modernization process and tough times, The roots of Hinduism and  its ‘Varna/jati-Pratha’, now known as caste system, are so deep that it is virtually impossible to think of India without Hinduism and its caste system. Hinduism and caste system is going strong in India because it has both religious and social sanction from Hindu society behind it.Caste-system is inseparably related to Hinduism by traditional customs, values and systems.

Both Hinduism and its caste system have not become weak or obsolete even today, though during the very long period of its evolution, some evil practices caste system have developed. Many  ideological attacks have been were launched on both from time to time.  But so far, they have survived   the vicissitudes of time and saved itself from erosion from within or assault from outside.  Together these institutions have given Indian society a distinguished identity and a solid social structure with a system of thought, a way of life, and sense of direction.

 Assaults on Hinduism and its caste system – In the past, from time to time, there had been many assaults on Hinduism and its caste system, whenever rigidities and discriminatory practices of society in the name of religion or caste system had suffocated Indian society. After each assault, Hinduism and its caste system re-emerged with greater force. There arose alternative ideologies or styles of life, which gave people breathing space.

Rise of Buddhism in Ancient India, Sufi tradition of Islam and Bhakti movement of Hindus in medieval India (around 10th century), and reform movements of 19th and 20th centuries taught sympathetic attitude towards lesser human beings, brotherly love for each other and fellowship, love and respect all human beings irrespective of caste or creed and rejected practice of elaborate rituals and caste pretensions.

Hinduism along with its Caste system does not owe its exaltation to any outside force.  It had the capacity to look inwardly and correct that by itself.  Rise of Buddhism in Ancient India, of Bhakti movement in mediaeval India and Reform Movement of 19th and first half of the 20th centuries are examples of it.


[i]  Basham, Wonder That Was India, p51-52.

      Basham, Ibid pp181-82.

[iii]           Jain Girilal – The Hindu Phenomenon p9, 1994.

[iv]           Bayly CA., New Cambridge history of India Vol.II, 1988.

[v]             Sriniwas MN,  Times of India, Dated September 9, 1990, p 6.

[vi]     Times of India, dated July 28, 1997,  p13.

[vii]          Times of India, dated April 10, 1994, p3.

[viii]          Basham, Ibid  p152.

 


[i]            Basham, Wonder That Was India, p51-52.

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[ii]           Basham, Wonder That Was India, p51-52.

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October 25, 2019 Posted by | General, Social and political values and systems | | Leave a comment

Journey of Untouchables from Shudras to Dalits (SCs) in India

“We are all humans until Race disconnected us, Religion separated us, Politics divided us and wealth classified us.”

Introduction – Indian Hindu philosophy does not sanctify any discrimination or oppression of lower strata of society.  All the trouble about exploitation of Shudra community started with its politicization of caste-system. The stories about Hinduism justifying discrimination and oppression of Dalit might have been included later into the texts by persons with vested interests. Birth-based caste discrimination, oppression and exploitation in India are a more recent phenomena and has been spread by some vicious people to enflame the emotions of masses in general.

Shudras of ancient and Medieval IndiaExistence of Untouchables/Shudras (at present also known as Dalits, or Harijans, out-castes etc.) was recognized, as early as, Pre-Mauryan Period (6th century BC to 3rd century BC). Question arises who were the Shudras in ancient India and how were they had been treated by upper castes? The principle of Varna stratifies the whole society into four basic social groups – Brahmins (intellectuals), Khhatriyas (warriors), Vaishyas (business community) and Shudras (service class/menial workers). Socially, Shudras helped Brahmins (intellectuals), Khhatriyas (warriors) and Vaishyas (business community) in their work or worked under their guidance, therefore, socially they were ranked below them. They performed essential social and economic tasks in different areas including agricultural sector. It is not fully correct to say that Shudras were outside the pale of Varna system. They were always an integral part of the Hindu society.

In the beginning, conquered groups were kept under the category of ‘Shudras’. Later on, individuals or groups engaged in service sector or in unclean/unhygienic occupations, clinging to the practices, which were not considered respectable, people speaking foul and abusive language were put under the category of untouchables. Persons born illegitimately or the groups clinging to anti-social activities were treated as outcastes. Breaking the caste rules meant loss of caste, meaning complete ostracism or having no place in the society. Permanent loss of caste – out-caste- was considered to be the greatest catastrophe for an individual, short of death penalty. By the beginning of Christian era, the out-castes themselves developed caste hierarchy and had their own out-castes.

Initially, inclusion into any of these social groups was not birth based. According to Bhagwat Gita, it depended on attributes (Guna) and deeds (Karma) of a person.  “Janmana Jaayate shudraha, karmana jayate dvijah”. It simply means by birth, a person may be Shudra, he could become a dvija (Brahmin) by his deeds. The reason of its becoming birth-based was due to the gradual increase in the number of population .

In ancient India, there were many widely respected Shudras intellectuals and rulers .  Mahapadma Nanda  of Magadh (4th cen. BCE)  was thought to be of Shudra origin. The Nanda dynasty was conquered by Chandragupta Maurya. His grandson Ashoka the great of Maurya dynasty actually went on to become the greatest, largest and most powerful dynasty to have ever ruled the Indian sub-continent.

The two most popular epics ‘Ramayana’ and ‘Mahabharata’ were composed by Valmiki (a Shudra according to present ranking) and Ved Vyasa (a backward caste). And both are revered by all Hindus. The original epics did not justified oppression or exploitation. There were some powerful Shudras kingdoms as well.

Criteria of ranking in social hierarchy – In ancient India, there was
no hard and fast rule of ranking various castes. One of the misconceptions about Varna/caste system is that social ranking of different caste is based on  economic power. No, it is not. In Western societies, stratification of society into ‘class’ is based on  the economic power of a person or a group. There, the societies are divided into Upper, Middle and Lower class according their economic status.

In India, segmental ranking of different caste groups has been done according to relevance and contribution of their occupations to society. Usefulness of a profession to society as a whole, conduct and way of living of different people were the factors to determine social, economic or political status of a group in society vis-a vis others. While stratifying the society, Vedic concept of Varna has given importance to self-restraint and self-discipline in all spheres of life, be it in the matter of daily routine, occupation or inter caste relationship. Considerations of Self-discipline, hygiene, cleanliness, morality, knowledge and spiritual standards have been considered while deciding their ranks within the society. Higher a caste, purer it was considered, and greater were the self-restrictions on its behaviour through rituals.

Accordingly, highest rank was accorded to Brahmins (intellectuals), commanding respect of the whole society. They were put under maximum restrictions. They were expected to lead a simple life, devoted to the spiritual and intellectual pursuits and were denied accumulation of wealth, Economically they were the most disadvantaged community, surviving on income earned by teaching, performing rituals and by begging/charity. The Kshatriyas earned through wages and taxes, the Vaishyas through business and mercantile activities, Though accorded a lower status,  Shudras were land owners, farmers, skilled artisans and craftsmen and musicians. They were an essential part of the whole society, respected and earned large incomes, being the service providers.

Ranking of different castes has not been done by putting different groups within a framework of hierarchical layers of social order, each fitting neatly below the other, but more or less as a series of vertical parallels. All local groups, whether high or low, living in an area mutually depended, cared and supported each other in fulfilling different kind of needs of the society.

Social systems kept masses in society reconciled – As far as masses are
concerned, the systems have always kept them reconciled, if not contended in the past. Because of the system of Inter-dependence, all people living in a village or city, were bound together by economic and social ties and had a strong bond of mutual dependence. There was hardly any room for any section of society to consider itself, as being placed in greater or lesser disadvantageous position with reference to another. Concept of forwards or backwards or feeling of exploitation of lower strata by upper castes was almost non-existent at that time. It kept all the sections of society united under one umbrella despite of their diversity and gave the society stability, continuity and prosperity.

 Medieval India In medieval India also, respect to a person or group was not given on the basis of material success or control of power. Sir John Shore (Sir John Shore, the Governor General of India during the period 1793-1798) had observed that Hindus regarded Britishers at par with the lowest natives despite their being so powerful and the ruling community. Similarly Brahmins associated with unclean jobs like, Mahabrahmins performing last rites, have also been treated, more or less like Shudras and have been put at the bottom of the social structure. There were instances when non-Brahmins or Harijans served as priests of temples of goddesses like Sita or Kali, where all castes made offerings.

Arvind Sharma, a Professor in McGill University observed that caste rigidity and discrimination had emerged in ‘Smriti’ during period from after the birth of Jesus Christ and extending up-to 1200 CE. During Medieval Period, Bhakti movement led by many Sufi saints had challenged the rigid practices of not treating Shudras as equals and giving them a low social status.

Sri H.S. Kotiyal says, “One of the significant development of the early medieval period in India is the increasing participation of the Sudras in the state policy.” The 12th and 13th centuries saw the emergence of some powerful empires led by Shudra rulers in  south India, Kakatiyas Dynasty from 1083 CE to 1323 CE) in Andhra Pradesh, being one of them . Kakatiyas were the first feudatories of the Western Chalukyas of Kalyana, ruling over a small territory near Warangal.

Many studies have shown that ancient or medieval India has never prevented Shudras or others to rise in the scale of society or to earn respect of the society. In many parts of the country, people belonging to lower strata held position of power/superior status or earned respect of Hindu society.

There are instances of people of lower ranks becoming kings. Many warrior kings of Shudra and tribal origin sought Brahmins’ help to acquire Kshatriyas status for themselves. Many Shudras were accepted and revered as philosophers or spiritual teachers like Lord Rama, a king, ate half-eaten berries of Shabri – an untouchable. Lord Krishna’s foster parents Nand and Yashoda, who in today’s classification would be called OBC, get more respect than his real Kshatriya parents from Hindu society. Vashishtha, the principal of the conservative school of Brahmanism, was the son of Uravshi, a prostitute. Vishwamitra, the maker of the very Gayatri Mantra, the quintessence of the Vedic Brahmanism, was a Kshatriya. Aitreya, after whom the sacramental part of Rig-Veda is named as Aitreya Brahamana, was the son from a non-Aryan wife of a Brahman sage. Vyasa of Mahabharata fame and Balmiki, the original author of Ramayana, both untouchable according to present standards, were not ashamed of his origin and are highly respected persons all over India. In middle ages, Sant Ravidas, Namdev, Tukaram, Malika, Sunderdas and several other saints, belonging to lower ranks, earned the same respect as any higher caste saint.

If not Hinduism or caste system, then whom to blame for the miseries of under-privileged sections of Indian society? It all proves that it is not fully correct to say Hinduism or caste system are responsible for Shudra’s isolation; deprivation; exploitation; low social status; inhuman treatment of caste Hindus; low social status Shudras in traditional Hindu Society. Also that no one forces them to do menial, unsavoury and unclean jobs. According to Hindu philosophy,  Instead of holding others responsible for their miseries, Indian philosophy preaches that Adharma” (immoral behavior), “Alasya” (laziness) and Agyan (ignorance) are to be blamed for all evils, exploitation and miseries of people.

Beginning of the troubles for lower strata of Indian society – All troubles of lower strata of society started after the downfall of Hindu Raj, when it became difficult for Hindus to stick on traditional values and systems. Continuous invasions by Turks, Afghans and Mughals had adversely affected the whole society. They, earlier, drained out the wealth of the nation to foreign lands and afterwards made India their homeland and ruled the country for centuries. It resulted in Hinduism turning inwards and observing all the rituals rigidly and blindly to save its distinct identity under foreign rule.

Afterwards, feudalistic attitude, extravagance and luxurious life style of Mughal rulers and those at the helm of authority, increased the disparity between the rulers and the ruled.

Rise of White-collared jobs during British rule and its effects on lower strata of society – Again, in  nineteenth century during British rule, modernization an industrialization process has made many traditional occupations obsolete or less paying or were regarded more hazardous and more time consuming. White collared jobs gained importance.

Modernity has taught people to escape from menial work and discredit manual work. More, a person withdraws from physical labour, more civilized, honoured and qualified he is regarded by modern society. The trend of apathy towards indigenous skills, knowledge and occupations has turned many occupations obsolete or discredited many traditional occupations. It has resulted in destruction of Indian handicrafts and cottage industry and pushed millions of rural artisans, craftsman and small scale farmers backwards in a very subtle manner.

Process of Industrialization and modernization had scattered efforts, sense of direction and manufacturing skills of millions of artisans, craftsman, weavers etc. For them,  their work, in which they specialized, was essential for their survival, Only a few of them could join modern occupations. Majority belonging to different groups could neither enter modern sector, nor could stick to their traditional occupations. They have lost their creativity, sense of achievement and pride, considering menial work derogatory. Majority of them have no option, but to either join band of agricultural laborers, industrial workers, and marginal labour or increase number of unemployed people living below poverty line. Outcome of such a change has been casualty of workers first, afterwards their work style, commitment, motivation and culture.

Lower strata victim of circumstances – Therefore, it can be said that it was not the malice of upper castes, but the circumstances, that pushed untouchables and others away from the mainstream. Suffering from centuries old enslavement, suppression and ostracism deteriorated severely the condition of lower strata of society, stopped growth of their personality and made them dependent on Government or others for their livelihood. In his Dissent Note, Kaka Kalelkar,  Chairman, First Backward Class Commission Report, has commented, It would be well, if representatives of the Backward classes remembered that whatever good they find in the Constitution and the liberal policy of the Government, is the result of the awakened conscience of the upper classes themselves. Whatever Government is doing by way of atonement is readily accepted and acclaimed by the nation as a whole. The upper classes have contributed their share in formulating the policies of the Government Removal of untouchability, establishment of equality and social justice, special consideration for backward classes, all these elements found place in the Constitution without a single voice of dissent from the upper classes.” BCCI, para III.

Transformation intoDepressed Class during 19th century from Shudras of ancient and medieval India  – During the nineteenth Century, in official circles lower castes were addressed as ‘Depressed class’ or ‘Exterior class’. British government in India regarded these people as ‘Oppressed of the oppressed and lowest of the low’. It was the time, when Missionaries were trying to convert this section of society into Christianity. British rulers had passed many Legislative regulations and administrative orders and declared denial of access to untouchables to schools, well, roads and public places as illegal.

Imperial rulers knew well that they had established their power in India by playing off one part against the other. To continue their domination over India and to rule the country without any distraction as long as possible, they purposely kept Indians busy with their internal problems. During the second half of the nineteenth century, the British turned their attention to uplift non-Brahmin castes to   secure theirs’ loyalty. On September 2, 1897, George Francis Hamilton, the then Secretary of State for India, wrote to Viceroy Curzon, “I think the real danger to our rule in India, not now but say 50 years hence, is the gradual adoption and extension of Western ideas of agitation and organization. If we could break the educated Hindu into two sections, holding widely different views, we should by such division, strengthen our position against the subtle and continuous attack, which the spread of education must make upon our system of Government.”

Educated Hindus amongst non-Brahmins castes, especially in Southern and Western parts of India, found it difficult to compete with Brahmins on equal footings in modern callings. To get the credit for the amelioration and protection of the lowly and secure their loyalty, on one hand, Rulers encouraged non-Brahmins leaders to form their political pressure groups on the basis of castes and raise their voice against Brahmins. On the other, special schools were opened for non-Brahmins and scholarships, loans, hostel facilities and concessions in school fees were provided to them.

Around 1909, the lower strata of Hindu community were conceptualized under the name of “untouchables”. Introduction of electoral politics and suggestion of the Census Commission for 1911 Census, to exclude untouchables, (comprising about 24% of Hindu population and 16% of the total population in 1908) from Hinduism, had made position of untouchables prominent in Indian political scene. For the first time, Indians leaders could understand the strength of numbers. So far, untouchables had clubbed their political activities with backward classes led by the Justice Party and South Indian Liberation Federation, which were already agitating against Brahmin’s dominance in modern callings.

Harijans – The attempt of British rulers in 1911 to exclude untouchables from Hindu population and continuous decline of number of Hindus cautioned the national leaders. In order to retain their Hindu identity, Gandhiji and his followers called them Harijans meaning the “people belonging to god”. On one hand, Gandhiji tried to create compassion in the hearts of forward communities for Harijans and on the other he appealed to Harijans to observe cleaner habits, so that they could mix up freely with other sections of society. Dalit leaders did not like the word Harijan as it symbolized a meek and helpless person, at the mercy and benevolence of others, and not the proud and independent human being that they were.

During this period, the attention of humanitarians and reformers was also drawn towards the pathetic condition of untouchables. They took the path of Sankritisation to elevate them. In order to prevent alienation of untouchables from Hindu community, they drew the attention of forward communities towards inhuman condition of lower strata of society and tried to create compassion in their hearts for downtrodden.

Top most priority was given by them to abolish the practice of untouchability. They tried to clarify that Untouchability was neither an integral part of Hinduism nor an outcome of Varna/caste system, nor have any religious sanctity, but an external impurity and sinful blot on Hinduism. They laid emphasis on education, moral regeneration and philanthropic uplift. and become proud and independent human beings, that they were.

Shudras, now known as UntouchablesBy 1909, the lowest strata of Indian society came to be known as untouchables. Many prominent Dalit leaders like Mahatma Phule, Ambedkar or Gopal Ganesh vehemently criticized Hindu hierarchical structure and regarded untouchability as an inevitable concomitant of Varna/caste system. They taught the lower castes to get united and make eradication of caste system their major plank as it engaged them to forced labour or unsavoury jobs, imposed many restrictions on them and prevented them from joining the mainstream of the society. According to them, Hindus treated lower castes as lesser human beings, meek and helpless persons, who should always remain at the mercy and benevolence of upper castes. They tried to find the solution of their problems through political power, not through acceptance by Hindus.

By 1920’s, numerous caste organizations, especially in the South and West, organized themselves into larger collectiveness by keeping contacts and alliances with their counterparts at other places; formed associations and federations at local and regional levels and emerged as a powerful political force. Together, they demanded special legal protection and share in politics and administration on the basis of caste.

The emergence of Dr. Ambedkar in politics provided with the required leadership and needed stimulus to untouchable movement during late twenties and early thirties. Ambedkar insisted to address untouchables just as untouchables. He regarded the terms ‘Depressed classes’, ‘Dalits’, ‘Harijans’ either confusing or degrading and contemptuous. Dr. Ambedkar made it abundantly clear, ‘It was through political power that untouchables were to find their solution, not through acceptance by Hindus’. He gave untouchable movement a national character and a distinct identity during late twenties and early thirties.

In 1928, Dr. Ambedkar, while representing untouchables in Simon Commission proceedings, demanded separate electorate, reserved seats for untouchables in legislative bodies, special educational concessions, and recruitment to Government posts on preferential basis, laws against discrimination and a special department to look after the welfare of untouchables. These demands were readily accepted through Communal Award of 1932.

Gandhiji along with other National leaders regarded it as the Unkindest cut of all”, which would create a permanent split in Hindu Society, perpetuate casteism and make impossible the assimilation of untouchables in mainstream. Dr. Rajendra Prasad said, The principle of dividing population into communal groups, which had been adopted in the Minto Morely Reforms, had been considerably extended, even beyond what had been done by Montagu Chelmsford Reforms….The electorate in 1919 was broken up into ten parts, now it is fragmented into seventeen unequal bits… Giving separate representations to Schedule Castes further weakened Hindu community… The British introduced every possible cross-division. Some political leaders even thought that that Ambedkar was planted into Indian politics purposely by British rulers only.

Scheduled Castes – In accordance with the provisions of the Communal Award of 1932, instructions were issued, in July 1934, to schedule a list of the people entitled for preferential treatment in matter of special electoral representation and appointment in the Central Government jobs. This gave birth to the term Scheduled Caste in 1935. Scheduling was a legal activity having sanction of legal authorities. Therefore, no one had any objection to this term. The term continued after the independence as well, for the purpose of Reservation.

Untouchables in Independent India – After second world war emergence of the concept of ‘welfare state’ swept the whole world. Independent India, as a civilized democratic society, considered it its humanitarian obligation to uplift and empower the submerged sections of society. The overwhelming poverty of millions belonging to lower strata of society and their near absence in echelons of power at the time of Independence has led the government to of India to intervene.

The Constitution of India has directed the Government to promote social justice and educational, economic and other interests of the weaker sections with special care. It instructed the Government to remove the poverty and reduce inequalities of income and wealth and provide adequate representation to the downtrodden in power echelons through Affirmative Action Program/Reservation Policy. Public facilities, which were denied to untouchables so far, have been made accessible to them. The successive governments both at national as well as provincial levels initiated various Welfare Plans and Policies for employment generation and their social, economic and political growth from time to time.

Dalits – Dalit, a Maradhi word means suppressed. The term was chosen and used proudly by Ambedkar’s followers under the banner of various factions of Republican Party of India (Formed in 1956). The Mahars of Bombay (8%), Jatavs of UP (Half of the SC Population in UP) and Nadars and Thevars of Southern TN being numerically significant, played a decisive role in taking forward Dalit movement. Maharashtra Dalit movement has a longest and richest experience.

In 1972, a distinct political party, in the name of Dalit Panther was formed in Maharashtra. It organized the lower castes under the banner of ‘Dalit’ throughout India. One of the founders of Dalit Panther, Mr. Namdeo Dhasal widened the scope of Dalit by including SC, tribes, neo-Buddhists, landless labor and economically exploited people. Its orientation was primarily militant and rebellious. Dalit Sahitya Movement legitimized and reinforced the use of the term Dalit. Since then, this term is very popular amongst the untouchables.

Earlier, a few leaders of untouchables had at least some regard for the cultural tradition of India. They did not reject Vedic literature or the foundations of Hinduism, out-rightly. Dr. Ambedkar accepted that all parts of Manusmiriti were not condemnable. Gopal Baba Walangkar had said that Vedas did not support untouchability. Kisan Fagoi, another Mahar leader of pre-Ambedkar era had joined Prarthna Samaj. But present Dalit leaders are vehemently against cultural traditions of India, which according to them, are based on inequality and exploitation. There is always a fear of upper caste or intermediate caste backlash.

In mid sixties, an aggressive Dalit movement started under the banner of Shoshit Samaj Dal in Central Bihar, which has, presently, become a major center of Naxalite movement. Dal was founded by Jagdeo Mahto, who began to mobilize the lower castes against economic repression and exploitation of women by upper caste feudal elements.

The new phase of Dalit assertion is most prominent in the most populous state of UP, where the upper caste domination has been challenged by BSP (Bahujan Samaj Party) formed in 1984 under the leadership of Kanshi Ram and Mayavati. They redefined Dalit politics especially in north India. Their approach to Dalit issues was more socio-political rather than economic. BSP has started pursuing power with militancy since 1990. Of late, BSP has made significant inroads in UP, Punjab and Madhya Pradesh. BSP has borrowed all their phraseology from Dalit Panthers. Most of their utterances are arrogant, revengeful and opportunistic.

Political and economic vested interests of Dalit leaders has aroused militancy among discontented youths of different castes and communities all over the nation. They are taught to fight only for rights without any sense of responsibility towards their nation. Present day youth pay scant attention to their duties. There is a cutthroat competition amongst various Dalit groups for scarce positions of power and prestige.

Once again, the tendency of ‘divide and rule’, as was there during British domination, has emerged in national scenario. The growing desire of Dalits to rule has made them very sure of their friends and foes. Dalit leaders, even after so many years of Independence has identified Upper Castes as their enemy and intermediate castes sometimes as their friends and sometimes as their enemies. Kanshi Ram, a BSP leader had initiated a formula of DS4, meaning Dalit Shoshit Samaj Sangarsh Samiti, taking into its fold untouchables, STs, Muslims and OBCs.

OBC leaders also know that Dalit parties now control a large vote bank. Therefore, from time to time, they try to please Dalits leaders in order to increase their own political strength. But Dalits are in no mood to play a second fiddle to other national political parties. They are aware of their growing influence and crucial role as a kink-maker in today’s highly competitive and unstable political atmosphere. All the three major national political formations – Congress’s UPA BJP’s NDA and National Front – are wooing frantically Dalit leaders and competing with each other to have a pre or post poll alliance with them. Instead of demanding a share in power structure, equity or social justice, Dalits now want to reverse the power equation and to transform the society by capturing all political power. Their aim is to get hold over the posts of PM-CM (Political Power) through electoral politics and control over administrative authority – the bureaucracy – through Reservations/Affirmative Action Program.

There is an elite section amongst Dalits, which protects its turf under the banner of Dalits at the cost of poorest of Dalits. It does not care much to bring Dalit masses into the mainstream. For some, presence and miseries of large number of Dalits is a recipe for Dalit vote-bank, for others enjoying all the benefits of affirmative action programs initiated and implemented by the Government of India and other concessions given to them. Whatever might be the condition of Dalit masses, but the political power and arrogance of Dalit leaders and intellectuals are at rise. And here lies the crux of Dalit politics.

Dalits at International platform – Dalits are not satisfied even after having growing influence in ballot-box politics and attaining enough places in the government jobs. Since 2001, these activists have been pushing the cause internationally arguing that Indian Dalits are like blacks in US till 1950. Even now, they face many problems at their workplace, in schools and in places of worship.

In 2005, some Dalit leaders belonging to All India Confederation have sought intervention USA, UN and the British and EU Parliaments on the issues of ‘untouchability’. UN recognizes religion, race, language and gender as main causes of inequality in the world. Dalit activists want caste to be included too in this category. They desire to have Global alliance, global involvement and intervention of the international community to put pressure on the government of India to address the problem Dalit marginalization. They feel that globalization and privatization has made it difficult for Dalits, Tribal and OBC’s to compete on equal footing or find enough space in the job market within the country or abroad. At the behest of the Republican Congressman from New Jersey, Chris Smith, the US Congress had held a hearing on 6.10. 05 on the subject.

A resolution on the issue – “ India’s unfinished Agenda: Equality and Justice for 200 million victims of the caste system” was prepared by the house committee on International Relations and US Human Rights to be tabled in the US Congress. “Despite the Indian government’s extensive affirmative action policies, which aim to open government service and education to Dalits and tribes, most have been left behind by India’s increasing prosperity…. Much more remains to be done.” The resolution says, “It is in the interest of US to address the problem of the treatment of groups outside the caste system… in the republic of India in order to better meet our mutual economic and security goals….”

So far, intensive lobbying by Dalit groups including followers of Ravidas sect succeeded in getting passed the Equity Bill on March 24, 2010 in the house of Lords. It empowered the government to include ‘caste’ within the definition of ‘race’. In 2001, India was able in keeping caste out of the resolution adopted at 2001 Durban Conference.

Along with it, staunch supporters of Human Rights, some Scandinavian countries, Church organisations around the world and Lutheran World Federation have shown interest and expressed their solidarity with Dalits. Recently the comment of UN Commissioner for human rights, Navi Pillay asking India that “time has come to eradicate the shameful concept of caste” and proposals of UN Human Rights Council’s or US based Human Rights Watch (HRW) to recognise caste as a form of discrimination ‘based on descent and birth’ appear not to be based on rational understanding of caste system. Their opinion about untouchability is greatly influenced by the lobbying of powerful/influential Dalit leaders and Dalit intelligentsia.

No one knows where the Dalit assertion will lead the nation to? It is not the paternalistic policies, (which have failed to yield so far the desired results) that are required for the upliftment and empowerment of submerged sections of society, but there is need to educate, make them aware of their rights and duties, provide enough employment opportunities and other civic facilities like health etc at the grass root level for the sustainable growth of backward communities.

 

June 28, 2019 Posted by | Social and political values and systems | Leave a comment

India, one nation, one culture

“If there is honesty in India today, any hospitality, any charity…. any aversion to evil, any love to be good, it is due to whatever remains of the old faith and the old culture”. C. Rajgopalachari

Introduction

India occupies a special place in the global society and Indian civilization is one of the oldest alive civilizations of the world. It presents a fascinating picture of unity amidst diversity, cultural richness, largeness of area and huge population. It has assimilated multi-ethnic migrants into its fold. India comprises people of different ethnic, religious, castes, linguistic and regional identities.

Usually diversity makes divide easy. In India also, there have been periods of discord. However, the forces of unity have always been stronger than the divisive forces. Different identities in India have lived together for centuries and present a mosaic culture.

Factors leading to the unity of India – Important factors, which have kept unity and continuity of India intact, are:

  • Indian philosophy, Vedic literature and its value system – C. Rajgopalachari has said, “If there is honesty in India today, any hospitality, any charity…. any aversion to evil, any love to be good, it is due to whatever remains of the old faith and the old culture”. Indian philosophy contains a vast reservoir of knowledge. It is found in Vedas, Upanishads, Sutras and Smritis. Basham says that Vedic literature contains “an ocean of knowledge in a jar.”

The Vedic literature is a magnificent example of scientific division and orderly arrangement of rules in a few words, in different branches of human knowledge, covering almost all the aspects of life, be it phonetics, arts, literature, medicine, polity, metrics, law, philosophy, astrology or astronomy.

Indian philosophy and its value systemstill commands the respect and attention of an average Indian. The priestly schools had devised a most remarkable and effective system of transferring knowledge to succeeding generations in the form of hymns, restricting it only to those, possessing brilliant feats of memory and capability to keep extreme sanctity.

Only after raising oneself from ignorance, a person could be able to understand the greatness of the Indian value system. Like a jeweler, one could spot out gems from amongst worthless pebbles. A knowledgeable person could pick up knowledge and leave the undesired obsolete elements developed in it with passage of time.

 This gold mine of knowledge inspired not only Indians, but foreigners as well. Intellectuals from various countries have translated it in their own languages and reinterpreted it for a rational mind.

  • Doctrines of Varna, Dharma and Karma

The foundation pillars of the Indian civilization are the principles of Varna, Dharma and Karma. It give to the people, a purpose to live for and ideals to be achieved. Together these principles laid the foundation stones of Indian social structure and contributed to its growth. It has organized inter-relationship of various groups of society. In addition to all this, It has defined their roles by distributing various functions and managed the performance to improve quality of life.

Doctrine of Varna – Doctrine of Varna gives the Indian Society a stable, sustainable social structure, which distributes and organizes performance of various functions. It has made it possible for the people to lead a quality of life and ensured the continuity despite numerous foreign invasions, migrations and assimilation of various groups.

Doctrine of Dharma – The doctrine of Dharma defines the duties and vocations for different sections of society, ensures social harmony and prevents rivalries and jealousies.

Doctrine of Karma – Doctrine of Karma makes the inequalities, prevalent in the society, tolerable to an average Indian.

These principles have given to the people a distinct character. In the past, these principles had wisely directed all the activities – social, political, intellectual or economic – into proper life functions and controlled its malfunctioning or dis-functioning. It had made it possible for people to reach a high level of intelligence having specialization in different areas. It contributed to all round growth of cultural heritage and encouraged self-discipline, consciousness, self-control and self-direction. Decentralized self-regulated systems were the mode in social, political and economic life in ancient India.

  • ‘Sanatan (eternal) Dharma’ of Hinduism takes care of the basic physical, mental and spiritual needs of the human beings at different stages of life. It nurtures the basic instincts of human beings over nature, after a deep study of natural instincts, inherent attributes and natural behavioral pattern.

It has prepared an atmosphere for co-existence of different groups, be it ruler or ruled/rich or poor. It has provided unity of culture throughout India and serves to give Indian society coherence, stability and continuity.

  •  Tolerance – The spirit of tolerance and firm belief in the principle, ‘Live and let live’ has always been the part of Indian ethos. Tolerance is most evident in the field of religion. Tolerance is not confined to religion alone. It is seen everywhere in the Indian way of life. Indians believe in ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’. The whole world is one family. Truth, Ahimsa, peace and non-aggression are the hallmark of Indian culture. The people endure injustice and unfairness until they are pushed right to the wall.

John Fischer mentions, “Even during Bengal famine, an extreme situation – when necessity knows no laws, people did not take law in their own hands, nor was there any violence. No grocery stall, no rice warehouse, none of the wealthy clubs or restaurants was ever threatened by a hungry mob… They just died with docility, which to most Americans is the most shocking thing about India.’ Many times in the past, Indians had accepted oppression and exploitation without much protest, while such situations, elsewhere in the world, would have led to bloody revolutions.

Even today, in the hope of better future, Indians are patiently tolerating the criminalization of politics, high-handedness of authorities, corruption, scams and scandals and inefficiency of the administration without much protest. Administration is one such area, where tolerance is harmful, as it not only hinders the development, but also pushes the nation backwards.

  • Validity to all religions – Hindu faith in an all pervading omnipresent god, multiplicity of gods and goddesses as representing some portion of the infinite aspect of the Supreme Being, inspired it to accommodate people of all faiths. The places of worship of Hindus, Muslims and Christians, (major religions of India) i.e.Mandir, Masjid and Church, all have 6 alphabets in it, and their religious Granths, Geeta, Kuran and Bible, each one has the same no. of 5 alphabets in it, all preaching the same ‘God is one’.    

Hinduism concedes validity to all the religions and does not lay down strictures against any faith or reject any religion or its god as false. That is the reason, why all the twelve major religions of the world are present and flourishing in India without any hindrance.

  • Path of assimilation – Hindu religion neither repulses any trend vehemently, nor allows others to sweep its established culture off its roots. It has adopted the path of assimilation. It does not force others to convert. It does not impose its beliefs, practices and customs on others. In the past, it has assimilated numerous social groups willing to join it.
  • Fusion of different cultures –As India passed through various phases in the past, various  religious communities have left its influence on Indian culture, which came down to the present generation in an unbroken chain of succession, with some minor alterations, modifications and adaptations here and there. All the sects present in India, whether alien (like Islam, Christianity,  Zoroastrianism etc.)or indigenous(originated within the land of India like Budhism, Jainism, or Sikhism etc) have been influenced greatly by Hindu thinking, practices and systems. Also the interaction between value-system of Vedic culture and other religions (of indigenous, migrating or foreign communities) present in India, have contributed in enriching the composite culture of India:
    • Vedic Hindu Culture – Vedic Hindu Culture is one of the oldest living cultures in the world. It mainly originated and flourished in northern parts of India and later on spread throughout India. The word ‘Vedic’ is derived from the word ‘Vid’ meaning ‘Knowledge’ and signifies’ ‘knowledge par excellence’.

The Vedic culture came into being due to intermixing of the culture of Aryan with the culture of indigenous tribal people of India during 2nd century BC to 650 AD. The origin of the Vedic culture cannot be traced in any single founder; neither can it be confined in one single authoritative text.

Its knowledge has been handed down from time immemorial, earlier by verbal transmission and later on, in written form by the ancestor to succeeding generations. It has not prescribed final absolutes. It is a constant search for more knowledge. Vedas are not supposed to be the end of quest for knowledge. It is a never ending process (‘Neti-Neti’ meaning ‘no end, no end’).

The strength of Vedic culture is proved by the facts: –

  • Despite centuries of foreign rule over 75% of Indian population remains Hindu.
  • Had it become obsolete, it would have given place to other religions and cultures.
  • It influenced almost all other religions found in India.
  • Buddhism and Jainism – Budhism and Jainism has influenced the thought, moral and life style of many Indians. Buddhism attracted equally the elite as well as the lower strata of Hindu society. Buddhism drew the attention of people towards the harsher effects of the caste system, sympathetic attitude towards lesser human beings and system of organized education. Major contribution of Jainism is the principle of non-violence.
  • Dravidian culture – After the sudden disappearance of Indus valley culture, of which the most characteristic feature was its town planning, Dravidian culture with its advanced social system, industry and trade made a mark in the South.
  • Islamic culture- After the tenth century, Islamic culture influenced the Indian culture substantially. Its influence could be seen in the rejection of elaborate rituals and caste pretensions. It preached a simple path of faith, devotion, brotherly love and fellowship. With the growing political strength of Muslims, the need for mutual understanding and communal harmony gave rise to Sufi tradition of Islam and Bhakti movement of Hindus. Both these emphasized the need for mutual appreciation, tolerance and goodwill. Like Buddhism, Islam also provided an alternative to people, wishing to opt out the caste system.
  • British Culture – Eighteenth century onwards, the British culture influenced the Indian culture substantially, especially that of elite and intellectuals. Access to modern education, Western literature and philosophy gave Indians the understanding of liberal and humanitarian ideas of the West.

Some of the contributions of the British to India are political and administrative unity, many democratic institutions like Parliament, bureaucracy and concepts like rule of law, unified nationality, a common currency, a common Judiciary. They gave a new economic structure based on industrialization. British-rule gave an impetus to social progress and brought many reforms.

The British influence on Indian minds was as discussed below: –

  • Many reformers welcomed rationality and other good features of English culture. They advised people to interpret religion rationally and make efforts to eradicate social evils like Sati, child marriage, untouchability etc. prevalent at that time.
  • Some people were so influenced by the alien culture, that they developed a complex about the primitiveness of Indian society.
  • Some reformists tried to revive their own rich ancient culture and prevent the masses from being swayed away by the glamour and materialism of Western culture. It gave the call for ‘Back to Vedas’.

Two aspects of Hindu culture received a good deal of attention of British: –

  • The Caste system and
  • Reluctance to convert people of other religions, on the ground that all religions are valid.

The British condemned the Caste system, but the later, they enthusiastically applauded.

Hindu, Islam and Christian religions had received substantial state patronage for sufficiently long period.

Assimilation and fusion of different cultures – Assimilation and fusion of different cultures has been a continuous process of the India civilization. A major cultural synthesis took place during 6th and 10th century, between Vedic Hindu culture, Buddhism and Dravidian culture. Another assimilation was seen after the 10th century, when the thinking of Arabs, Turks and Afghan, mainly guided by reason, influenced Indian thought. Sufi and Bhakti movements are examples of this. These two sects taught the people to love and respect all human beings irrespective of caste or creed. These also brought changes in the nature of mutual understanding, communal amity and accommodation.

Once again, during the period in between 18th century to 20th century, a major cultural synthesis took place with modernization and industrialization ushered in by the British.

Winding up

Many principles and cultures developed in the past, elsewhere in the world, had created such a wave that swept over the entire world for some time. An anti-wave, replacing such waves, emerged soon. It wiped off the previous influence. The Vedic culture, however, has proved to be an exception in this regard. There had been periods, when the Vedic culture became weak, especially under foreign rules. But it re-emerged every time, and whenever it re-emerged, it did not destroy other sects, it assimilated them within itself.

Despite of having different kinds of diversities, most of the times, the Indian society has been able to develop “an attitude of reconciliation rather than refutation, cooperation rather than confrontation and co-existence rather than mutual annihilation.”

It has happened due to basic tenets of Vedic culture along with tolerance, which are very close to every Indian. The principles of Varna, Dharma and Karma have contributed to the growth of the Indian society as a whole in a systematic way. It has organized orderly performance of various functions needed to provide a quality of life to its people. It prepared an atmosphere for co-existence of different sections of the society – be it ruler or ruled, be it rich or poor. It served to give Indian society coherence, stability and continuity; and held together different castes and communities having diverse languages and practices for generations – thus making unity in diversity a reality. om:offi

June 25, 2019 Posted by | Social and political values and systems | | Leave a comment

Politics without principle is a sin

Politics without Principle is a sin

“A good physician treats the disease; the great physician treats the patient who has disease.”           William Osler

“Don’t find faults, find remedies.” Henry Ford

Introduction

What is Democracy – Democracy is the “government of the people, for the people and by the people.’ The word ‘democracy is derived from two ancient Greek words: demos (the people)and katos (strength). In a democracy political power is ultimately in the hands of the whole adult people. A democratic government may be Direct or Indirect.

Direct Democracy – In a direct democracy, people Govern themselves. They themselves take decisions and execute them. In olden days, in a small city state or Princely states, it was possible for people to directly take part in the governance through –

  • Initiative – It is a method whereby a group of citizens can put a legislative proposal directly – may be to enact a new law, or to repeal an existing law or to amend it – for determination in referendum.
  • Referendum – It is a method of referring a question or set of questions to the electorate directly rather than allowing them to be settled by people’s representatives in the legislature.
  • Plebiscite – Plebiscites are referendums, a system for allowing the whole of the electorate to give their opinion on some political question.

In modern times, the most successful and long-term experience of direct democracy can be seen to some extent in Switzerland, where a host of ordinary policy questions are routinely put to the electorate, following a tradition dating to the 16th century.

Indirect Democracy  – Indirect Democracy means a rule by representatives of the majority of the electorate. In this system, people vote for representatives. Indirect democratic regimes may be classified as either Presidential or Parliamentary systems. The main instrument of choosing the representatives in both the systems is periodical elections. Political decision -making is done by this small number of people’s representatives,  elected by the whole electorate. Such a system in modern form was originated in in the USA and Western Europe. Subsequently, especially after second World War it has been adopted by Third World countries.

Representative Democracy is usually equated with Liberal Democracy. Indirect democracies are based upon several interrelated principles:

  1. the existence of regular, free, fair elections based upon universal suffrage and secret ballots;
  2. The existence of competing political parties offering electoral choice;
  3. The existence of electoral laws supervised by an independent judiciary;
  4. Freedom of speech and association ;
  5. Freedom to stand as an election candidate;
  6. “Reasonable” relationships between votes cast and representatives elected;
  7. Availability of accurate unbiased political information.
  8. Principles of separation of power and checks and balances – Indirect Democracy usually works on the principle of defining with clarity the role of different organs of the government. Most of the elected representatives of the people in legislatures are supposed to legislate, lay down policies, and monitor its implementation. Executive is there to supervise the bureaucracy to execute its plans and policies, Opposition parties role is to criticize the wrong decisions/actions of party in power. Each one keeps a control on the arbitrariness of others.  If each one does its job properly, there won’t be It is the duty of the government to look after the welfare and sustainable development of all sections of the people, including economically weaker deprived sections of society, women and children. It is only then, that a society or a nation can move forward and progress as a whole.

much problem.

Elections at frequent intervals is the life-line of any democratic government. People choose their representatives through elections and delegate them the authority to form a government.

Elections at frequent intervals is the life-line of any democratic government. People choose their representatives through elections and delegate them the authority to form a government and  look after the welfare of the people, and development of the society and nation as a whole. 

Vote-bank politics tend them not focus their attention on real issues. Their failure to diagnose the disease properly and do sincere efforts to cure it. They are neither able to treat the disease (real issues) nor the patient (development of the nation). How can the disease of maladministration be cured, if elections are not fought with fair objectives. Many politicians’ fight  election just to gain political power by hook or crook, and control the destiny of millions of people in their own interest  or the interests of their followers.

Principles of separation of power and checks and balances – Democracy works on the principle of defining with clarity the role of different organs of the government. Most of the elected representatives of the people in legislatures are supposed to legislate, lay down policies, and monitor its implementation. Executive is there to supervise the bureaucracy to execute its plans and policies, Opposition parties role is to criticize the wrong decisions/actions of party in power. Each one keeps a control on the arbitrariness of others.  If each one does its job properly, there won’t be much problem. 

However, for winning the elections and rule the nation, politicians, divide the electorate  shamelessly into numerous watertight compartments on the basis of their diverse identities  and interests. Then they woo voters and create vote-banks for themselves. They appease specific section/sections. They pursue sectional interests, giving least attention to the welfare of the society/nation as a whole. In such a situation how can function  efficiently and effectively in a democratic state?

What is Democracy – According to Lincoln, “Democracy is the government of the people, for the people and by the people”. The word ‘democracy is derived from two ancient Greek words: demos (the people)and katos (strength). In a democracy political power is ultimately in the hands of the whole adult people. A democratic government may be Direct or Indirect.

Direct Democracy – In a direct democracy, people themselves make policies and execute them. In modern times, the most successful and long-term experience of it is Switzerland, where a host of ordinary policy questions are routinely put to the electorate, following a tradition dating to the 16th century.

Earlier in city state, it was possible for people to rule themselves directly through –

  • Initiative – It is a method whereby a group of citizens can put a legislative proposal directly – may be to enact a new law, or to repeal an existing law or to amend it – for determination in referendum.
  • Referendum – It is a method of referring a question or set of questions to the electorate directly rather than allowing them to be settled by people’s representatives in the legislature.
  • Plebiscite – Plebiscites are referendums, a system for allowing the whole of the electorate to give their opinion on some political question.

Indirect Democracy  – Indirect rule by representatives of the majority of the electorate is known as indirect democracy. In this system, people vote for representatives. The main instrument of choosing the representatives is periodical elections. Political decision -making is done by this small number of people’s representatives,  elected by the whole electorate.

Representative Democracy is usually equated with Liberal Democracy which describes the political system which originated in the USA and Western Europe. It has subsequently been adopted by Third World countries. Indirect democratic regimes may be classified as either Presidential or Parliamentary systems.

Indirect democracies are based upon several interrelated principles:

  1. the existence of regular, free, fair elections based upon universal suffrage and secret ballots;
  2. the existence of competing political parties offering electoral choice;
  3. the existence of electoral laws supervised by an independent judiciary;
  4. freedom of speech and association ;
  5. freedom to stand as an election candidate;
  6. “reasonable” relationships between votes cast and representatives elected;
  7. availability of accurate unbiased political information.

The major problem with this kind of democracy is that quite often it leads to negative electoral-politics, as voters do not have any choice in selecting the candidates, who fight elections. Churchil once said, “Democracy is the worst of all systems except for alternatives” To strengthen democracy is needed a civil society. People are becoming very insensitive in tolerating dissent views these days especially in political arena. And also that, Americans will do the right thing after they have exhausted all the alternatives.

It is the job of rival political parties to select the candidates and woo the voters to vote for their prospective candidates.

India’s experiment on Democracy and electoral politics – When India got Independence from British rule in 1947, it chose Since then Democracy is the backbone of our country. The Constitution of India is founded on the principle that all voices should be heard. Institutions are established here for the benefit of nation and its citizens. The thinking that legislators can make any law, they want and impose it on people, or executive can execute in any manner, it likes, is absurd.

Situation that led to electoral-politics – The introduction of electoral politics, in the beginning of the 20th century gave rise to Power in numbers. Through modern education system, British imperialists created differences between different castes and communities, and developed a complex in Indian minds about their heritage and social values and systems.

Factors that led to electoral-politics in India – The British gathered information, exploited material relating to social, demographic, linguistics, religious and cultural diversities of India.  It gave political leverage to the non-Brahmin castes on account of their numerical strength. Since then, their influence in politics has been growing continuously.

  • Discrediting Indian values and systems – British rulers exaggerated the distortions developed into the system during century’s after the decay of Hindu Raj. They carefully avoided telling the whole truth or strengths of Indian thoughts and its social systems.  They depicted the Indian culture and practices as discriminatory barbarous, uncivilized and its social system highly stratified”, where multiplicity of communities and their cultures were exploiting each other for their own advantage.  They forcefully implanted in the minds of people, the real and imaginary, evils of Hindu practices.  The European teachers, missionaries, bureaucrats and British easily put all the blame on Social-structure of India for masses poverty, misery,  deprivation and exploitation
  • Introduction of Modern education system – During British rule Modern education system, people got access to the enlightened spirit of many liberal thinkers, like Locke, Mill Rossseau, Voltaire, Spencer and Burke; and the knowledge about English, French, American revolutions, through modern education. It offered to Indian intelligentsia, the key to the treasures of scientific and democratic thought of Modern West. It opened up the doors of knowledge and widened the mental horizons of Indian intelligentsia. Modern means of transport and communications shortened distances and made mobility faster and easier, Every thing together had destroyed the local character of governance. Small local castes, confined within a small area earlier, grew in size, embracing a much wider area than before.
  • Census operation – After consolidating its position, the British Government in India made an effort to know about the people, whom they want to rule and chalk out strategies for the colonial governance. A systematic and modern population census, in its present form was conducted non synchronously between 1865 and 1872 in different parts of the country. This effort culminating in 1872 has been popularly labeled as the first population census of India. However, the first synchronous census in India was held in 1881.                                                                                British anthropologists worked very hard to collect data. For the first time, the Census operations drew the attention of the rulers, intelligentsia and public to the diversity of Indian society and multiplicity of castes and sub-castes throughout India.                                                                     Earlier, the Hindu Society was classified into four Varnas embracing numerous castes and sub-castes within its fold.  Census operations divided it into five and created new unbridgeable compartments within Indian social structure. – Backward caste, forward caste (caste Hindus), untouchable or scheduled caste, scheduled tribes and minority.  Through legal process, they gave each one a new separate and distinct identity.                                                                                               It changed the older system in a fundamental way, giving rigidity to social stratification and hierarchical ranking. It led to casteism in politics. Dr. GS Ghurya says, The activities of the British Government has done very little toward the solution of the problem of caste.  Most of these activities, as must be evident, were dictated by prudence of administration and not by desire to reduce the rigidity of caste.  On the whole, the British rulers of India, who have throughout professed to be the trustees of the welfare of the country, never seem to have given much thought to the problem of caste, in so far as it affects the nationhood of India… Their measures generally have been promulgated piece-meal and with due regard to the safety of British domination.” (Dr. Ghurye GS, Caste and Class in India, pp 283-84.)
    Importance of numbers in elections –  The introduction of electoral politics, in the beginning of the 20th century gave rise to Power in numbers. While introducing elections in India, the British very diplomatically divided the Hindu population into two uncompromising groups viz. `We the Non-Brahmins and `They the Brahmins and caste Hindus. They instilled deeply in the minds of millions of unlettered Hindus, venom against each other.
  • Leverage to Non-Brahmins in politics – Power of numbers in elections gave political leverage to the non-Brahmin castes on account of their numerical strength.  Earlier non-Brahmin movements had economic and social thrusts demanding education and land for backwards and freedom from caste rigidities. Later, it resisted the hold of Brahmins in the spheres of education and jobs in government. Non-Brahmins’ demand for a share in modern callings was quickly recognized by the British. They acquired considerable amount of political clout, in early 20th century, with the introduction of electoral politics. Since then, their influence in politics has grown enormously.

Preparation of grounds for electoral-politics – Various communities feared that Hindu majority government would dominate them.[i] Leaders of non-Brahmin community united numerous endogamous jatis into region wise alliances, increased in size and emerged as powerful pressure groups in different regions.

Justice Party in Bombay in 1917, and South Indian Liberation Federation in Madras in 1916, united the lower and intermediate castes.  In Maharashtra, Phule and Ambedkar challenged the influence of Brahmins and Marathas. In Tamil Nadu and other Southern States, lower and intermediate castes got united under the leadership of Periyar by fusing in them Dravida and Tamil identities and led anti Brahmins movement.  They regarded lower and middle castes as descendants of the original non- Aryans natives of India, who believed in egalitarian pattern of society.  Aryans conquered them and through caste system, Brahmins established their superiority over them.

In AP and Karnataka, intermediate peasant castes like Reddy, Kammas, Lingayats, Vokkaligas came forward against Brahmins.  In Kerala, caste identities became rallying points for class like party formation starting with Ezhawwas, at one time the most depressed of all communities.  In Gujarat, ground level consolidation of Dalits, Adivasis and minorities rose.

The leaders of Non-Brahmins like Mahatma Phule, Ambedkar or Gopal Ganesh vehemently criticized Hindu hierarchical structure, and regarded untouchability as an inevitable concomitant of caste system. Therefore, eradication of caste system became their major plank. They taught the lower castes to get united and work for abolition of caste system as it was responsible for treating them as lesser human beings. It engaged them to forced labor or unsavory jobs, imposing many restrictions on them, preventing them from joining the mainstream of the society; and the subjugating them with the help of the religion. They also attacked the hypocrisy of Brahminism and emphasized reforms and spread of education.

Being non-militant by nature and very small in number, comprising only 3% of the total population, the Brahmins in South yielded to the pressures of non-Brahmins without much resistance and moved out from there to other parts of the country, where non-Brahmin movement was either weak or non-existent.

There was another group led by non-Brahmin political leaders, who wanted a share in the power-structure, special attention and intervention of the British government in electoral politics and government jobs, and thus improve the position of Backwards. In the South and Bombay Presidency, the non-Brahmin leaders voiced forcefully against the domination of Brahmins in government jobs and other modern callings. British had full sympathy with them.   This demand ultimately gave birth to the policy of Reservation. Electoral policy, Census operations, and Reservation Policy. Together, these policies were responsible for the entry of casteism and communalism into the political life of the country, which was non-existent hitherto.

In 1918, Mysore Government denominated all communities, but Brahmins, as backward and gave the backwards special protection in the form of scholarship, admission in educational institutions, quota in jobs and other concessions and benefits.  Special Government officers were appointed to look after their welfare.  Madras and Bombay Presidencies followed their example.

Government of India Act, 1919, accorded special representation by granting a few nominated seats, in the Legislative Assembly, for depressed classes.  Legislative regulations and administrative orders declared denial of access to untouchables to schools, well, roads and public places as illegal.  So far, untouchable activities were combined with the non-Brahmin movement.

By 1928, untouchables separated themselves from the intermediate caste and established their independent identity at national level. Until 1932, the Government of India avoided itself from stigmatizing any group, by official acknowledgement, of their low social status and considered it unfair because Owing to the social disabilities, to which members of the depressed classes are exposed, it would be in the highest degree undesirable that any official authorization might appear to extend such qualification. The fluidity of social distinctions and the efforts of the classes lowest in the scale, aided by social reformers, to improve their status make it more desirable, that government should abstain from doing anything, which would tend to give rigidity to these distinctions.(Indian Statutory Commission, 1930, VI, p 341)

The joint Select Committee of the British Parliament, while reviewing the South Borough Report on measures to secure representation of minorities or of Backward classes for Indian Constitutional Reforms 1919, commented that they attached importance to the educational advancement of the depressed and Backward classes. (Mukherjee P, Indian Constitution and all Relevant Documents relating to Indian Constitutional Reforms of 1990, p 528).

In 1930, Starte Committee suggested to sub-divide the backward classes into untouchables, aboriginal hill tribes and other backward class.  Political expediency and imperial designs to keep balance of power got victory over rational thinking.

Through Communal Award 1932, British created a permanent split in Hindu Society. It perpetuated casteism and made impossible the assimilation of different castes under one fold.  Dr. Rajendra Prasad said, The principle of dividing population into communal groups, which had been adopted in the Minto Morley reforms had been considerably extended, even beyond what had been done by Montagu Chelmsford Reforms… The electorate in 1919 was broken up into ten parts, now it is fragmented into seventeen unequal bits… Hindu community was further weakened by giving separate representation to Scheduled castes. Division on the basis of religion, occupation and service were made.  Every possible cross division was introduced by the British.(Cited in Mehta and Patwardhan, The Communal Triangle, p72). The Communal Award strengthened the roots of casteism in politics.

By the end of the 19th century, the concern for the downtrodden and the movement against the hold of the Brahmins on land, wealth, and education was turned into a political movement. It aimed at obtaining legal rights and position of power through government intervention, Dr. Ambedkar made it abundantly clear that through political power, untouchables were to find their solution, not through acceptance by Hindus.

Ironically, as their political power increased, they insisted on their separate identity. They sought special legal protection and share in politics and administration on the basis of caste. By 1920’s, numerous caste organizations, especially in the South and West, organised themselves into larger collectiveness by keeping contacts and alliances with their counterparts at other places; formed associations and federations at local and regional levels and emerged as a powerful political force.

Beginning of electoral politics – Granting separate Muslim electorate through Government of India Act 1909,  (Minto Morley Reforms) brought the idea of communal electorate to the forefront. Granting special electorate to Muslims made the numbers important.

Around 1909, the non-Brahmin Community was divided into two – Backwards and Untouchables.  For the first time, the lowest strata of Hindu Community were conceptualized under the name of untouchables in the political circles.

New dimension to electoral politics – In 1908, the untouchables comprised about 24% of the Hindu Population and 16% of the total population. The suggestion of Census Commission, to exclude untouchables from Hindu group, gave a new dimension to casteism in politics. The suggestion of Census Commissioner to exclude untouchables from Hindu fold, in the forthcoming 1911 census, immediately increased the importance of untouchables in political circle, in social circle, and in their own eyes too.

Such a move alerted national leaders. This was not acceptable to Hindu leaders at any cost. Their fear proved to be right  as the number of Hindus has fallen down continuously. The following chart, based on various censuses, establishes this fact: Hindu population was 73.3% in 1881, 72.3% in in 1891, 70.3% in 1901, 69.3% in 1911, 68.4 in 1921, 68.2 in 1931 and 65.9 in 1941.

In order to overcome the problem, the Hindu leaders gave top most priority to the abolition of untouchability. They interpreted Vedas liberally and said that purified Varna System expressed equality. The reformers pointed out that untouchability was neither an outcome of caste system nor an integral part of Hinduism, but an external impurity and sinful blot on Hinduism.  They were clear that segregation of lower castes in Hindu Society was not based on economic status or their incapability to do any intellectual work, but on cultural grounds – unclean habits, undisciplined  life style, speaking foul and abusive language etc.  They tried to improve the status of untouchables through Sanskritisation. The emphasis was on education, moral regeneration and philanthropic uplift.[ii]

From historical facts, above, it is clear that the British fanned casteism and communalism in electoral-politics for political reasons. Earlier, though there were few stray incidents of violence, the nation was largely free from caste wars or class clashes.  However, the sectionanal interests aroused the agitation among different castes and communities all over the nation.  There started a cut-throat competition for scarce positions of power and prestige under British Raj.

Conclusion – The seeds of casteism and communalism, which were sown by the British, blossomed to its full in the electoral politics of independent India.

May 22, 2019 Posted by | General, Social and political values and systems | , | Leave a comment

A Summary Of Bhagvat Gita

A Summary Of  Bhagvat Gita

   By  

Late Justice Shanker Dayal Khare, Allahabad,

Published in 28.10.1975                           

INTRODUCTION

We seek happiness.We desire that happiness may last for ever. Do we succeed? Do we get peace of mind?

Gita throws light on these subjects. We may find its philosophy interesting and useful. There is no harm in giving exercise to our minds in the same manner as we give yogic exercises to our bodies.

Philosophy is simple: – ‘Rely on (your own) Laws and Traditions. Keep on doing deeds as you have been doing them. Do your deeds without hesitation and with complete devotion towards God, and achieve what is generally achieved by such deeds.

If you want peace of mind try not to feel elated with the feeling that you are the doer of the deeds. Dedicate the results of all your deeds to God. Then you should not have any attachment towards the results of your deeds.

In that manner you should reach beyond the scope of the three qualities – (saintly, worldly lethargic).

Have complete faith in the Creator and He will help you in establishing such faith in Himself.

I shall feel happy if some people, like me, find this summary useful.

Allahabad                                                                                          S.D.Khare

28-10-75                                                    

                                                           CHAPTER ONE

    DESPONDENCY

 After both the parties had drawn themselves up in battle array, Arjun, accompanied by Lord Krishna, went to the battle field to see those who have come to oppose the Pandavas (party with just cause) and to support Kaurvas (party with an unjust cause). For Arjun it was most disheartening to see that even his own kith and kin, and very near relations were supporting the unjust cause and opposing the just cause. Was it proper for him to fight all those people, who had come to oppose him? Arjun, in retrospect, said, “NO”. He observed that in such circumstances it was better to be killed than be the killer. The situation being very confusing Arjun asked for the advice of Lord Krishna.

Lesson to be learnt: Attatchment is the root cause of all distress.

                                                         CHAPTER TWO

PROCESS OF REASONING

Arjun was advised to put up a fight, because –

  1. Being a member of the fighting community, it was his duty to fight for the right cause. In such a fight death secured Heaven and survival the pleasures of this world.
  2. It was foolish to think of destroying others in the process. Soul is undestructable. None of the five elements (fire, air, water, earth or sky) is capable of destroying it. Body is, no doubt, destructible. This body, however, does not retain its original form or shape even during one life time. It keeps on changing from childhood to young age and from young age to old age. Death merely changes the form of the body.
  3. People regard you invincible. You shall fall in their estimates in case you refuse to fight. They shall call you a coward. That shall be worse than death.
  4. Why worry about the result of the fight? How can the result of any deed be controlled? It is always the best to do a deed and leave the result of the deed to God. That is a well recognized method (of doing deeds without feeling attached to them). It is par excellent. The practice of this method shall lead one to detachment and to the attainment of Salvation. Such deeds bear no fruits, piety or sin.

Arjun asked: – “Can a person firmly established in this method of doing deeds be spotted out?”

Lord Krishna replied: – “Yes! Such a person is always fully satisfied with his own soul. Pleasure nor pain, good luck nor bad luck, can ever perturb him. He withdraws his senses from all objects of pleasure and is without any feeling of attachment, fear and anger. Ontrol over mind and practice lead to such a state. Such person devotes himself fully towards God.”

Lesson to be learnt from this chapter: (Fight for right cause in life is the ultimate solution to all problems)

CHAPTER THREE

PROCESS OF DEEDS

Arjun asked again: – “When acquisition of wisdom is supreme, why should one do deeds, the results of some of which might be dreadful?”

Lord Krishna replied: – The universe and the deeds were created at one and the same time. Everything has to be achieved through deeds. One’s quality determines the nature nature of one’s deeds. One’s existence even for a moment, is not possible without doing deeds.

One should do only the natural and the prescribed deeds, that should keep him free from the feeling of attachment and envy.

Arjun thereupon asked: – When people do deeds perforce (according their quality) why should those deeds saddle them with sins?”

Lord Krishna replied: – Attachment and envy, born of worldly quality, lead people to partake in sin. Attachment has its abode in senses, mind and intellect. Attachment, with the help of all these three, eclipses wisdom. Senses are strong, mind is stronger and the intellect is strongest of the three. Soul is even more powerful than intellect.

Concentrating on soul, taking the help of one’s intellect and controlling one’s mind and senses, one can destroy ATTACHMENT, which is the supreme enemy.  

Lesson to be Learnt: Detachment is the way to progress and prosperity.

CHAPTER FOUR

TRUE WISDOM

“I had told about this method (of doing deeds without any feeling of attachment towards them) to Sun, when the Universe started. Sun passed on that knowledge to some of his descendents. However for a very long time that method had been forgotten. The same method is repeates to you, my devotee.”

Arjun asked how Lord Krishna could be there at the time the universe started. The reply of Lord Krishna was: –

“God and soul have always existed. God, however, revealed himself only in each era to give relief to the pious minded and destroy the evil-minded. The apparent birth and deeds of God Almighty are most unusual.

Four classifications have been made for the doers of all sorts of deeds. The scriptures (Vedas) contain a description of different kinds of deeds. The attainment of True Knowledge is the ultimate aim of all such deeds. True knowledge can be attained only by devotion service and honest questioning. Those who have already acquired true knowledge must guide others. True knowledge is like a huge ball of fire. It destroys the feeling of attachment and burns out all sins, which are merely the results of attachment. The soul which has acquired True Knowledge gets absolute peace and qualifies for God realization.

After being free from the feeling of attachment and envy, one should remain content with whatever comes in stride. Happiness or unhappiness, or attainment or nonattainmentof his objects should not stir him in the least. Ultimately he is bound to get absolute peace.

Lesson to be learnt from this chapter: The attainment of True Knowledge is the ultimate aim of all such deeds.

CHAPTER FIVE

OF DOING DEEDS WITHOUT ATTACHMENT

Asked Arjun: – Which of the two is better – the Process of Reasoning or the Process of Deeds?”

The reply was: – Both are equally good and lead to the same result. However the Process of Deeds may be said to be the better of the two. True Knowledge can also be acquired by means of Deeds done without any feeling of attachment. When a person has full control over his mind and body, when his soul has become pure and when he is totally bereft of ego and remains unattached while doing deeds, he can not be bound down to the fruits of his deeds and can never commit any sin. He attains peace.

The doer of deeds without any feeling of attachment keeps on doing deeds for the purification of his soul, but all the time his senses, mind, body and intellect remain free from attachment.

One must consider everybody alike and remain moderate inhabit and behavior. He must remain firm in his belief and strive hard to attain True Knowledge.

The attainment of salvation leads to unending peace and happiness. The quest for worldly pleasures is futile. Worldly pleasures are innumerable, perishable and in themselves sourses of unhappiness. Only those persons can attain peace who are free from the feeling of attachment and envy and who have control over their senses, mind, body and intellect.

Lesson to be learnt from this chapter: Renounce the ego and attain salvation leading to unending peace and happiness.

CHAPTER SIX

UPLIFTING OF SOUL

Lord Krishna said: – A person, who does deeds without any feeling of attatchment, is both a Renouncer and a Doer of Deeds. A person, who has control over his senses, mind, body and intellect has no real interest in preserving or amassing wealth. His continuous effort is only to uplift the Soul.

For purification of Soul practice has to be done in a proper manner. Everything (eating, sleeping. Rest) should be done in moderation. One’s state of mind should be that of a lamp kept at a place where there is no breeze. One must always have faith in his belief and should never feel bored. He is bound to discern the existence of the Supreme Being in all the objects.”

Arjun observed: – “It is not easy to control one’s mind. To attain mastery in such practice must, therefore, be very very difficult”.

The reply was: – “Yes! That is so. But by constant practice one may master it.”

Asked Arjuna: – “That being a long and drawn out process, will not a person engaged in such practice get lost and annihilated in the same manner as a cloud, which disintegrates into nothing?”

Lord Krishna replied: – “No. Each stage reached by constant practice, remains secure. One starts from that stage in the next birth.”

Lesson to be learnt from this chapter: Every act should be done in moderation. 

CHAPTER SEVEN

                                     KNOWLEDGE DIVINE

“The acquisition of no other knowledge can be compared to the attainment of Divine Knowledge. It is something grand. One should know what God is.

Every person has two components – the body and the soul. The body is made up of eight elements (earth, water, air, sky, fire, mind, intellect and ego). The other component, which gives life to the system is different.

God is the Creator and the Destroyer of the entire universe. God is present in all the objects. Even the feelings, which beget the three qualities (Saintly, worldly and lethargic) are created by God. A grand illusion is the result of the interplay of these qualities. No one can escape that illusion unless he worships God continuously. One, whose wisdom is eclipsed by illusion, does not worship God.

Four kinds of people worship God. These are of: –

  1. People in quest of worldly objects,
  2. People anxious to avert unhappy events,
  3. People desirous of knowing God, and
  4. People whose every deed is dedicated to God.

Out of them the fourth class is the best.

People desirous of getting rid of the pangs of rebirth and death must depend only on God.Their faith in Him must be firm. Such a person is not likely to forget God even at the time of his death.

Lesson to be learnt: Connect to higher consciousness daily.

                                              CHAPTER EIGHT

COMMUNION WITH GOD

“A person, who can manage to remember God even at the time of his death, attain salvation. What one thinks during the last moments of his life, determines his status after death. A person, who can restrain his senses from drifting towards the objects of pleasure, who stations his mind firmly in his heart, and his life force in his forehead, who remains firmly established in such practice, thinks of God only and, at the time of his death pronounce His name (OM) is bound to attain Salvation.

The doer of deeds with feeling of attachment towards them can go upto heaven only. He returns to earth after the effect of his pious deeds is over. But one who attains Salvation is not born again. The stage of salvation can be reached only by continuous practice and devotion.

What is time? One day of Supreme Being is equivalent to one thousand eras. Similarly one night of the Supreme Being is also equal to one thousand eras. The Universe was created when the day of the Supreme Being started. It shall get annihilated when the night of Supreme Being starts. The process shall keep on repeating. The Supreme Being alone is undestructable.

There are two clear-cut paths – one leading to God and other leading to ancestors. A doer of deeds, without any feeling of attachment, takes the first path and does not come back to earth. A doer of deeds with a feeling of attachment takes to the second path and comes back to the earth.

A person, who fully knows all this, does not get attached to the results of his deeds. He continuously exercises his mind for the attainment of God. The attainment of this True Knowledge is far Superior to the knowledge of the Sacred Scripts and the doing of penance and charity.”

Lesson to be learnt: True Knowledge is far Superior to the knowledge of the Sacred Scripts.

                                               CHAPTER NINE

SUPREME FAITH… MOST SACRED

Supreme faith is the king of all other faiths. It is most sacred, very pure, very nice, consistent with everybody’s code of conduct, easy to follow, good for all times and capable of yielding quick results.

The entire universe is full of the Supreme Being in the same manner as ice is full of water. However, neither the Supreme Being is stationed in worldly objects nor are the worldly objects stationed in the Supreme Being.

The Supreme Being is the creator of all worldly objects. It holds them and feeds them. But the Supreme Being is not Stationed in them. To affirm that all the objects are stationed in the Supreme Being is tantamount to affirming that air is stationed in the sky.

The grand illusion, which is the creation of the inter-ply of the three qualities (saintly, worldly and lethargic), coupled with the Grace of God create all worldly objects.

Foolish people, relying on vain hopes, indulging in vain deeds, and attaining vain knowledge, acquire the quality of the demons. They feel attracted by those qualities and adopt them. But saintly people, being of saintly quality, do not do so. On the other hand they worship God with full faith and devotion – either with the feeling of oneness with God, or with a variety of other feelins, such as of master and servant or of the lover and the beloved.

The doer of deeds with a feeling of attachment towards the deeds worships god of his choice and attains his object soon. He can even reach heaven. Ultimately he must return to earth. One worshipping god with full faith attains Salvation. God helps him in establishing his faith in Him.

Faith and continuous devotion turn one into perfect saint. Even a worst sinner may hope to become a saint.

Lesson to be learnt from this chapter:Faith and continuous devotion lead to attains salvation/perfection.

CHAPTER TEN

GOD’S GLORY

 “God is the creator of all and, therefore, no one can know about the origin of God. It was as a result of a resolve of God that the seven Rishis, the four Sankads and the fourteen Manus, all who control this world, were created. Even the feelings such as wisdom, forgiveness, happiness, power of control over senses and contentment have been created by God.

It is only with the help of one’s own soul stationed in his own heart that he may realize God. God is the beginning, the middle and the end of all. One may realize God by looking at things that are remarkable, full of glory and full of power. All such objects have been created by a fragment of God’s glory. The grand illusion created by him holds the entire universe.          

Thus one may reaize the glory of God by thinking of Varun amongst the sons of Aditya, of Sun amongst astrologers, of Shanker amongst the eleven Rudras, of fire amongst the eight Vasus, of sea amongst water, of king amongst men and so on.

The act of continuously repeating the name of God is the king of all the deeds.

Lesson to be learnt from this chapter: See divinity all around.

CHAPTER ELEVEN

GOD REALIZATION

Asked Arjun: – Is it possible that I may see you in your true form with all your power, grace and Glory?”

The reply was: – “Yes. But not with the mortal eyes. You can see Me with the divine eyes bestowed by Me.”

The Form then revealed to Arjun had many faces and many eyes. It consisted of a variety of strange forms, all dressed in divine apparels, fully decorated and armed with all sorts of weapons. The entire form looked strange and Limitless. All over it was divine perfume. The brilliance of one thousand suns put together could hardly equal its brilliance. All parts of the universe could be seen in that Form. The Supreme Being, the Rishis and the divine serpants were also in that Form. One could neither see nor perceive its beginning, its middle and its end. Arjun described it thus: –

“I cannot see its beginning, its middle or its end. Eyes are like Sun and Moon. Mouths are like burning fires. It contains the Earth, the Heaven, the intervening sky and all the directions. Everybody is getting afraid after seeing this Limitless Form. It has many facets, is very bright and touches the sky. All that can be seen around is annihilation. All the known warriors are seen entering its fierce mouths and getting perished therein. Who are you?” asked Arjun.

The reply was: – “I am Time (the destroyer) and am here to annihilate this world. All these warriors are bound to be killed. Be the means, attain victory and rule your kingdom.”  

Arjun told Lord Krishna that like others he too had lost his bearings and was not finding peace and solace. He requested him to show his Chaturbhuj (Human with four hands) Form.

Lord Krishna revealed to him his Chaturbhuj Form also and told him that none had seen it before and none of two forms could be seen by Penance, Charity, practice or knowledge of scriptures.

Lesson to be learnt from this chapter: Have enough devotion/intellect to see the truth as it is.

CHAPTER TWELVE

PERFECT DEVOTION

Arjun asked: – “What is better … worship of the abstract or the worship of God after ascribing him a Form?

The reply was: – “The first is more advanced form of meditation and therefore, more difficult. People, who themselves have forms, find it easier to worship God after ascribing to Him a Form. Otherwise both the methods are correct.

There is yet another method which is simpler and easier. Have perfect faith in God, devote yourself to God and dedicate all your deeds to God. Very soon you will be relieved from this turmoil of the sea of death.

Try to have perfect devotion with the aid of Mind and intellect. Mind should be applied towards devotion by continuous practice. If that process is difficult try to do all your deeds for the sake of God only. If you find that process also difficult try to feel no attachment towards the results of the deeds. That, by itself, will result in the attainment of peace.

Do not think ill of others. Have love for others without regard of personal gain. There should be no ego. Happiness and unhappiness should be considered alike. Try to forgive even your enemy. Be content. Have control over senses, mind and body. Have absolute faith in God and fully devote your mind and intellect to Him.

Do not stir commotion in others. Do not permit others to stir any commotion in you. Be free from ambition and grief. Do not take sides. Complete the work for which you are destined.

Avoid feeling exceedingly happy about anything. Avoid feeling envious. Have no desire. Never repent. Leave the fruits… good or bad … of all your deeds to God.

Remain steady whether you be among friends or amongst enemies. Regard honour or dishonor alike. Have no craving for heat or cold, happiness or unhappiness. Be free from attachment. Regard praise and abuse alike. Remain content. Have a steady mind. That should be your code of conduct.”

Lesson to be learnt from this chapter: Always remain steady.

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

BODY AND SOUL…. DIFFERENCE  

“So many questions crop up. What are you? Are you the body or are you the soul? Is your body part of something bigger, brighter and better? Why has it been seperated from bigger body? Wherin lies the salvation of soul?

What is body? What is soul? How body and soul get together? What is the cause of rebirth?

True knowledge is to know the answers of these questions.                               

The body cinsists of five elements (earth, water, fire, air and sky), ego plus intellect plus the illusion created by the interplay of the three qualities (Saintly. Worldly and Letargic), plus ten organs (skin, smell, taste, speacg, ears, eyes, hands, feet, genital organs and anus), plus the feelings (desire, jealousy, happiness, unhappiness, awareness and aim), plus rest of the body. The forms may be different, but these component parts in each body are the same.     

It is the Supreme Being, who puts life into the body. The Supreme Being has no beginning and no end and is beyond the scope of three qualities and the ten senses enumerated above. But He knows their working. The Supreme Being is all pervading but without any (feeling of) attachment. It is all pervading like the sky or the rays of the sun.

Life is created when the Supreme Being comes into contact with body. The part of the Supreme Being that enters body, gets attached to the body by means of the three qualities (saintly, worldly, Lethargic) to which it has become firmly attaced.

The Supreme Being is beyond the scope and the influence of the aforesaid three qualities. The separate flame of life (soul) in order to be one with the Supreme Being, has to attain similar status – it has also to reach beyond the scope of three qualities. Then only the Salvation is possible.  

Lesson to be learnt from this chapter :Detach from illusions and attach to Divine

CHAPTER FOURTEEN

DIVISION INTO THREE QUALITIES

“What is your aim?” True wisdom or right course of action? If that be so follow the course of saintly quality and all that it implies. It will lead you to contentment and wisdom. After death you shall attain Heaven and coming back to this earth you shall be born in good family.

In case your aim is to attain worldly objects follow the course of ‘Worldly’ quality and attain all it implies. It will create greed in you, make you work hard for the attainment of your objects. Take you through the illusion of success and ultimately leave you unhappy. After death you eill be born amongst the people of the same quality.

In case you cannot raise yourself beyond useless efforts and seek lethargic or idle pleasure, follow the course of ‘Lethargic’ quality and all that it implies. If you die in that stage, you may be born low, even as an insect or a cattle.

By making effort you can change over from one quality to another. Suppress ‘worldly’ quality and ‘Lethargic quality in yourself and you will attain ‘Saintly’ quality in abundance. Similarly if you suppress the ‘saintly” quality and the ‘Lethargic’ quality in yourself, you will get the ‘worldly quality in abundance. Suppress both the ‘saintly’ quality and the ‘worldly’ quality in yourself and much of what would be left in you would be the ‘Lethargic’ quality.

If your aim is to achieve Supreme Nector, Supreme righteousness and the everlasting Bliss, try to be one with God. For that you have got to leave the feeling of attatchment behind and go beyond the ambit of the three qualities. One need not hate or despise any of these three qualities. However, to be one with God and attain everlasting Bliss, one has just to leave them behind.

Lesson to be learnt from this chapter: Live a simple life-style that matches your vision.

CHAPTER FIFTEEN

TO BE ONE WITH THE SUPREME BEING

 “If you have a look at the tree of life, you will find everything topsy turvy.The roots are above and the branches are below. Down below the growth is luxurious and it spreads in all directions. But there is no firmness in the branches.

 The root is the Supreme Being. The branches, spreading downwards, are watered by the  three qualities and their growth reaches all directions.

The main branches are of saintly people, of worldly people and of Lethargic people, Desire, attachment and ego keep the people of each branch fastened to their own branch, and its subsidiary growths. The directions of these growths is determined by the deeds of the people. Mind and senses are the feeders of these branches.

One should never forget his main root and keep on thinking what is best for him. He should prune all the unnecessary growths. For that the only weapon available is the feeling of non attachment. After having finished the pruning you shall be able to concentrate on the main root.

Soul is eternal. Body is perishable. God alone is worth knowing. Take the help of scriptures, purify yourself and make further effort. It is only then that you can attain True Knowledge. Without purifying oneself it is not possible to attain True Knowledge. Effort otherwise is useless.

After one has got away from the unrealities of life and become one with the Supreme Being, there can be no rebirth.”

Lesson to be learnt from this chapter: Give priority to Divinity

CHAPTER SIXTEEN

NATURE …DIVINE AND DEMONLIKE

“One should always act according to Laws and Traditions, and take their guidance, otherwise nothing shall be achieved. The feelings of attachment, greed and anger are tree doors that lead to Hell. Avoid them.

The saintly nature consists of :- (1) Fearlessness, (2) Cleanliness of mind and body, (3) Devotion towards God, (4) Acquisition of true knowledge, (5) Suppression of the senses, (6) Study of scriptures, (7) Recitation of God’s name, (8) Taking pain in following one’s own code of conduct, (9) Simplicity of mind, inner self and senses, (10)Non-violence in all its forms, (11) Speaking Truth in a pleasant manner, (12) Absense of anger, (13) Non attachment, (14) Peace of mind, (15) Not speaking ill of others, (16) Kindness towards all, (17) Forgiveness, (18) Patience, (19) Lack of ego and (20) Feeling ashamed while doing something against Laws or Traditions.

The demonlike nature manifests itself in (1) the show off, (2) pride, (3) ego, (4) anger, (5) harsh words, (6) lack of knowledge and (7) falsehood.

People having the nature of demons think that there is no one on whom they can rely, that the world is without any Truth and without any Supreme Being, that the main object of life is to enjoy, and it is because men and women get together that children are born. The acquisition of wealt is their main aim and they are unmindful of the means, which may be fair or foul.They remain very attached towards the results of their deeds. They remain tied down to the ropes of vain hopes. They seek happiness but in its place they get worry and restlessness. They feel that they are strong and shall be able to subjugate their enemies. They consider themselves superior to others. They act even against Laws and traditions. They are sinful and cruel towards others. They are the cause of their own degradation and go down towards dirty Hell.

Saintly Nature leads to Salvation and demon like nature to bondage.

Lesson to be learnt from this chapter: Being good is a reward in itself.

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

THREE KINDS OF FAITH

Arjun asked, “Why is it that one should act according to Laws and Traditions? Is perfect faith and devotion not quite enough? What is the quality of a person having perfect faith and devotion?

Lord Krishna replied: – Perfect faith (confidence) or devotion (sincerity) is a must for the achievement of any object…be it for this world or for the next. It is better if it is of saintly quality. The quality of a person determines also the nature of his faith and devotion. A saintly person, while doing deeds according to his own code of conduct, follows Laws and Traditions.

 Food habits and deeds of persons of three different qualities are of three different kinds.

  1. A saintly person will eat saintly food, do saintly deeds, penance and charity and have saintly faith and devotion.
  2. A worldly quality will eat worldly food, do worldly deeds, penance and charity, and have worldly faith and devotion.
  3. A person of Lethargic quality will prefer food creating lethargy, do lethargic deeds, penance and charity and lethargic faith and devotion.

Thus the faith and devotion of persons of each class will differ materially from the faith and devotion of other two classes. In each sphere a member of any particular class will follow the pattern of his own quality.

 The Supreme Being is called by three names. When a good deed is started in His name, He is called “Om”. When one dedicates his deeds to God, he calls Him by the name “Tat”. In ultimate analysis, the name of the Supreme Being is “Sat” (Truth).

Lesson to be learnt from this chapter: Choosing the right over the pleasant is a sign of power.

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

SALVATION BY RENUNCIATION

“There need not be renunciation of deeds. It is enough if renunciation is of the feeling (1) that one himself is the door of the deeds and (2) of attachment towards the results of the deeds. This latter kind of renunciation is excellent and most desirable.

Penance and Charity, being good acts, need not be given up. Such acts, if done in a saintly manner, purify the inner self. Other deeds may have defects. But they too need not be given up. It is enough if the feeling of attachment towards the results of those deeds is given up. And renounced. There after those deeds become non-deeds and yield no result – nether piety nor sin.

Even the renunciation of the feeling of attachment towards the results of the deeds is of three kinds. Similarly the deeds, the doer, the intellect, the aim and the happiness are of three kinds each.

If doing a saintly deed, there is no pride in the doer, and there is no wish for the results of the deeds. It is done without any feeling of attachment and without any anger.

The effect of these three qualities on the Society has been to divide it into four classes – the intelligentia, the warrior class, the traders and the doers of rough work. The work of each class is different, but in itself, it is neither good nor bad. Any person, to whatever classification, he belongs, may attain salvation while doing deeds according to his own code of conduct. The method, which shall have to be adopted, is to convert deeds into non-deeds by giving up the feeling of attachment towards the results of his deeds. When that stage is reached, the deed of that person will turn into a big zero resulting for him neither in piety nor in sin.

As long as one confines himself to deeds strictly in accordance with his own code of conduct, he cannot commit any sin. However, if he tries to deeds according to the code of conduct meant for others, all that he will experience is fear. One should follow well his own code of conduct.Thet is the easiest method of achieving salvation.

Remain unattached and thereby convert all your deeds into non deeds, acquire pure wisdom, lead quiet and healthy life, eat light food, be the master of your mind, body and speech, give up anger, control the innerself and devote yourself to God. Give up pride, reliance on body force, ego, desire and anger. Thus, even while doing all sorts of deeds according to your own code of conduct, you shall attain inner peace and ultimately salvation.”

Closing the sermon, Lord Krishna asked: – “Have you got rid of your false notions? You will not be able to rise above your inherent quality because of these false notions. You are of warrior class and that quality of yours will assert itself and lead you to war.

Listen to my teachings once again. Think of me alone. Have faith only in Me. Have respect for Me always. I love you, I promise that ultimately you shall attain salvation.”

Arjun replied: – “All my false notions are gone. I have become wise. I shall act as directed by you.”

Lesson to be learnt from this chapter: Let go, let us move to union with God.

…………….

Note – Karma Yog leads to Yoga Budhhi (True intellect) and Yoga Budhhi to Sankhya Budhhi (Salvation). Karma Yog includes in itself – (1) Balanced mind (Samatva Budhhi), (2) Path of righteousness (Sva-dharma Buddhi), (3) Devotion (Samarpan Budhhi), work not to satisfy ones own ego or anybody else’s, (4) Detatchment (Asang Budhhi) and (5) Whatever comes, accept it (Prasaad Buddhi).    

May 19, 2019 Posted by | General, Social and political values and systems | Leave a comment

Income-generating skills and employment opportunities – in ‘Past’ and ‘Present’ India

“In life, only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe”                                                                             Hindu Philosophy

“Your work is going to fill a large part of your and the only way to be truly satisfied is to doo what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love, what you do.”                                              Steve Jobs

“If we want to give jobs to 400-500 million illiterates and 200-250 million semi-ill-literates, we have to go in for low-tech manufacturing that does not require high levels of education. … This is how China, Japan, Taiwan and South Korea did it”                                                                               Narayan Murthy

Introduction
Changes with ‘Industrialization’, ‘Modernization’ and ‘Globalization’ – As time passed on, method of transferring knowledge and skills in different professions, shape of job-market, opportunities for employment and work culture has changed tremendously. Earlier it was community-based, now it has become individual-based. Industrialization, modernization and globalization has adversely affected employment prospects of youth, especially unskilled workers in rural areas. It had changed the system of taking up of the traditional occupation of their families.

Demographically, India is a young nation. 70% of its population is younger than 35 today. Nearly 40% voters are in the 18-35 age-group. For youths born and brought up in Independent and economically liberalised India, the atmosphere has become stifling . One of the reason is the issue of unemployment.

Everything is moving fast, in this space age. Knowledge, due to revolution in information technology, is increasing faster than human ability to handle it. There are changes in the strategy, structure and management techniques. To keep pace with present time, it is necessary that education must equip people to deal with the real world. To make youth employable, the government should vocationalise the education. Degrees have failed to get suitable job. Youth needs to be should give way to job specific training. More than increasing the number of colleges, the nation needs to start job-oriented training institutes in large number.

‘Vision of skill India’ – The vision of present Prime Minister Narendra Modi about ‘Skill India’ is appreciable. Without understanding its implications, opposition parties are vehemently criticizing Modi Government. Some political parties think that the present government has failed to create jobs for about 400-500 million illiterates and 200-250 million semi-ill-literates, that too, in its organized sector. In fact, in any democratic welfare state, government play the role of a facilitator, it is not responsible to generate/create enough jobs for all of its unemployed citizens. At present, Government is the biggest employer in the organized sector of job-market. On public demand, it has already created much more jobs in the government than are required.

Time has come, when entrepreneurship should be encouraged. And through sound system of education and training, knowledge, understanding and attitudes of the job-seekers be increased, so that they are better adjusted to their working environment. Proper `training’ in newly emerged areas of employment would help trainees to acquire and apply knowledge and skills, which they do not possess, but are needed by the occupations, of which they are a part. Thus it would improve the the output of their work – quantitatively and qualitatively.

Warranties’ and ‘guarantees’ – No system of employment can ever provide ‘Warranties’ and ‘guarantees’ to give jobs to all the people. As a facilitator it can tell people about ‘possibilities’ and opportunities’. To convert those opportunities into success depends on determination, hard work and commitment of the job-seekers. William Arthur has rightly said, “Opportunities are like sunrises, if you wait too long you can miss it.” Only one has to learn to utilize the opportunities, they get and be mentally prepared to meet the challenges coming on the way.

Issue, neither traditional nor modern occupations flawless – Neither traditional nor modern method of employment is fool-proof or flawless. Both have their own strength, weaknesses and professional hazards. It is very difficult for most of the people to come out of the web of traditionalism or modernism. This is the time when people should work for the fusion of modernity with traditionalism by combining/embracing modern developments in the spheres of science and technology along with the time-proofed values and systems of traditionalism.                          

Traditional way of Employment in ancient and medieval India

Principles behind the traditional way of Occupations- In ancient and medieval India, assignment of work was based on certain realities, principles and way of life. The traditional system of occupations had maintained differentiation between various occupations. All functions needed for the maintenance and growth of the society were divided into different occupations, which were distributed amongst different sections of society according to their attitude and aptitude. The system encouraged interdependence in social matters.

Human actions dependent on attitude and aptitude – In traditional system, it is believed that the whole world of activities is a result of complex intermixing of three basic qualities of human nature – goodness (Satwa), Passion (Rajas) and dullness (Tamas). `Goodness’ is associated with purity, peace and knowledge; `Passion’ with comfort and action; and `Tamas’ with ignorance, sloth, sleep and carelessness.

These qualities determined the tendencies, potentialities, limitations, traits and character of individuals and give them direction for action. It makes individuals different from each other in attitude, aptitude, physical and mental capacity, aspirations, like and dislikes, inclination and expectations.

Principles of ‘Varna, karma and Dharma’ – Principle of Varna had assigned duties to different groups according to people’s natural instincts and qualities. Principles of ‘Dharma’ and ‘Karma’ developed clear-cut vision of rights and duties/responsibilities of each group, considering the requirements of different occupations.

  • Principle of ‘Varna’ – Accordingly, Principle of       ‘Varna’ did fourfold division of occupations and their performers –       Brahmins were assigned the work of learning, research and development,       kshhatriyas the job of defense and maintenance of law and order in the       society, Vaishyas of trade and commerce, and Shudras all kinds of service       functions.
  • Principle of Dharma – Principle of Dharma assigned       each group a specific work to do and developed a clear-cut vision of       rights and duties/responsibility of each group based on its traditional       occupation. It boosted morale of the people and promoted social       equilibrium and solidarity.
  •  Principle of ‘Karma’ – Principle of ‘Karma’       created the work culture. It gave stress to duty. Whereas, Western cultures have grown around the idea of `rights” forming the natural foundation of human relationship, systems in India evolved around the concept of “duty, tolerance and sacrifice”. Emphasis on duty had made people or groups humble and tolerant. Sacrifice was regarded far more important than success, and renunciation was regarded as the crowning achievement.

No unemployment – Everybody used to be engaged in their own hereditary/traditional occupations. An individual learnt the skills and tricks of their trade in a natural way with every breath while growing up. The system managed well the daily necessities and day to day relation of its members.Work, employment and dignity for all – In ancient and medieval India, there was work, employment and dignity and honour for all in India. There was no dearth of employment opportunities for persons willing to work.

“Adharma”, “Alasya” and “Agyan” responsible – Instead of blaming others for unemployment, “Adharma” (immoral behavior), “Alasya” (laziness) and “Agyan” (ignorance) were held responsible for unemployment and for all evils like exploitation, poverty, miseries and helplessness of the people that follow unemployment automatically. Everyone was expected to exercise self-restraint      and self-disciplined life in all respect, be it in the matter of daily      routine, occupation or inter-group relationship.

The system as a whole had led the society to have more production, economic efficiency and specialization in various areas of activities like spinning, weaving, pottery making, bead making, seal making, terracotta, handicrafts, brick-laying, metal work etc.

No hard and fast rule of ranking – Earlier, respect or honor was dependent on the deeds of a person and was not dependent on birth. Great respect had even earned by persons from humblest origin as a right. Everybody had all the opportunity to pursue knowledge and reach up-to the top. Higher/greater a person oe group, which exercised more self-restrictions on its conduct through rituals. Brahmins (intelligentsia) commanded respect of the whole society. They, being at highest place in the society, were put under maximum restrictions. They were supposed to lead a simple life, devoted to the spiritual and intellectual pursuits and denied accumulation of wealth.

There was no hard and fast rule of ranking various groups. Usefulness of a profession to society as a whole, conduct and way of living of different people were the factors to determine social, economic or political status of a group in society vis-a vis others. Ranking system did not put different groups within a framework of hierarchical layers of social order, each fitting neatly below the other, but more or less as a series of vertical parallels. ‘ There were times when gap between Vaishyas and Shudras became narrow or when Shudras acquired a better position in the society.

Segmental ranking of different groups was done according to relevance and contribution of their occupations to society. Social status of different occupational groups was dependent on their relative self-discipline (relative purity), morality, knowledge and spiritual standards. Considerations of self-discipline, hygiene and cleanliness on the basis of climatic conditions of the region were given importance.

In the past, many Khhatriyas and Shudra were accepted and revered as philosophers or spiritual teachers. For example, Sage Vashishta was the son of Uravshi, a prostitute, but he is highly respected allover India as the principal of the conservative school of Brahmanism. So was ‘Kshatriya’ Vishwamitra, the maker of the Gayatri Mantra, the quintessence of the Vedic Brahmanism, is recited even as of today almost in every house every day and on all auspicious occassions. Aitreya, after whom the sacramental part of Rig-Veda is named as Aitreya Brahamana, was the son from a non-Aryan wife of a Brahman sage. Vyasa of Mahabharata fame was the son of a fish-woman. Balmiki, the original author of Ramayana, was an untouchable according to present standards, but is still highly respected.

Idea of weaker sections was non-existent – Categorization of people as forwards or backwards or as weaker sections was almost non-existent at that time. No group was placed in greater or lesser disadvantageous position. The system was so conceived by the genius sages and ‘Munies’ (intelligentsia of ancient India) that there was hardly any room for any Varna to consider itself, as being placed in greater or lesser disadvantageous position with reference to another.

System not too rigid – The system was not too rigid as far as pursuing an occupation was concerned. The work in the sectors of agriculture or army was open to all. Members of particular Varna did not exercise monopoly over authority or respect. It is an established fact of Indian History that Brahmin or even Shudras sometimes became the kings. There were times, when inter group marriages took place in the past in order to increase their strength.

HT Colebrooke, one of the early Sanskrit Scholars says, “It may be received as a general maxim that occupation appointed for each tribe is entitled merely to a preference. Every profession, with few exceptions, was open to every description of persons and the discouragement arising from religious prejudices is not greater than what exists in Great Britain from the effects of Municipal and Corporate laws.” (Quoted from ‘Indian Express’, dated 18.9.90, p 8). In England also it was not uncommon for a clergyman, a lawyer or soldier to educate and train his sons for his own profession. So was it in India. (Quoted fromShore Fredrick John Notes on India Affairs Vol II P.473)

Salient features of employment and training in ancient India

Traditional occupational pattern of India was unique in many ways –

  • Employment, dignity and honor for all – Traditional occupational pattern had provided employment, dignity and honor to all. The system led to accomplish skill, specialization, success and happiness, decentralized authority and resources, made management within each unit effective and organized human and social behavior in tune with the objectives of the society.
  • Disassociation between Wealth and knowledge/skills – Unlike West, there is disassociation between Wealth and knowledge/skills. The value system of India has separated wealth from status, power from authority, pursuit and achievement in knowledge from temptations of worldly comforts.
  • Stress on attitude and aptitude rather than birth – According to “Smritis” it was not birth, but the qualities and deeds of an individual, that fitted him into a particular group of occupation. Later on, upbringing, atmosphere and convenience tended to make these occupational groups hereditary. Gradually different hereditary occupational groups emerged in the society. People found it more economical and convenient to practice one’s own traditional occupation.
  • De-centralization of       control systems – There was automatic de-centralization of       control systems and authority. The separation of rights and duties       combined with the principle of inter-dependence developed its own system       of checks and balances over arbitrary use of one’s authority.
  • Sense of duty – Occupational pattern of India      had filled the community with a sense of duty and trained them in      obedience. In duty, Indians found liberation. Sense of duty stopped those in power to exercise coercion      against its working class. Also it prevented resentment amongst masses.  It      helped Indians to adjust themselves, without much difficulty, to most      drastic changes in the past. Everyone benefited from living in a society where the duty of mutual respect was honoured. The systems stopped people from taking law in      their own hands. While other nations passed through many bloody      revolutions, India kept on adapting itself to changing times. In ancient      Greece, Rome or other European countries, people were made to work under      the threat of a whip.
  • Stress on knowledge and duty, while ranking status of a group – Whereas, in Western societies social status of a person or organization has always been associated with material success or control of power, authority. In India, status of a person is determined on the basis of its knowledge, purity, discipline and moral standards.
  • Division of labour – In the world of occupation there had been division of labor. All functions needed for the maintenance and growth of the society were divided into different occupations. On the basis of natural endowments, intelligence, aptitudes, attitudes, skills, personal needs and other innate characteristics, each group was assigned a distinct function to perform.
  • Automatic system of checks and balances – Such a system of division of labor developed its own systems of checks and balances over arbitrary use of its authority. Separation of rights and duties combined with the principle of inter dependence provided its own system of checks and balances over arbitrary use of one’s authority. There was an automatic decentralization of authority. The principles behind the whole system together provided the society a quality of life.
  • Specialization – System as a whole evolved an atmosphere, where a high level of specialization and wisdom in different areas of activities could be achieved. Being constantly in contact with the family occupation, it was natural for the people to learn maximum about their traditional occupations.
  • Spawning bed for social and technical skills – The system served as a spawning bed for social and technical skills. There was a tendency to bring in the most diversified skills to high level of excellence. By its very nature, it encouraged the development and preservation of local skills. The manner, in which social, technical and occupational knowledge and skills were transferred and developed, was through practice and experience; not through formal classroom lectures, which often kills originality and verve of people.
  • Natural training without investment -The system inheritance in matter of assignment of different functions to different groups led the people to learn basic qualifications and tricks of the trade within their families itself from their elders. Skills were learnt more on job under the training and guidance of ‘elders’, already there on various jobs/occupations.
  • Skills passed on from one generation to another – The system transmitted knowledge, expertise and tricks of a trade, intelligence, abilities, experiences, values and skills from one generation to another in a natural way. Children, while growing up, learnt about hidden intricacies of a profession and solutions of their occupational problems, informally from their elders. The system as a whole increased the confidence of the workers and saved them from confusion or unhealthy competition.
  • Reservoir of natural leaders – Don Martindale said that India possessed a reservoir of natural leaders – Brahman naturally trained in literary skills, Kshitryas in art of leadership and different service groups in skills. It has been seen that a Marwari, traditionally belonging to business community, invests his money in share market with more ease and confidence than a graduate from other communities possessing a degree in business management.
  • No confusion – The system saved common-men from confusion or unhealthy competition. It avoided rivalry or bitterness for pelf, power or position amongst different sections of society. There was no confusion, unhealthy rivalry or frustration on matter of work, because every body had his traditional occupation.
  • Clear vision of responsibilities– Principles of Dharma and Karma made clear-cut vision of rights and duties of each group, based on and due consideration of the requirements of different occupations. It developed understanding amongst people for their liberties, limits and responsibilities.
  • Each occupational group having an independent entity – Each occupational group had an independent entity, having its own hierarchy, based either on a tribal identity or an occupational identity. There was not much disparity between different occupational groups or between urban and rural people in ancient India.
  • Job-satisfaction – the system gave job-satisfaction to almost all individuals except for a few and managed smoothly daily necessities and day to day relation of its members. All castes including untouchables were assigned important social duties. Harijan women helped all castes at time of child-birth, Harijan males beat drums in front of Hindu’s houses or in front of a procession on auspicious occasions/ceremonies. Village barber spread news, arranged marriages and served food during celebrations. Occasionally non-Brahmins or Harijans served as priests of temples of goddesses like Sita or Kali, where all castes made offerings.
  • Interdependence – Local character and semi-autonomous nature of the system made close interaction and cooperation between different groups a reality. Not a single group could claim to be self sufficient, capable to survive alone and fulfill all needs of its people. Still people enjoyed a large measure of freedom in respect of their personal matters. The system as a whole was capable to fulfill all the needs of its people.
  • Combination of inter-dependence and self-reliance – Inter-dependence in social life and self-reliance in personal life were the intrinsic features of ancient system making each local area self-sufficient. Interdependence of different groups made it possible to have close contact amongst the people living in a local area. People whether living in a village or city, were bound together by economic and social ties and had a strong bond of mutual dependence.
  • Developed a common bond– The system developed a common bond underlying their activities and minds. There was closeness and cooperation within each and every group, engaged in common occupation due to common callings, common problems, and common solutions.
  • All professions worth pursuing – All occupations were regarded worth pursuing. Principle of Dharma inspired people to do their jobs well, as all worldly honor and spiritual happiness were vested there. It assured the people that proper performance of one’s work, whether high or humble, whether of a priest, warrior, Shudra or yogi were equally important for the society and were, therefore, right, respectable and worth pursuing. It brought worldly honor and spiritual happiness for individuals and provided the whole society a quality of life.
  • No confusion, bitterness, rivalry or frustration on matter of work – Each individual and every group served the community in one way or the other and was, therefore, satisfied. All the social groups lived the life of dignity and honor with the feeling that they, too, were contributing something to the society.
  • Benefit of knowledge to the ignorant and illiterate masses – In ancient India, illiterate masses got the benefit of researches and knowledge of intelligentsia – learned sages and Munies. On the basis of their scholarly researches and experiences, the sages prescribed certain guidelines in the form of rituals to for the benefit of common men and keeping order in the society. In modern societies, this job is done by the national governments by enacting laws and forcing people to follow them.
  • Downward filtration of culture – It made downward filtration of culture, sophisticated language and knowledge possible. In modern society, everybody lives in one’s own world, hardly having any interaction with others. There are watertight compartments between different groups living in an area.
  • Control over natural resources of the nation – Society as a whole had control over its natural resources. All local groups, whether high or low, living in an area mutually depended and supported for fulfilling different kind of needs and cared for each other.

The traditional system of occupation of ancient India had led the society to have more production, economic efficiency and expertise in almost all the areas and activities like spinning, weaving, pottery making, bead making, seal making, terracotta, handicrafts, brick-laying, metal work etc. The system worked so well that when the world was passing through the Dark Age, India was full of light. The first few centuries are recognized as the golden period of Indian history. During this period, arts, commerce, crafts, philosophy and knowledge flourished magnificently.

Many travelers visiting India, from alien lands at different points of time, confirmed that India possessed huge wealth, knowledge, and quality of life. It was a cheerful land. Each person found a niche in the social system. Its people reached a high level of intelligence having specialization in different areas. An average Indian, according to Dr. Albert Swheitzen, “Did not find life a vale of tears, from which to escape at all costs, rather he was willing to accept the world, as he finds it and, extract, what happiness he could, from it”. Recently U.S. Ambassador John Kenneth Galbrigth remarked, “While he had seen poverty in many countries of the world, he found an unusual attribute among the poor of India. There is richness in their poverty. They did not count wealth in money alone”.

Changes in job-market with industrialization

Industrial revolution started during late eighteenth century. It had undermined every pillar of old agricultural society. Individualism and materialism reigned supreme throughout industrial era.  Industrialization process along with modernization has changed the traditional job-pattern and work culture tremendously especially during 19th and 20th centuries under British rule.

Before industrialization, most of the people were engaged in agriculture and other professions related with it or in handicrafts, cottage industries etc. Industrial revolution has created a large number of new kind of blue-collared jobs.

Initial period of industrialization – Initially technologies were developed for lessening the strain on human muscles and designed for illiterate labour force. Machines were heavy, rigid and capital intensive. Work was unskilled, standardized and broken into simplest possible operations. All the workers were equally good, easily interchangeable like parts of a machine. Numerous unemployed people were always available. The workers were kept ignorant and powerless by keeping information restricted. These workers were chained to industrial discipline. Their life in the factory was tightly regimented,

Casualty of workers first, afterwards their work style – Outcome of industrialization has been casualty of workers first, afterwards their work style, commitment, motivation and culture. Many traditional occupations of pre-industrial society became obsolete. Indian handicrafts and cottage industry were destructed. Efforts, sense of direction and manufacturing skills of millions of artisans, craftsmen and weavers, many of whom were experts in their respective areas, were scattered. They lost their creativity, sense of achievement and pride. In the beginning of industrial era, these changes were opposed strongly by forces of feudal agrarianism, landed gentry, hierarchical church and the intellectual and cultural elite.

Major changes in social life – Industrial Revolution made drastic changes in the social life of people. There had been shifts in population, ecology, technology, culture and relationships. The behavior, life style, values, and attitudes as well as power equations and inter-relationship of various individuals, social groups and organizations of the agrarian societies had changed.

Industrialization developed mass-culture – Industrialization has initiated the culture of mass capital, mass production, mass-consumption, mass media and mass democracy. The pace of social, economic and political changes was much faster than that of agricultural era. It has influenced the thinking, behavior pattern and work-culture of the societies allover the world.

Along with it changed the pattern of family life, work-atmosphere, and political equations/environment and business culture of the nation. The need for a homogeneous workforce gradually shifted the individual and mass loyalties from society/village to nation. The power of the rural feudal faded.

Many traditional jobs became obsolete –  Industrialization with new technologies have made many traditional jobs obsolete. Many more occupations were considered less paying, more hazardous or time consuming. Millions found their income threatened, their ways of work obsolete, their future uncertain and their power slashed.

Urbanization – Migration of millions from villages started. Rural landowners shifted to cities, to explore their luck in expanding industrial arena. They relied on new technological developments, machines and material for generating more money. Along with them, many peasants and traditional professionals migrated to cities in search of jobs, as the industrial labour. They became urban workers subordinated to private or public employers. Migrated persons felt more liberated, while living in anonymity in urban areas.

Money the prime motivator of workforce – Industrialization shifted the attention of the people to generate more wealth. People were desperately dependent on money for their survival. Money became the prime motivator of workforce, the main tool of social control and political power. (Toffler, Power shift) The most basic struggle was over the distribution of wealth-who gets what?

Benefited rich people – Rich and privileged class took advantage of technological knowledge and new opportunities and became richer. But the general masses became poorer and more miserable. The social and economic condition of rural people deteriorated continuously. Consumerism had increased the economic and cultural differences enormously between the elite and the masses of a society.

Modernization

Changes, modernization brought – There have been some revolutionary changes in the job market with modernization. In traditional way of employment, there was not unemployment problem to the extent it is now. Everybody was supposed to be busy with his traditional occupation. There were some social control mechanisms to check the youth from getting confused in the matter of their occupation.

Now, a large number of youngsters have been caught under the vicious circle of traditionalism and modernity. They are confused, unable to decide what they really want to do. Modern system of employment has given to them multiple choices in organized and unorganized sectors, in government, public or private sectors, in addition to the traditional occupations. A large number of individuals

The Government of India is trying to eliminate unemployment since first five-year plan days Many income generating programs were introduced during various Five Year Plan. Despite taking the course of liberalization in 1991, Indian employment policies are still loaded with misconception and high initial employment policies without any regard for quality or incentive to achieve higher results per worker. The rising aspirations of people unmatched with skills and qualification and absence of traditional social control mechanism lead many to become unemployed. Present culture of beg, borrow or steal, i.e. to earn easy money, makes many young men not to work at all. Low wages especially in unorganized sector distracts many people from taking up any job. Such people are in a constant search of a job.

Dehumanized face of modern education and training institutions – Earlier people learnt the tricks of their trade from their elders and got advantage of their long experiences. Now many functions of family were transferred to formal education and training schools/institutions, caring of elders and destitute to old age homes/shelter homes, and work/jobs to government, factory or offices.

The dehumanization of institutions has weakened the connection of the institution of family with occupations, which eroded the control of elders over work-culture. After Industrialization, workers were equally torn between the workplace and home in a physical sense and between family and organization in an emotional sense. This conflict had adversely affected the motivation, morale and productivity in modern societies.

Concept of welfare state and its practicality as far as employment is concerned – Modernization has given rise to the concept of democracy. People are supposed to be the supreme power. With it emerged the concepts of liberty, equality, and fraternity and concepts like Welfare State and Development administration. In recent pas, these concepts been interpreted in such a way that instead of being a facilitator, governments of democratic Welfare nations have taken up the responsibility of generating/creating and providing employments to all. A section of society insists that it is responsibility of the government to create jobs for about 400-500 million illiterates and 200-250 million semi-ill-literates, that too in organized sector.

No government can provide ‘Warranties’ and ‘guarantees’ – However, no government can ever provide ‘Warranties’ and ‘guarantees’ to give jobs to all. As a facilitator it can tell people about ‘possibilities’ and opportunities’. To convert those opportunities m into success depends on determination, hard work and commitment. Youth of today should be encouraged to make their own efforts to get a job of their choice. In today’s knowledge-based economy, morale of talented/higher skilled Entrepreneurs/Innovators need to be boosted up, in so that they themselves get job-satisfaction and give employment to other low-skilled individuals in their Company.

Acute problem of unemployment – It has been observed in recent past, very few persons could take the advantage of new opportunities in modern job-market. In the near absence of industrial, commercial or social service activity, most of unskilled, semi-skilled job-seekers have no option, but either to join band of agricultural laborers, industrial workers and marginal labor for their survival or increase number of unemployed or under employed. Some studies have shown that over 11.3 crore persons in India (about 15% of the working from 15 to 60 years of age group) are unemployed and are available for work. As reported previously by Times of India, over 20% of youth between 15 to 24 years of age were jobless. In absolute number, it is about 47 million. In J&K, it is 48%, in Bihar 35%, in Assam 38%, in W. Bengal 54%, in Jharkhand 42%, in Odisha 39% and in Kerala 42%. (Figures quoted from Times of India, p.11, 24.9.14).

Craze for white-collared jobs – With the craze for white-collared jobs, started the trend of aversion for traditional occupations, blue-collared jobs or menial jobs, where hard work. is required. Modern education system initiated by British rulers opened up new vista for ‘White-collared jobs.’ Many new institutions and with them new kinds of jobs have came into existence in government, public or private sectors. Bureaucracy, corporations, hospitals, schools, post office, telegraph, telephone, institutions in mass media opened up new vista  giving individuals more freedom to select occupation of their choice.

Dependence on government-jobs increased – A large number of willingly remain unemployed till they get a government job. At present government is the biggest employer. People’s preference for government jobs has increased because government gives its employees regular fixed salaries, regular career progression and job security, whether they do any work or not. The trend of looking up at the government for regular jobs has placed immense power in the hands of the those in the corridor of power. Politicians, political parties, and their supporters, who rely on middle and working class votes, do not mind, if the the problem of unemployment here persists.

Stress on formal degrees and diplomas – Access to newly emerged knowledge-based jobs either in government, public or private sectors  demands formal education, certificates/degrees/diplomas. Stress on formal degrees and certificates for employment and advancement in career has led to many mal-practises. Many people do not hesitate to manage fake certificate. Once they get a regular job preferably in government, they do not pay much attention to learn, understand the basics, increase their knowledge, hone their skills or be aware of the latest development in their field of work.

In present competitive world of job-market, even a degree is not enough to get employment. In private sector, employers look for multi-skilled candidates. Stress is on performance, as well as being good in extra curricular activities as well. However the protective policies of government in matter of employment have encouraged some individuals to to manage fake certificate. Once they get a job in government, they do not take interest in understanding the working system of their profession, in increasing their knowledge, hone their skills or be aware of the latest development in their respective field of work.

More practical and sustainable solution lies in increasing the pool of properly trained skilled labour. A matured mindset is needed prior to entering into any profession.

Shortage of the formal institutions – Demand of admission-seekers in institutions of higher learning has put great pressure on government to create more and more institutions of higher studies and training. Many new colleges and universities have been created, but still, there is an acute shortage of the formal training institutions. The number of aspirants seeking admissions is so large because of population explosion, that it becomes very difficult for deserving candidates to get entry into the educational and training institutions of their choice. Also it is very difficult to get admission in the courses of their aptitude or choice.

Most of the time, energy and efforts of modern youth are wasted in search and pursuit of those jobs, for which they neither have aptitude nor attitude or which are beyond their reach for one reason or the other. This time they could have utilized otherwise for constructive purposes.

Government the ‘Messiah’ and common-men ‘pygmies’ – Since the government has taken up the of creator, and not the facilitator, the government  as a guardian should generate/create enough jobs to keep all its employed. In its role of a provider, those in positions of power in political or bureaucratic arena have assumed tremendous power. They virtually control the destiny of masses. They have become ‘Messiahs’, and down-sized common-men to ‘pygmies’. Unskilled or semi-skilled job-seekers are totally dependent on government, all the time seeking blessings or support of those who in power. It has corrupted the whole system.

One of the acute problem is of unemployment. The number unemployed people is continuously increasing.

Unemployment a major issue – Majority of people could neither enter into modern sector, nor could stick to their traditional occupations.

  • Continuous increase in the number of unemployed youth – According to UNDP’s Human Development Report, India will have 63.5 million new entrants into the workforce between 2011 and 2016, of which bulk will be in the 20-35 age group. A study jointly conducted by CII and Deloitte reports about aspirations and concerns of a multi-generational workforce as “Indian work-places have become an interesting blend of three generations – the business leaders and CEOs of baby-boomer generation (45 plus); management teams and senior professionals from Gen X (23 to 45); and young Gen Y professional (under 23)”.
  • Undesirable affect due to generation gap – This generation gap has led to differences in working and communication styles as well as motivation. It is important for baby-boomers, who are leading organizations, to understand the working style and beliefs of the younger generations. The younger generation do not see themselves staying in one organization for long, but their commitment and dedication towards work and responsibilities has not reduced. Also they prefer a fair system, where processes are more transparent and the system is less bureaucratic.  (Quoted from TOI, N. Delhi, P., 19, 24 Aug. 2013)

Conclusion

In the 21st century, ‘Power’ is based on knowledge. Knowledge is now easily available to common-men citizens in almost all the fields. In comparison to knowledge, land, cheap labour, raw material and capital – all these conventional forms of production are increasingly becoming less important.

The present is passing through an exceptional time of human history, when the world is leaving behind the industrial era and is ushering into a super-symbolic electronic era based on extra-intelligent networks. Only people have to prepare themselves to gain true knowledge and cope with the changes through sound system of education and traing.

August 12, 2018 Posted by | Social and political values and systems | , , , | Leave a comment

Policy of ‘Divide and rule’ India – Past and Present

,Introduction

India, earlier known as ‘Sone ki Chiriya’, (a Golden bird) has always been a centre of great attraction for the outsiders. It is amazing to see during the last phase of Mughal rule, how British East India Company with its a small number of British troops achieved the conquest and domination of India.

For British rulers, India symbolized Imperial grandeur. India had always been, ‘A Jewel in the Crown’. They believed that Britain’s superpower status for most of the nineteenth century and some of the twentieth depended on their control over India. Viceroy Lord Curzon had expressed it clearly in 1901, “As long as we rule India, we are the greatest power in the world. If we lose it, we shall drop straightway to a third rate power”.

Therefore, Imperial rulers had purposely created rift between different sections of Indian society  just to prolong their domination over India.  So much and so, that just before leaving the country, British civil servants had hatched a conspiracy with the Muslim League and let go the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), now known as Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, slip away from the grip of India. Two elections were held there, in 1937 and 1946. Despite the Province being Muslim dominated area, Congress party won a large number of seats. With the support of British rulers, “The League started gaining strength and the Congress started losing support in just a couple of months – between February, when elections were held and August.” (India lost Frontier by Raghvendra Singh. This book is based on an in-depth study. Being the Director General of the National Archives of India and working on crucial posts in the Ministries of Home, External Affairs, Finance and agriculture, the writer has access to historical documents, declassified documents, including exchanges between the British administration and Indian political leaders of various hues.) 

The seeds sown of ‘divide and rule’ sown by British Imperial Rulers, blossomed in  full in India after its Independence in 1947. Most of the political leaders, political parties and pressure groups have followed the footsteps of Imperial rulers.   they have also divided different sections of Indian society just to win elections and grab political power. Many Indian political leaders have learnt well how to play their cards shrewdly by taking advantage of the diversities of Indian society, and to polarise the mandate. They have given preference to sectional interests over national interests. They make false promises to start some paternalistic policies to pacify the sentiments of ignorant mobs. Till now it has helped them to enlarge their vote-banks,  and win the elections. Census operations gives them ideas and help them to plan their strategy. Different political parties have already created their own separate empires by capturing Dalit votes, OBCs votes or Muslim votes. Such an attitude of politicians to create a rift purposely has pushed the nation on the verge of disintegration.

Historical background of the policy of Divide and rule – India had been a great centre of attraction for British Empire. Britain attained superpower status for most of the nineteenth century and some of the twentieth depended. They virtually had control over India from 1800 onwards till 1947, when India got its Independence.

  • For British rulers, India symbolized Imperial grandeur.  Britain interest in India began around 1600, when its merchants entered into the territory of India for shipping Asian goods to Europe. Initially it was purely a commercial venture without using any force. Soon for safety purposes, they sought permission of the Mughal Emperor to build Forts and keep some soldiers in ports of Bombay, Calcutta and Madras for safety purposes. Later., they engaged those very small number of armed personnel in acts of conquests.
  • It is really amazing to see, how a few British merchants along with soldiers and gunners to protect them built such a big Empire and led to  the downfall of powerful Mughal Empire. They achieved conquests, one after another and then spread all-over the territory of India. Britain became a major political force not only from Himalayas to the sea in India, but also from Iran to Thailand as well.
  • British rulers were clear and firm about their aims and objectives. Quite early, British realized that as long as they adroitly exploited the religious, linguistic and historical divisions that marked Indian society their rule would be relatively safe. They enflamed the differences, that were already existent in the society and established their Empire in India by playing off one part against the other.
  • Initially in order to justify their domination over dark races of the globe and imperial rule in India, British propagated theories of racial the superiority of ‘White-race’. Afterwards, their administrators, missionaries, philosophers, writers and Historians like Mill, Wilson or Ward  had denounced vehemently the culture, character and social structure of the native people. For them Indian society was ‘highly stratified’ ‘disintegrated’ and ‘discriminatory’ society. The mental doze had affected minds of many educated Indians so densely that they considered their traditional values, practices and systems indefensible.
  • The British launched an ideological attack on Brahmins in their effort to secure a reasonable combination of various races and castes in administration and other modern callings. On one hand, to counter Brahmins hold in education and other areas, they slighted the role of Brahmins as Indian intelligentsia and reformers and on the other, portrayed them as oppressors and exploiters of others, especially the poor and minorities. The rulers created venom in the hearts of Muslims and non-Brahmin castes and encouraged them to resist vociferously the dominance of Brahmins in modern callings.
  • While laying down the foundation of some democratic institutions and policies, the Imperial rulers set an  example of how these policies of great scope i. e. Electoral policy, Census operations, or preferential treatment to certain sections of society in jobs through quota system, could be used to “Balance the power’ and ‘divide and rule’ different sections of society to serve their own vested interests.

Stages of British rule

British rulers knew well that they had established their Empire firmly in India by taking advantage of the diversities of Indian people and by playing them against one another – princes against people; Hindu against Muslims; caste against castes; and provinces against provinces.

  • Period of 1756-1858 was the period of conquest, annexation and consolidation.
  • From 1858 to1905, was the time of apparent association under British Government in India.
  • From 1905 to 1940, British rulers adopted the policy of “Divide and rule”.
  • After 1940, they decided to quit India.

Period of annexation (1756-1858)

Period of 1756-1858 – With the start of British rule over India, the old relation of conqueror and conquered prevalent in India since 10th century, came to an end. It was the period of conquest, annexation and consolidation for British. Initially, the East India Company of Britain conquered and established British Empire in India by taking advantage of the diversities of Indian people. The Government adopted “Laissez-faire” as the principle of governance. Hence, it did not indulge itself into any welfare or social service activity. The only objective was to rule the country to its own advantage.

Period of “Apparent Association” (Between 1858 and 1905)

Between 1858 and 1905, the British adopted a policy of “Apparent Association”. In their heart, the rulers knew well that they had established their power by playing off one part against the other and intended to continue it in order to maintain it as long as possible. The purpose was to keep Indians busy with their internal problems and let them rule the country without any distraction. They were sure “…We must continue to do so. Do what you can, therefore, to prevent all having a common feeling”.

Period of divide and rule (From 1905 to 1940) –

By 1858, when British Empirical rule was established firmly in India, the rulers adopted the policy of “Divide and rule”. They played Indian people against one another – princes against people; Hindu against Muslims; caste against castes; and provinces against provinces.

After 1940 – During Second World War period, they decided to quit India. Even then, British rulers played their game and divided the country into two – India and Pakistan. Their exploitative policies had already drained much of India’s wealth. Now they left India bleeding. Partition of the country had made millions of Indians either dead or impoverished and homeless.

Three stages taken for creating split in Indian society

The British Government did the job of disintegrating the Indian society in 3 stages: –

Ø First they appeased the Hindus,

Ø Then was the turn of Muslims,

Ø Lastly they devoted their attention to backward castes.

First stage

Appeasement of Hindus

Initially, the British, who annexed authority from the Muslim rulers, looked favourably towards Hindu community. They encouraged Hindus/Brahmins to opt for modern education. Reasons being –

  • It became difficult for them to import enough Englishmen to man large and increasing number of subordinate or lower posts in administration.
  • British, who annexed authority from the Muslim rulers, looked favorably towards Hindu community.
  • Being natural learners and pursuers of knowledge, they were quick and far ahead of other communities in modern callings.
  • The appalling poverty of Brahmins, because of the gradual displacement from their source of income after the decline in the financial status of their patrons – Princes and Zamindars – compelled them to opt for modern education and make use of new type of employment opportunities.

Very soon they secured an important place in the modern society.

Brahmins real threat to British rule

The long tradition and undisputed role in the field of knowledge and learning, their intelligence, sincerity and hard work helped Brahmins to secure an important place in the modern society. In 1900, Sir William Lee, an important official in the Government of Bombay and Government of India, noted Brahmins dominance in the Civil Service during 1869 to 1899. The rulers also noticed preponderance of Brahmins in other areas, too, and their growing influence and hold over Hindu Community. It appeared to British rulers as if this small community was governing the country.

British rulers noticed Brahmins preponderance everywhere including freedom movement. Preponderance of Brahmins at all levels of freedom movement alarmed the rulers.

Sir William Lee, an important official in the Government of Bombay and Government of India, noticed in 1900 that during 1869 to 1899, Brahmins had secured almost all the places in education and administration. In 1879, the Collector of Tanjore wrote to James Courd, a Member of the Famine Commission, There was no class except Brahmins, which was so hostile to English. In the words of an observer, If any community could claim the British out of the country, it was the Brahmin community 70% of those, who were felled by British bullets, were Brahmins.

Sir Richard Temple, the governor of Bombay said that ever since 1818, when British finally defeated the Peshwa in the third Anglo Maratha war, Brahmins were, “Inspired with a national sentiment and with an ambition bounded only with the Bonds of India itself.” Innumerable C.I.D. Reports of that period confirmed the active role played by Brahmins in National movement.

In 1879, the Collector of Tanjore wrote to James Courd, a Member of the Famine Commission, There was no class except Brahmins, which was so hostile to English. In the words of an observer, If any community could claim the British out of the country, it was the Brahmin community 70% of those, who were felled by British bullets, were Brahmins.

Rowlett Report (1880) also confirmed that the British regarded Brahmins as the main force behind all terrorist movements and agitation leading to violence in almost all the provinces. Overwhelming support of Brahmin lawyers to Congress Party and Mrs. Anne Besant’s Home Rule made the British to believe that Brahmin Community was a threat to imperial rule.

In Brahmin’s growing influence and their hold on the Hindu Community, the rulers saw a potential threat to their rule in India. They considered it necessary to counter the hold of Brahmins by raising a strong force against them.

Steps taken to counter Brahmin’s influence – British administrators including Temple thought it necessary to counter Brahmins influence. They advised the Government to stop dominance of one or few groups in administration and begin to rely on other groups or castes, in order to keep the balance of power. In 1881 the Government decided to raise a strong force – a reasonable combination of various races and castes – and counter Brahmins hold in education and administration.

Muslims and non-Brahmin castes were already resisting vociferously the dominance of Brahmins in these areas. They very carefully and effectively sidetracked the socially transformative movements of great scope, initiated by the intelligentsia of Indian Society.  On one hand, the British slighted the role of Brahmins as Indian intelligentsia and reformers, and on the other, portrayed them as oppressors and tyrants.

The British encouraged the formation of many caste groups to resist vociferously the dominance of Brahmins in modern callings. In whom they saw a potential threat to their rule in India. They allowed non-Brahmin castes and other communities to form political groups on the basis of caste and community. The movement against Brahmins forged ahead with ferocity in the Southern and Western parts of India. It remained mild in North India, where communalism had already disrupted the peace of the land.

In order to restrict Brahmin’s entry in Government jobs and make it available to non-Brahmins communities, British rulers started practice of “Preferences”. In the name of equality before law, rulers gave certain sections of society on the basis of caste and community financial assistance and preferences in education and Government employment at local and provincial level.

They made provision for giving financial help to the non-brahmins, Muslims and Anglo-Indians and fixed up a quota for them in government services. Thus they opened up the doors of new opportunities of advancement to other castes and communities. It served double purpose – one, for them, getting credit for amelioration and protection of downtrodden and two, keeping natives busy in their in-fights.

Second stage

Appeasement of Muslims – First, the rulers drifted Muslims from Hindus in a very shrewd and planned manner. Muslims always had a grudge over the loss of their dominant position. They found themselves handicapped in competing with Hindus, especially Brahmins, in modern callings and opportunities. Also they developed a fear of being dominated by majority Hindu Community, if at any point of time India became Independent.

During 1850s, Mohammedan Anglo Oriental College was established at Aligarh. English Principals like Archibold, Theodore Beck or Morrison of this institution played an important role in keeping Muslims away from mainstream and inculcating in them a feeling of separation.

Seeds of communalism – Sir W.H. Gregory, while appreciating the Resolution of Government of India on Muslim education wrote to Dufferin in Feb. 1886, “I am confident, that it will bear good fruits, indeed, it seems to have done so already by the complete abstention of the Mohammedan from Brahmins and Baboo agitation. It will be a great matter to sweeten our relations with this portion of the Indian population, the bravest and at one time, the most dangerous.”

The seeds of communalism were sown during Lord Lytton’s Vice-royalty (1876-80). A deputation of Muslims led by His Highness Sir Agha Khan demanded on Oct. 1, 1896 separate electorate. . On Dec. 30, 1906 a separate party – Muslim League – was launched to pursue and safeguard Muslim interests.

Their demands of communal representation in the Imperial Legislative Council and District Boards, adequate share in the public service and local bodies, adequate safeguards for the protection and promotion of Muslim culture and weight to the Muslims to protect their legitimate interests were accepted through Minto-Morley Reforms known as Government of India Act of 1909. This Act devised a novel method to distribute and balance the power. It came as the first effective dose of communalization of Indian politics.

Third stage

Attention to backward castes

After gaining the loyalty of Muslims, during the second half of the nineteenth century, the British turned their attention to uplift non-Brahmin castes and to secure their confidence. On September 2, 1897, George Francis Hamilton, the then Secretary of State for India, wrote to Viceroy Curzon, “I think the real danger to our rule in India, not now but say 50 years hence, is the gradual adoption and extension of Western ideas of agitation and organization. If we could break the educated Hindu into two sections, holding widely different views, we should by such division, strengthen our position against the subtle and continuous attack, which the spread of education must make upon our system of Government.” The rulers succeeded in dividing educated Hindus of these two sections –Brahmins and Non Brahmins, holding widely different views. Such a division had strengthened immensely the position of rulers.

Even educated Hindus amongst non-Brahmins castes found it difficult to compete with Brahmins on equal footings. Rulers encouraged Non -Brahmins leaders to form their political pressure groups on the basis of castes and raise their voice against Brahmins.

In 1885 itself, Eutice J Kitts, a British ambassador in Azamgarh listed, for the first time, backward castes and tribes, from 1881 Census. The objective was to give them financial assistance and preferences in education and Government employment at local and provincial level. For the first, the government officially recognized caste as a base for the purposes of governance.

Initially special schools were opened for them. Special scholarship, loan, hostel facilities and concessions in school fees were provided to non Brahmins castes along with Muslims. In 1885, the education department proposed to reserve 50% of free scholarships for backwards and Muslims, as scholarships purely on merit grounds would perpetuate Brahmin’s monopoly. From this base, Reservation entered into education field, so that more non-Brahmins could qualify for the jobs.

Morley Minto Reform of 1909 gave the non-Brahmins a boost. They demanded with assertiveness Reservations for themselves in education and Government employment. In 1919, the British Government transferred to provincial Governments power over subjects like education, agriculture, veterinary service, roads and, buildings, social welfare etc. With all these powers, the British Government also passed on to the provinces, the responsibility to satisfy the conflicting claims for the Government jobs and other interests of major pressure groups, which had emerged in the Indian political scene.

Methods, British used to create split

The British Government in India very cleverly created a split in the society. The policies, which they adopted for fulfilling the objectives, were following:-

  • Introduction of Modern Education system,
  • Reservations in educational institutions and government jobs and
  • Census Operations

All these measures served a double purpose – they got the credit for the amelioration and protection of the lowly. Also the distribution of power on communal basis kept balance of power and prolonged their rule in India by keeping the natives busy in their in-fights. Thus British Government very cleverly, created a split in Indian society.

Introduction of Modern Education sytem

The process of creating split started with the introduction of modern education system. Initially the British rulers excluded Indians from every honor, dignity or office, which lowest of Englishman could be given. But gradually it became difficult for the rulers to import enough Englishmen to man large and increasing number of subordinate or lower posts in administration. It compelled them to introduce modern education in India. However, they used even the education system shrewdly to meet their objectives effectively. It paved a way for imperial designs.

Intention of introducing modern education – The intention of introducing modern education was, as Lord Macaulay said, To form a class, who may be interpreters between us and millions of whom, we govern, a class of persons, Indian in blood and color, but English in taste, in opinion, in morals and in intellect”. It was mainly to get Indians, “Anglicized in terms of both cultural and intellectual attainment”.

Brahmins long tradition and undisputed role in the field of knowledge and learning, their intelligence, sincerity and hard work helped them not only to occupy almost all the lower levels posts in administration available to Indians, as desired by the rulers.

But it also offered to Indian intelligentsia, the key to the treasures of scientific and democratic thought of Modern West. It opened up the doors of knowledge and widened the mental horizons of Indian intelligentsia. In due course of time, it produced many National Leaders and Reformers.

Imperial designs for creating rift – In 1835 introduction of modern education and in 1844, announcement of making knowledge of English as compulsory for government employment paved way for imperial designs and created rift in the Indian society.

In the near absence of industrial, commercial or social service activity, the educated Indians depended entirely on Government jobs. This led to a keen competition between different sections of Indian society. British rulers took advantage of the diversities that already existed in India for centuries.

Welcomed by national leaders and intellectuals – The national leaders and intellectuals welcomed the introduction of modern education. They thought that understanding of Western literature and liberal, scientific, democratic and humanitarian thoughts of modern Western World would help to remedy many social, political and economic evils prevalent in the nation at that point of time. It would give some insight to the fragmented, poverty stricken, superstitious, weak, indifferent, backward and inward looking society of India. They took upon themselves the responsibility to build a modern, open, plural, culturally rich, prosperous and powerful India.

An Alarm bell for British rulers – Modern education not only produced persons to fill the lower levels of administration, as desired by the rulers. Along with them emerged, by second half of nineteenth century, many national leaders, intellectuals and reformers like Dadabhai Naoroji, Ferozeshah Mehta, Gokhale, Gandhi, Jinnah, Tilak, Lala Lajpat Rai, Moti Lal Nehru, Jawahar Lal Nehru, Subhash Chandra Bose, Patel and many more. The rulers never wanted it.

Preponderance of Brahmins everywhere including freedom movement alarmed the British rulers.

Policy of Reservation

Another tool British used was the Policy of Reservation. In 1918, Mysore Government appointed Miller Committee to look into the question.i On its recommendation All communities, other than Brahmins, who were not adequately represented in the public Service were declared backwards. In 1921 preferential recruitment for backward communities was instituted formally for the first time in its colleges and state services.

In 1925, Government of Bombay provided Reservations to backward communities in its services. It included all except Brahmins, Marwaris, Prabhus, Banias and Christians.ii Madras started quota based communal representation in its Government services and educational institution in 1921.

The United Province had a practice of reserving, out of every four seats, 1 to Brahmin, 1 to Kayastha, 1 to Muslim and the last one to any section other than these three sections.

The concessions bestowed on the backward communities made them loyal to British rule. An excerpt from the Times Archives (Aug 1925) shows the upsurge of Non-Brahmins in Madras. Presiding over the fifth non-Brahmin Conference in Tanjore, Rao Bahadur O Thanikachalam Chetty of Madras, Warned the non-Brahmin public of the dangers ahead” and how in the name of Swaraj, deception was being practiced, lies were decimated with a view to creating prejudice against the Justice party-men and to secure transfer of power to Brahmins under the guise of supporting the Swarajis.

The speaker emphasized the need to counter-act Swarajis activity in view of the coming elections to Legislative Council. He said that their province had, hitherto, successfully resisted the seditious blandishments of the Swarajis and had earned the good name of having successfully worked for the transitional Constitution vouched safe to them by the “Government of India Act.

Census operations and Untouchability

Census operations were also used for the purpose of further splitting the Hindu community. It created political identities in India. Census operation, introduction of electoral politics and suggestion of the Census Commission for 1911 Census, to exclude untouchables, (comprising about 24% of Hindu population and 16% of the total population in 1908) from Hinduism, had made position of untouchables prominent in Indian political scene.

Around 1909, the lower strata of Hindu community were conceptualized under the name of “untouchables”. So far, untouchables had clubbed their political activities with backward classes led by the Justice Party and South Indian Liberation Federation, which were already agitating against Brahmin’s dominance in modern callings. The emergence of Dr. Ambedkar on the political scene provided with the required leadership and needed stimulus to untouchable movement during late twenties and early thirties. There is a section of people, which considers that Ambedkar was planted into Indian politics purposely by British rulers only.

Dr. Ambedkar, while representing untouchables in Simon Commission proceedings, demanded separate electorate, reserved seats for untouchables in legislative bodies, special educational concessions, and recruitment to Government posts on preferential basis, laws against discrimination and a special department to look after the welfare of untouchables. These demands were readily accepted through Communal Award of 1932.

Gandhiji along with other National leaders regarded it as the Unkindest cut of all, which would create a permanent split in Hindu Society, perpetuate casteism and make impossible the assimilation of untouchables in mainstream. Dr. Rajendra Prasad said, The principle of dividing population into communal groups, which had been adopted in the Minto Morely Reforms, had been considerably extended, even beyond what had been done by Montagu Chelmsford Reforms…. “The electorate in 1919 was broken up into ten parts, now it is fragmented into seventeen unequal bits… Giving separate representations to Schedule Castes further weakened Hindu community. Division on the basis of religion, occupation and service were made. The British introduced every possible cross-division.iii Lal Bahadur Shastri denounced the whole happenings As a shameless episode of the National History of the Country.

After Independence

The Constitution of India, through Articles 14, 15 and 16, guaranteed equality of opportunity to all citizens relating to advancement and employment or appointment to any office under the State. However it also allowed the Government to make special provisions in favour of any backward class of citizens.

Seeds sown by British flourished in full in Independent India

The present day politicians have followed their steps and created such an atmosphere that seeds sown by British may blossom in full. The Indian politicians have inherited from British rulers three powerful democratic weapons i.e. Electoral policy, Census operations, and Reservation Policy.

Earlier British rulers used them for economic exploitation and perpetuation of their rule as long as possible. Now Indian politicians are using it in similar way for their own advantage. Present trend of giving continued importance to diversities especially of caste, community, region, language by most of the political parties and shrewd politicians for electoral purposes is at its peak. Instead of the feeling of fraternity amongst Indians, “feeling of ‘others” or “we” and “them” has become more prominent than.

Whether amongst youth or grown ups, the casteist, religious and ideological intolerance has generated communal violence and caste animosities everywhere in the country.

Political instability

The public mandate got fractured on caste and communal lines. At present, it has become almost impossible to ensure a stable Government. Political insecurity has engulfed the whole nation into caste politics. It has given birth to worst form of caste and communal divide. Caste frenzy overtook country’s two most populous provinces of UP and Bihar.

The result is hung parliaments, insecure politicians, scant respect for democratic norms and conduct. Unholy pre or post poll alliances are made. There are manipulations to get hold on power. All political parties try to extract political mileage out of Paternalistic policies.

Politicians are adopting gimmicks of secularism, socialism, equity and social justice. They evade real issues and shirk responsibility. Political party in power finds itself handicapped and lack courage to take hard decisions. The sole aim of politicians, especially of newly emerging groups, have no other program except the one to capture political power by hook or crook and retain it as long as possible.

Criminalization of politics and corruption

Along with caste politics prospered criminalization of politics and corruption ridden leadership scenario in the country with large number of scams and scandals. Power-centric politicians do not care for any principle or ideology; neither do they care for honesty or welfare of people. For power, they do not even mind using foul means or hesitate in taking help of criminals. Many history-sheetors are, at present, in politics.

There is a blatant use of money and muscle power in elections. Politicians try various permutations and combinations to increase their vote Banks. Poor public is a silent spectator, while political atmosphere is surcharged with manipulation, casteism, nepotism and criminalisation.

Paternalistic policies

Paternalistic policies and social justice has elated the backwards and Dalits. The nation is now divided into numerous political camps – pro-Hindu camp, anti-Hindu camp, secular camp, and caste camps into forward, backward and Dalit camp. There are regional camps too, playing up federal card to woe the electorate. The situation is leading to fundamentalist and separatist attitudes, conflict, instability, in-decisiveness, and rigid and irrational attitude.

Inter and Intra-Caste rivalries

For political advantages, different caste, sub-castes and sub-sub-castes have come together, bearing the same caste tag. But they do not forget their separate identities. The political tags/identities as caste Hindus, backwards, SCs, STs and minorities for Reservations and other preferential measures has increased the in-fights between these categories and created social disorder, making the task of governance difficult.

The unity of various castes under the label of Dalits”, “Scheduled castes”, or OBC is an illusion created by vested interests. It does not make them a homogenous class. In the opinion of MSS Pandian, an academic with Madras Institute of Development Studies, the current inter caste rivalries are part of a series of periodic revolt, whose prime object is self assertion.

Dalit militancy is increasing with the rise of new militant outfits like BSP, Devendrakula Vellalar Federation, Thyagi Immanual Paravai, Dalit Panthers of India etc. The striking feature of New Dalit militancy is their utter disregard for the present set up and their attempt to capture political power. Dalit leaders are pursuing Dalit empowerment with vengeance.

Winding up

Way back on December 9, 1946, Mr. V.N. Narayan had said, At best of times, India is ungovernable country of diversities, conflicts and problems.v Mr. Nani Palkiwala expressed the same feeling after 50 years of self-rule, which gave to India empty coffers, unfulfilled promises, political instability, fractured society and perpetual divide among different groups along caste and community lines. He said, Our legal systems have made life too easy for criminals and too difficult for law abiding citizens.vi A touch here, a push there may adversely affect the unity of India. Governance of a pluralistic society, like India, is a sensitive and challenging exercise. And now, the present day political leaders learning well, how to divide the mandate and perpetuate their rule as long as possible have pushed India to a stage, when “In Indian criminal justice system, major crimes are likely to remain unreported; if reported, frequently not registered; if registered, the true perpetrator not found; if found, not prosecuted; if prosecuted, not charged; if charged, usually not convicted; if convicted, frequently not adequately punished. At each crucial stage, the system has enough loopholes and inefficiencies to allow the guilty to walk away with impunity.”

Way out

  • There has been a fast decline in the observance of morality. In the absence of ideology, pursuit of material success has made the so-called representatives of the people selfish and intolerant. They have drifted almost rudderless without sense of direction. The recent political developments have given a rise to mutual strife within the society.
  • Lust for political power and wealth should be replaced by sense of service. Instead of concentrating on populist measures, political leaders should give priority to real issues. The administration would become more sensitive and responsive to the needs of the disadvantaged people. Basic ameneties like drinking water, house, food etc. should be proveded effectively and efficiently.
  • In electoral reforms should be made in such a way that instead of power seekers, talented, professional and specialized persons could find place in the system. Men of character, learning and scholarship should be elected as representatives of the people and be given the respect, they deserve from society. Entrusting power in weak or greedy hands without making them strong enough to hold it judiciously could not empower them.
  • Liberalization and globalization has opened up a new vista for everybody. To channelise creativity and energies of modern youth and to keep them happy and satisfied, a sound system of education and training is required urgently.
  • To prevent unhealthy competition in the society discriminatory statutes, policies and practices should be stopped. Instead of for promoting sectional interests, stringent punishment should be given to exploiters, oppressors and those persons who are indulged in corrupt practices.

 

March 21, 2018 Posted by | Social and political values and systems | , , | Leave a comment

Dalits’ Assertion and agitations

“I am thankful to all those who said NO to me. It is because of them I did it myself.”    Einstein 

“The worst form of inequality is to try to make unequal things equal”                                                                                                                                                   Aristotle 

The unity of backward castes under the label of “Dalits” is

                   an illusion created by vested interests.

Introduction – Times news reported on January 3. 2018, that Dalits came on Mumbai streets on 2.1.20 to protest against the violence that took place in Pune. In-wake of violence at Bhima Koregaon village in Pune district on 1.1.18., Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh (BBM) leader Prakash Ambedkar and some political parties called ‘Maharashtra Bandh’. Sources said –

  • Maharashtra Bandh! How dalit agitation brought Mumbai to standstill.
  • Massive protest by Dalits on 2.1.18 and 3.1.18 halted Mumbai local trains, blocked roads, and pelted stones.
  • A large number of agitators, allegedly in the “garb of activists championing the cause of the backward classes”, ensured that the police machinery was cornered and government suffered losses.
  • Economists say the never-seen-before Mumbai shutdown may have led to business losses worth thousands of crores of rupees.
  • Maharashtra Dalit protest spreads to Gujarat and other states as well.

Therefore, it becomes necessary not to sensationalize or politicize such news or publicize irrational comments or irresponsible  acts of various political parties or biased views of some intellectuals. Invariably, it creates misunderstandings and atmosphere of tension in the society and put unnecessary pressure on the government. Also national policies and plans should not get influenced because of dirty politics or irrational comments, fiery speeches or deeds of a few cynic/irresponsible persons.

In present day Dalit-politics, vested interests of a few persons or leaders/their political parties are spreading many misconceptions through social media.  In this age of social media or mass media, it is not difficult for a leader to appeal to the targeted audience.

It is not desirable for any mature leader to pass on comments based on half cooked information, half a truth, partial or incomplete knowledge, which could be harmful for the whole society. Reality is much deeper than what is seen on the surface. One should not form an opinion or take a decision without analyzing rationally the whole scenario.

Greed for powerGreed for power is increasing every day. Craving for more power – muscle, money or political – of some individuals or groups tends people to adopt discriminatory practices. Discriminatory practices work on whims and fancies/likes and dislikes of strong persons. Controlling the destiny of others satisfies their ego and serves their interests.

Discrimination caste-based or class-based in India?Within every society and a nation, there exists numerous identities based on factors like caste, race, class, religion, gender, language or region. Dalit Activists hold caste responsible for its being highly discriminatory and keeping 750 million Hindus – dalits, tribals and other backward classes – poor, “subjugated, discriminated against and humiliated.” “Technologies for human survival …. were all developed by lower castes”, but “upper castes took away the fruits of their labour and invention.” “In the hearts of the oppressed castes, there is anger and hatred.” They say, ‘Social-justice’ demands their emancipation by ending all kind of discrimination. Agitated comments of Dalit Activists and political leaders arouse emotional sentiments of poor masses, generate venom in their heart and create a feeling of ‘otherness’. They  are trying hard to make the entry in power echelons/government, including government services and create as much space for themselves as possible.

Dr. Dean Harmison  says that Discrimination in India is ‘Class-based’, and not caste-based. So is all-over the world. “I have travelled to nearly all the states,n visited villages and slums, temples, mosques and churches, shared meals and conversations with people there of all stations in life. I have not experienced discrimination to the extent, it is being painted here; but what I have seen is class discrimination, Yes I have seen economic poverty.” (quoted from his speech at 53rd session of Sub-commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, N Delhi Aug., 2001)

Intolerance reason behind discriminationUsually, in every society, differences in behavior, character, education, language, way of life, culture, social background create a distance between two individuals or groups. Resistance to tolerate, adapt or appreciate each other widens the distance. Some become so aggressive that they openly abuse or oppress others. In order to be one up, either they let down others or try to control their destiny by adopting discriminatory practices. And in this rat-race, stronger always wins and weaker suffers.

Electoral politics encourages narrow loyalties of caste and religion  – In the past, British rulers in India, while laying foundation of democratic institutions of India, started many discriminatory practices to keep balance of power and counter Brahmins hold on Indian society. That was the time when caste Hindus were very conscious about their Hindu identity. But after Independence, it has been observed that despite all their venom against Hinduism and its caste system, lower segment of society is sticking strongly to its caste-identities.  Narrow loyalties of caste and religion are encouraged generating sub-cultures like caste-ism, favoritism, and lure for easy money, nepotism, parochialism, communalism, regionalism, bigoted sentiments and irresponsible comments, spreading in-discipline in the society. The rising aspirations and demands of people, with the spread of education and awareness, has created added problem for the government.

Policy of appeasement – It is because of adopting the path of appeasement, and pacify agitating people, most of measures taken by the Governmental authorities touch the problems superficially at its periphery only. These solutions are unrelated to real issues and day to day problems of poor people. Instead of benefiting or helping the poor, on one hand such developmental programs increase corruption, and on the other it encourages lethargy, agitation and attitude to depend on authorities for each and everything.

A large number of ‘Dalits’ have already entered into the corridors of power, are occupying important places, and are exercising authority. Under their leadership, different pressure groups and regional political parties are wooing  with vigor the poor, innocent and illiterate Dalit and Muslim masses. Even Naxalite groups find in Dalits an allies, as most of their action squads are formed of Harijans. No political party could dare to annoy them. All concede to their demands openly or discreetly.

Journey of Dalits towards Empowerment – The transformation of untouchables into Harijans, Depressed class and now Dalits is a classic example, where a fraction of society is increasingly distancing itself from the mainstream and establishing firmly its separate identity.

The attention of people towards the pitiable condition of untouchables was drawn by Mahatma Phule in 1873. He established ” Satya Shodhak Samaaj”.  Almost at the same time Ranade’s “Prarthana Samaaj” had come into existence. In 1875 Dayanand Sarswati had established “Arya Samaj”.Narayan Guru of Kerala, (1854), Periyar Ramaswamy Naikar from Tamil Nadu (1879-1973), Swami Achhutanand  from Northern part of India, Chaand Guru from Bengal (1859-1930), and Guru Ghasiram (1756) from Madhya Pradesh worked to improve the status of untouchables socially, politically as well as economically.

The organized intolerance and  over-consciousness about their separate identity has grown out of proportions now, perpetuating agitation and violence. They desire a complete hold on political power plus protection of those laws and policies indefinitely, which were started seventy years ago for ten years for enabling them to join the mainstream. They want to have a cake and eat it too, but without much effort or blending their ways.

Journey of Shudras BeginsExistence of Shudras (at present referred as untouchables/Dalits) was recognized, as early as, Pre Mauryan Period (6th century BC to 3rd century BC). Though given a lower status, they were always an integral part of Hindu society. Since then, they have traveled a long distance and has passed through various stages, at present known as Dalits. Till the beginning of 20th Century, the lowest strata of Hindu Community were known as Shudras, Panchamas or outcastes. The whole of 20th century, especially the first and last two decades have been especially important for political empowerment of Shudras (Untouchables). Different terms have been used for Shudras at different points of time. Each one assumed importance, as Dalit movement has passed through various stages – ‘Shudras’, ‘Outcastes’ and ‘Panchamas’

  • Who were Shudras in ancient times? – In ancient India, Shudras were supposed to do all sorts of menial work under the guidance of the three Varnas -Brahmins, Kshatriyas and Vaishyas. Individuals or groups belonging to the fourth Varna Shudras were –
    • Conquered groups or individuals in a war;
    • Groups engaged in menial or unhygienic occupations;
    • Groups clinging to the practices, which were not considered respectable;
    • Persons born illegitimately or
    • Groups engaged in anti-social activities were treated as Shudras and were given lowest status in the society.
    • Breaking the caste rules meant loss of caste, meaning complete ostracism or having no place in the mainstream of society.
    • Permanent loss of caste or out-caste- were considered to be the greatest catastrophe for an individual, short of death penalty. By the beginning of Christian era, the out-castes themselves developed caste hierarchy and had their own out-castes.
  • Why Lower Ranking for Shudras? – In ancient India, Shudras performed basic/essential social services. They  also worked in economic as well as in agricultural sectors under the guidance of caste Hindus. Still they were placed at lower level. Why?
    • Segregation of lower castes in Hindu Society was not based on economic status nor on their incapability to do any intellectual work.
    • In ancient India all the social groups were placed more or less as a series of vertical parallels.
    • It was on cultural grounds – unclean habits, in-disciplined life style, speaking foul and abusive language etc.
    • All of the people living in a local area, whether high or low, were bound together by economic and social ties and had a strong bond of mutual dependence.
    • They cared and supported each other in fulfilling different kind of their needs.
  • Concept of forwards or backwards non-existent in ancient India – Higher rank in the society or respect to a person or group was never given on the basis of material success or control of power. There was hardly any room for any section of society to consider itself, as being placed in greater or lesser disadvantageous position with reference to another. Concept of forwards or backwards or feeling of exploitation of lower strata by upper castes was almost non-existent at that time.
  • Masses reconciled, if not contended – Many studies have shown that Hindu system always kept masses reconciled, if not contended in the past. Hindu Dharma taught the people that instead of holding others responsible, for all their sufferings, exploitation and miseries it was their own “Adharma” (immoral behavior), “Alasya” (laziness) and Agyan (ignorance) which were to be blamed.
  • Respect for Shudras with knowledge or character – Society never prevented Shudras or others to rise in the scale of society or to earn respect of the society. In many parts of the country, people belonging to lower strata held position of power/superior status or earned respect of Hindu society. Many warrior kings of Shudra and tribal origin sought Brahmins’ help to acquire Kshatriyas status for themselves. Many Shudras were accepted and revered as philosophers or spiritual teachers.

Shudras position during medieval Period – All troubles of lower strata of society along with other sections of Hindu society started after the downfall of Hindu Raj and old Hindus values.

  • Sufferings of the whole Hindu society under alien rule – It was not only the Shudras, but all the sections of Hindu society suffered a lot during medieval period. Seventh century onwards, continuous invasions by Turks, and Afghans earlier drained out the wealth of the nation to foreign lands and afterwards Mughals made India their homeland and ruled the country for centuries. Feudalistic attitude, extravagance and luxurious life style of rulers and those at the helm of authority, increased the disparity between the rulers and the ruled. Therefore, blaming caste Hindus out-rightly could not be totally justified. It was not out of malice, but the circumstances under foreign rule, that had pushed Shudras away from the mainstream.
  • Continuous suffering without the help of government or society responsible –  The low status and continuous sufferings for centuries, because of poverty and deprivation had gradually stopped growth of their personality and made them completely dependent on others for their livelihood. Centuries old enslavement, their total dependence on others, ignorance, superstitions, suppression and ostracism shook their confidence and instilled in their minds inferiority complex are the factors responsible for their poverty,exploitation and became victims of insensitive and inhuman treatment by others.

Depressed class/backward class – During British rule,  Shudras were addressed as ‘Depressed class’/Backward castes or ‘Exterior class’ in official circles. British rulers as well as Missionaries launched an ideological attack on the social-structure of Hindus and tried to upgrade their social position.  With the promise of giving lower strata of society modern education and government employment, lured many people to get converted into Christianity. British rulers passed many Legislative regulations and administrative orders declaring denial of access to untouchables to schools, well, roads and public places as illegal.

Separation between Backwards and untouchables – Uptil the beginning of twentieth century, untouchable attempts for getting space in power-structure were combined with the Backward Castes movement of intermediate castes. But with the beginning of 20th century, untouchables were inspired to enter into the political arena under the name of “depressed class” and get a reasonable share in political power separately. British government in India regarded untouchables ‘Oppressed of the oppressed and lowest of the low’.

HarijansNational leaders, humanitarians and reformers made several attempts to improve the position of untouchables during late 19th and beginning of 20th century. When during census operations of 1911, British rulers proposed to exclude ‘untouchables’ from  Hindu population, National leaders got alerted. In order to retain the Hindu identity of untouchables population, Gandhiji and his followers called them, ‘Harijans’ meaning the “people belonging to god”. On one hand, Gandhiji tried to create compassion for Harijans in the hearts of forward communities  and on the other he appealed to Harijans to observe cleaner habits, so that they could mix up freely with other sections of society. However, Dalit leaders did not like the word Harijan as it symbolized a meek and helpless person, at the mercy and benevolence of others, and not the proud and independent human being that they were.

During this period, the attention of humanitarians and reformers was also drawn towards the pathetic condition of untouchables. They took the path of Sankritization to elevate them. In order to prevent alienation of untouchables from Hindu community, they drew the attention of forward communities towards inhuman condition of lower strata of society and tried to create compassion in their hearts for downtrodden.

  •  They gave top most priority to the abolition of untouchability.
  • They tried to clarify that Untouchability was neither an integral part of Hinduism nor an outcome of Varna/caste system, nor have any religious sanctity, but an external impurity and sinful blot on Hinduism.
  • They laid emphasis on education, moral regeneration and philanthropic uplift.
  • They also appealed to untouchables to observe cleaner habits, so that they could mix up with other sections freely and become proud and independent human beings, that they were.

Political rise of Untouchables under the supervision of Dr Ambedkar Till 1909, the lowest strata of Indian society was known as Depressed class/backward class. Emergence of Dr. Ambedkar on the political scene provided the leadership and stimulus to untouchable movement.

  • He insisted to address untouchables just as untouchables. He regarded the terms ‘Depressed classes’, ‘Dalits’, ‘Harijans’ either confusing or degrading and contemptuous. Dr. Ambedkar made it abundantly clear, ‘It was through political power that untouchables were to find their solution, not through acceptance by Hindus’. He gave untouchable movement a national character and a distinct identity during late twenties and early thirties.
  • Criticism of Hindu hierarchical structure – Some prominent Dalit leaders like Mahatma Phule, Ambedkar or Gopal Ganesh vehemently criticized Hindu hierarchical structure and regarded untouchability as an inevitable concomitant of Varna/caste system. They taught the lower castes to get united and make eradication of caste system their major plank as it engaged them to forced labor or unsavory jobs, imposed many restrictions on them and prevented them from joining the mainstream of the society. According to them, Hindus treated lower castes as lesser human beings, meek and helpless persons, who should always remain at the mercy and benevolence of upper castes. They tried to find the solution of their problems through political power, not through acceptance by Hindus.
  • Rise of political groups on caste-basis – By 1920’s, numerous caste organizations, specially in the South and West, organized themselves into larger collectiveness by keeping contacts and alliances with their counterparts at other places; formed associations and federations at local and regional levels and emerged as a powerful political force. Together, they demanded special legal protection and share in politics and administration on the basis of caste.
  • Untouchables separated from Backward class – In 1928, Simon Commission established their separate identity at national level, independent of intermediate castes as untouchables. It readily accepted their demands through Communal Award of 1932. Gandhiji along with other National leaders regarded it as the Unkindest cut of all”, which would create a permanent split in Hindu Society, perpetuate casteism and make impossible the assimilation of untouchables in mainstream. Dr. Rajendra Prasad said, The principle of dividing population into communal groups, which had been adopted in the Minto Morely Reforms, had been considerably extended, even beyond what had been done by Montagu Chelmsford Reforms….The electorate in 1919 was broken up into ten parts, now it is fragmented into seventeen unequal bits… Giving separate representations to Schedule Castes further weakened Hindu community… The British introduced every possible cross-division.

Known as Scheduled Castes in Independent India – After Second World War, the whole of the world was swept along with the concept of  the ‘welfare-state’. Independent India, also became a Welfare Democratic nation pursuing justice -social, economic and political. The government considered it its humanitarian obligation to plan for uplift and empowerment of the submerged-sections of the society.  After Independence, seeing the overwhelming-poverty of millions of people, especially  belonging to the lower strata of the society and their near absence in echelons of power, Government of India took up some concrete measures.

Why the term Scheduled Castes? – As per the directions of the provisions of the Communal Award of 1932, instructions were issued, in July 1934, to schedule a list of the people entitled for preferential treatment in matter of special electoral representation and appointment in the Central Government jobs. This gave birth to the term Scheduled Caste in 1935. Scheduling was a legal activity having sanction of legal authorities. Therefore, no one had any objection to this term. This term was used even after the independence.
The Constitution of India- The Constitution of India has directed the Government to promote social justice and educational, economic and other interests of Scheduled castes and Scheduled tribes with special care. It instructed the Government to remove the poverty and reduce inequalities of income and wealth, bring submerged sections into mainstream and provide adequate representation to them in power echelons. Public facilities, which were denied to untouchables so far, have been made accessible to them. The successive governments both at national as well as provincial levels have initiated various Welfare Plans and Policies for employment generation and their social, economic and political growth from time to time.

Emergence of  ‘Dalit’ word for untouchables – Dalit, a ‘Maraddhi’ word means ‘suppressed’. The term was chosen and used proudly by Ambedkar’s followers under the banner of various factions of Republican Party of India (Formed in 1956). The Mahars of Bombay (8%), Jatavs of UP (Half of the SC Population in UP) and Nadars and Thevars of Southern TN being numerically significant, played a decisive role in taking forward Dalit movement. Maharashtra Dalit movement has a longest and richest experience.

  • Dalit Panthers , a political party in Maharashtra – In 1972, a distinct political party, in the name of Dalit Panther was formed in Maharashtra. It organized the lower castes under the banner of ‘Dalit’ throughout India. One of the founders of Dalit Panther, Mr. Namdeo Dhasal widened the scope of Dalit by including SC, tribes, neo-Buddhists, landless labor and economically exploited people. Its orientation was primarily militant and rebellious. Dalit Sahitya Movement legitimized and reinforced the use of the term Dalit. Since then, this term is very popular amongst the untouchables.
  • Main aim, abolish of caste-system  – Earlier, a few leaders of untouchables had at least some regard for the cultural tradition of India. They did not reject Vedic literature or the foundations of Hinduism, out-rightly. Dr. Ambedkar accepted that all parts of Manusmiriti were not condemnable. Gopal Baba Walangkar had said that Vedas did not support untouchability. Kisan Fagoi, another Mahar leader of pre-Ambedkar era had joined Prarthna Samaj. But present Dalit leaders are vehemently against cultural traditions of India, which according to them, are based on inequality and exploitation. it has given rise to a fear of upper caste or intermediate caste backlash.
  • Dalit’s March towards Bihar – In mid sixties, an aggressive Dalit movement started under the banner of Shoshit Samaj Dal in Central Bihar, which has, presently, become a major center of Naxalite movement. Dal was founded by Jagdeo Mahto, who began to mobilize the lower castes against economic repression and exploitation of women by upper caste feudal elements.
  • Dalit’s rise in UP – The new phase of Dalit assertion is most prominent in the most populous state of UP, where the upper caste domination has been challenged by BSP (Bahujan Samaj Party) formed in 1984 under the leadership of Kanshi Ram and Mayavati. They redefined Dalit politics especially in north India.                                                                                                                              Their approach to Dalit issues was more socio-political rather than economic. BSP has started pursuing power with militancy since 1990. Its supremo Mayawati succeeded four times in becoming Chief Minister of UP. Of late, BSP has made significant inroads in UP, Punjab and Madhya Pradesh.                                                                                                                                              BSP has borrowed all their phraseology from Dalit Panthers. Most of their utterances are arrogant, revengeful and opportunistic. Political and economic vested interests of its leaders has aroused militancy among discontented youths of different castes and communities all over the nation. They care only for rights and pay scant attention to their duties. There started a cutthroat competition for scarce positions of power and prestige.
  • Dalit Vote Bank – Bahen Mayavati had one said that through election Dalits will takeover the posts of PM and CMs and the posts of DMs nd GMs through reservations. Political parties and its leaders are well-aware that the number of Dalit population is large and it can be a large vote-bank for them. Therefore, they try to appease Dalits creamy layer  from time to time, in order to increase their own political strength. Dalit leaders are in no mood to play a second fiddle to other national political parties. Dalit leaders are aware of their growing influence and crucial role as a kink-maker in today’s highly competitive and unstable political atmosphere.
  • Dalits vs. Non-Dalits – Once again, the tendency of ‘divide and rule’, as was there during British domination, has emerged in national scenario. India has been divided sharply into two unbridgeable compartments  – Dalits and Non Dalits (caste Hindus).                                                  The growing desire of Dalits to get control over political power has made them very sure of their friends and foes. Dalit leaders, even after so many years of Independence has identified Upper Castes as their enemy and intermediate castes sometimes as their friends and sometimes as their enemies. Kanshi Ram, a BSP leader initiated a formula of DS4, meaning Dalit Shoshit Samaj Sangarsh Samiti, taking into its fold untouchables, STs, Muslims and OBCs.
  • Creamy Layer amongst Dalits – There emerged an elite section amongst Dalits, which protects its turf under the banner of Dalits at the cost of poorest of Dalits. The Supreme Court In famous Indira Sawney case in 1992 had observed that the benefits of Reservation policy had been cornered by influential and dominant sections of different Dalit caste groups covered under the scheme . In order to make it available to really needy persons, it directed the Government to identify creamy layer among the backward castes and exclude it from taking the benefits of Reservations. Because it was a measure of protective discrimination to help the socially disadvantaged. The inclusion and exclusion of a caste or a section of caste would have to be periodically reviewed, to take care of the changing circumstances. The court had directed the Government to specify “within four months”, the basis of exclusion – the basis of income or extent of holding or otherwise of creamy layer.
  • Vested interest of Dalits creamy layer – Creamy layer  amongst Dalits does not care much to bring poor Dalit masses into the mainstream. For some, presence and miseries of large number of dalits is a recipe for Dalit vote-bank, for others enjoying all the benefits of affirmative action programs initiated and implemented by the Government of India and other concessions given to them. Whatever might be the condition of Dalit masses, but the political power and arrogance of Dalit leaders and intellectuals are at rise. And here lies the crux of Dalit poltics.

Analysis Of Dalit Empowerment

Role of Dalits in electoral politicsAll the major national political formations, national or provincial, Front, are wooing frantically Dalit leaders and competing with each other to have a pre or post poll alliance with them. Instead of demanding a share in power structure, equity or social justice, Dalits now want to reverse the power equation and to transform the society by capturing all political power. Their aim is to get hold over the posts of PM-CM (Political Power) through electoral politics and control over administrative authority – the bureaucracy – through Reservations/Affirmative Action Program.

Impact on paternalistic policies on Education- The following has been the effect of focusing on quantity rather than quality in the sphere of education: –

  • Tremendous pressure has been exerted for expanding the educational facilities at the higher and professional level, reducing hopes for more funds for elementary education;
  • Capitation fee colleges are getting a boost. Earlier, most of them were found in the South, but in post-Mandal period, the trend of Capitation fee colleges started in the North as well;
  • There has been pressure for opening up gates fully for private sector in the field of education, so that at least students get admission, even if the rate of payment is inflated.
  • Brain drain, which already has been a problem, got intensified further after the Mandal. Earlier when anti-Brahmin movement and Reservations started in the South, many Brahmin families migrated from Madras Presidency and settled in other parts of the country or abroad. Now with Reservation spreading in North as well, they are exploring the greener pastures abroad. The sad part is that the reverse discrimination has forced the cream of the nation to go out of country and serve others. Many organizations have come up during Post-Mandal era to help the bright students and professionals to get nice jobs in foreign lands.
  • Students agitation and unrest is continuously increasing with the growing number of educated unemployed,
  • Whether amongst youth or grown ups, the casteist, religious and ideological intolerance has generated communal violence and caste animosities everywhere in the country.

Inter and Intra-Caste rivalries – Every caste is a conglomeration of sub-castes and sub-sub-castes. For political actions, they come together, bearing the same caste tag. But they do not forget their separate identities. The political classification of society into caste Hindus, backwards, SCs, STs and minorities for Reservations and other preferential measures has increased the in-fights between these categories and created social disorder, making the task of governance difficult. The unity of backward castes under the label of Dalits is an illusion created by vested interests. Neither the term Schedule caste”, nor OBC nor Dalit makes them a homogenous class. In the opinion of MSS Pandian, an academic with Madras Institute of Development Studies, the current inter caste rivalries are part of a series of periodic revolt, whose prime object is self assertion.[i]

Intra-Caste rivalries – Not only are there inter caste rivalries, but intra-caste rivalries exist as well. Every caste has both, rich and poor people. The rich amongst them not only oppress the caste lower to it, but also the poor people of its own caste. It is not that forward castes, SCs, STs and OBCs are rivals of each other. Many emerging castes within each political group are fighting against each other for power, such as amongst intermediate castes – Jats, Yadavs, Koeries are fighting with each other for power. Also, the attempt of each political party to woo the same Dalit, OBC or minority group has given rise to intra-caste rivalries. In order to be one up each party tries to please different castes within each group by taking up different sectional issues. Each powerful caste now acts independently during elections and seeks political alliance before and after election with other caste groups. Post-election alliances, in an attempt to secure a majority, have led to the rise of inter-caste and intra-caste rivalries. (Sunday, pp. 12-13, and 8-14, June, 1997).

Anger against upper caste in rise The circumstances has resulted in the rise of anger against the Elitist upper caste people. After Mandal, this anger has engulfed the whole nation. Anyone doubting the efficacy of Reservation Policy is labeled today as a part of Manuwadi Brahminical system, which for ages has used religious scriptures, injunctions, propaganda and plain force to impose on masses many deprivations. The politics of revenge makes people irrational, and the authorities to go for reverse discrimination. At present, the forward castes doubt that they are being treated as second rate citizens in their own country, because they are scattered and other categories are united, well organised, and have the advantage of their numerical strength. In such an atmosphere, it is easy for the political authorities to withdraw opportunities from them and bestow it on the Backward classes; not necessarily the real disadvantaged sections.

The animosity of has tended withdrawal attitude amongst forward castes Recently the talented youth started withdrawing themselves from active politics or joining bureaucracy. Liberalization and globalization has opened up a new vista for them. They either join private sector or multi-national companies or go abroad in search of job. Information technology or software industry is full of such people. The private sector takes good care of them. It again breeds inter-caste jealousy.

Rift between OBCs and Dalits The Backwards and Dalits do not have much in common among them, except for their hatred for the caste Hindus, especially Brahmins. Intermediate castes always wanted to be aligned with power. Earlier in the social sphere, when upper castes were strong, they were their right hand persons. Forward castes, have always been non-militant and passive by nature. Therefore, they could not exert force on the lower strata. On behalf of them, the intermediate castes exerted the force on the lower castes. At present, when the wind is blowing in favour of Dalits, OBCs have joined hands with Dalits, to displace the forward castes and to grab the political power.

Dalits have always been in conflict with OBCs at social level, in politics, they have no option, but to support them to achieve their mission to change the power equation. Too much assertiveness of Dalit and backward leaders has already created growing confrontation between the lowest and different  intermediate castes in various parts of the country – Dalits Vs Marathas in Maharashtra, Dalits Vs Yadavs in UP and Bihar or Dalits Vs Thevars in Tamil Nadu. A huge social churning is going on the margins of the society.

The fight initially started between rural poor (marginal and marginalized) – Poor OBCs with a bit of land and some degree of political protection infuriated poorer Dalits, who neither had land, nor education, nor political power. In urban areas the fight is again for property and jobs. The main fight is for land, jobs, education and other opportunities to ensure security and progress. This fight is moving from the margins to center stage of Indian politics. Therefore, there is not much in common between a BC landless agricultural laborer and OBC landowner.

Very often, the rudeness of OBC towards BC is the main cause of social tension in rural India. Caste-Hindus, even Brahmins have been more considerate to an untouchable than intermediate caste such as rich Jat, Maratha, Reddy, or Patel etc. In the post-Mandal era, the intermediate castes have become very strong economically and politically. They own big farmland and employ landless tillers for farming. Their numerical strength gave them the political power also. The economic and political strength made OBCs to exploit the downtrodden.

Dalit assertion and a massive shift in power in favour of Dalits – Along with OBC, the post Mandal era has witnessed Dalit assertion and a massive shift in power in favour of Dalits as well. With the caste equation hardening, the Dalit groups got united. They have come together and are fighting for their rights. Earlier they allowed OBCs to exploit them, now they resent it. Todays’ Dalits are aggressive and militant enough to take the OBCs head on. OBCs are getting it back with the rise of Dalit reprisal attacks, which often results in heavy loss of life and property on both the sides. Dalit militancy is increasing with the rise of new militant outfits like BSP, Devendrakula Vellalar Federation, Thyagi Immanual Paravai, Dalit Panthers of India etc. The striking feature of New Dalit militancy is their utter disregard for the present set up and their attempt to capture political power. Dalit leaders are pursuing Dalit empowerment with vengeance.

Dalits influence at International platformDalits are not satisfied even after having growing influence in ballot-box politics and attaining enough places in the government jobs. Since 2001, these activists have been pushing the cause internationally arguing that Indian Dalits are like blacks in US till 1950. They faced problems in workplace, at school and in temples.

In 2005, some Dalit leaders belonging to All India Confederation have sought intervention USA, UN and the British and EU Parliaments on the issues of ‘untouchability’. UN recognizes religion, race, language and gender as main causes of inequality in the world. Dalt activists want caste to be included too in this category. They desire to have Global alliance, global involvement and intervention of the international community to put pressure on the government of India to address the problem Dalit marginalization. They feel that globalization and privatization has made it difficult for Dalits, tribals and OBC’s to compete on equal footing or find enough space in the job market within the country or abroad. At the behest of the Republican Congressman from New Jersey, Chris Smith, the US Congress had held a hearing on 6.10. 05 on the subject. A resolution on the issue – “ India’s unfinished Agenda: Equality and Justice for 200 million victims of the caste system” was prepared by the house committee on International Relations and US Human Rights to be tabled in the US Congress. “Despite the Indian government’s extensive affirmative action policies, which aim to open government service and education to Dalits and tribes, most have been left behind by India’s increasing prosperity…. Much much more remains to be done.” The resolution says, “It is in the interest of US to address the problem of the treatment of groups outside the caste system… in the republic of India in order to better meet our mutual economic and security goals….”

So far, intensive lobbying by Dalit groups including followers of Ravidass sect succeeded in getting passed the Equity Bill on March 24, 2010 in the house of Lords. It empowered the government to include ‘caste’ within the definition of ‘race’. In 2001, India was able in keeping caste out of the resolution adopted at 2001 Durban Conference.

Along with it, staunch supporters of Human Rights, some Scandinavian countries, Church organizations around the world and Lutheran World Federation have shown interest and expressed their solidarity with Dalits. Recently the comment of UN Commissioner for human rights, Navi Pillay asking India that “time has come to eradicate the shameful concept of caste” and proposals of UN Human Rights Council’s or US based Human Rights Watch (HRW) to recognize caste as a form of discrimination ‘based on descent and birth’ appear not to be based on rational understanding of caste system. Their opinion about untouchability is greatly influenced by the lobbying of powerful/influential Dalit leaders and Dalit intelligentsia.

No one knows where the Dalit assertion will lead the nation to? – It is not the paternalistic policies, (which have failed to yield so far the desired results) that are required for the uplift and empowerment of submerged sections of society, but there is need to educate, make them aware of their rights and duties, provide enough employment opportunities and basic civic facilities like health etc. at the grass root level for the sustainable growth of backward communities.

Conclusion –India has covered a long distance since its Independence. For political opportunism, its culture and traditions should not be blamed.

  • Indian culture has always preached, “whatever the colour of the cow,the milk is always white. Whatever be the background, lifestyle, race, religion or caste, each human is an image of God and a foundation of love, therefore, deserved to  be honoured.”
  • It is a matter of shame that after 70 years of its self-rule and giving so much protection to weaker sections, incidents of discrimination are reported to be increasing day by day. Instead of defaming it or single-it out for exploitation  or discrimination, it is desirable that law-implementing machinery should get tough on perpetrators of injustice. Discriminatory practices or oppression of weaker sections of society is unacceptable to the whole of humanity.
  • Instead of blaming an invisible institution (caste-system) for discrimination, deep wisdom and honesty of purpose is needed to find out right methods and courage to strive for it sincerely. To fight caste-ism, it is important to economically uplift the poor and prepare them through sound system of education and training and also making them aware of their rights and duties to fight their own battles and pave their way towards sustainable development.
  • So-called ‘Backward castes’ need to understand the spirit of Indian Constitution and try to adapt thinking, culture and life-style of the mainstream of the nation. Otherwise, there will always be cultural rifts, both in their lives and minds, threatening the unity of the nation from time to time.
  • Today, when the whole world is reeling between economic depression and and terrorism, people expect from the government to bring in change in economic situation and in fight against terrorism. Hate, jealousy, anxiety or fear leads to violence and give rise to wars, riots, antagonisms and class or caste conflicts.
  • After-effects of the great economic depression of 2008 has brought many social and economic changes and aggravated the problems for present government. The GDP growth has fallen there, business investment has dipped alarmingly. Unemployment has risen. Therefore, Government needs to be very careful, while planning for measures (developmental or punitive) to be taken. The needs and aspirations of the people as a whole should be taken care of by the government, not of any specific section of the society.
  • Present atmosphere demands to resolve sensibly the differences and clashes of interests peacefully with rational thinking and understanding for each other. For a change, India needs collective nation building efforts of both the authorities and the public with a sense of justice, commitment to the nation, understanding for each other and consciousness about duties along with rights.
  • Following steps could to be taken to bring to an end discrimination of any kind –
    • First of all, government should find out root causes of discrimination and deprivation,
    • Government should identify without bias vulnerable groups, which are discriminated against by the present modern society. It should not be on the basis of caste.
    • Identify the special needs or problems of each group separately,
    • Accordingly plan about the measures to be taken to protect the interests of vulnerable individuals.
    • Well meaning judicious laws, which could directly improve day today life of common men, should be carefully legislated.
    • Such laws should not remain only on papers but have to be executed/implemented in real life for dealing with social injustice effectively.
    • To give relief to ‘Have-nots’, the way out is to tackle effectively local crimes against common man whether in rural or urban areas and improve law and order position.
    • The money meant for the development purposes should actually be spent for which it is intended i.e. the betterment of submerged sections of society.
    • Power generally rests with physical strength, wealth and knowledge. Knowledge brings in both physical strength and wealth. Therefore, stress on knowledge through ‘education for all’ should be the top priority for the government for empowerment of weaker sections, which are victims of discrimination.
    • Widespread human rights violations should be stopped by punishing the culprits.
    • It is necessary to put honest and right persons at crucial positions. There are very few people, who have the knowledge/understanding what to do, how to do and when to do;

Winding up – A strong political will and courage is needed to bring to an end caste-ism and with it all kinds of discriminatory attitudes, repressive laws and practices. For the prosperity of the nation and tension-free/stress-free life of common man, as suggested by First Backward class Commission’s Chairman Kaka Kalelkar in mid fifties, “National solidarity in a democratic set up demands Government to recognize only two ends – the individual at one end and the nation as a whole at the other. Nothing should be encouraged to organize itself in between these two ends to the detriment of the freedom of the individual and solidarity of the nation. All communal and denominational organizations and groupings of lesser and narrower units have to be watched carefully, so that they do not jeopardize the national solidarity and do not weaken the efforts of the nation to serve the various elements in the body politic with equity. Mutual help, mutual respect and mutual trust are the touchstone, on which all communal and denominational activities will be tested.”

“Knowledge is power. Information is liberating” Kofi Annan

The only way – “You have to work-out your own problems, work hard everyday; you have to hold on to the real thing; believe me, there’s no other way!” Gertrude T Buckingham

January 7, 2018 Posted by | Social and political values and systems | | Leave a comment

Humanism, Religion, Secularism and Hinduism

“Science without Religion is lame. Religion without science is blind.”

“We are all humans until Race disconnected us, Religion separated us, Politics divided us and wealth classified us.”

“Science without Religion is lame. Religion without science is blind.”

‘Whether one believes in a religion or not, and whether one believes in rebirth or not, there isn’t anyone who doesn’t appreciate kindness and compassion. So be kind, be    compassionate.’

                                                                                                                                           The xiv, Dalai Lama

 ‘Nip Fundamentalism in the bud itself’.

Introduction – The word Humanism is linked with the civil society of the whole world, ideology of Secularism originated in West and Hinduism in India. The ultimate purpose of all the three, Secularism, Humanism or Hinduism is the same. Their role is complimentary not comparative or opposite to each other. All the three aims at no-discrimination or no distinction between people on the basis of religion. They seek development of physical, spiritual and intellectual nature of human to the higher possible point. They lay stress on human efforts to achieve material benefits within the framework of law and moral and intellectual values. Opposite to it communalism pushes people to have towards blind faith in their respective religions and advises them even to take extreme steps, if it becomes necessary.

Religion – Greatest religion in this world is that of Humanism, which embraces the whole world and all human beings living in this world. All religions teach brotherhood and harmony.   but all ways eventually led to one – the God of all Humans. Paths prescribed by different religions may be different. But objective is the same. Therefore, mutual respect for all religions must be promoted.

HumanismHuman values are social and ethical norms, which are common to all cultures, religions and societies. According to George Jacob Holyoake secularism is concerned purely on considerations on Humanism. “Secularism is that which seeks development of the physical, moral and intellectual nature of man to the higher possible point, as immediate duty of life” irrespective of religion and it, “selects as its methods of procedure the promotion of human improvement by material means proposes those positive agreements as the common bond of union of all who would regulate life by reason and enable it by service.”(Quoted from Kulkarni, Indian Democracy, pp 55-56)

Secularism – There is an impression that ….. the terms “Democratic” and “Secular” are alien ….. prior to 1950, Indian rulers did not know the concepts of Democracy and Secularism, and these were the gifts of the West to India.” It was during Medieval period, as a result of prolonged religious conflict over supremacy between the Church and the state, the expression ‘Secular’ found a place in English Dictionary. Secular formula separated completely the functions of State and the Church.

The meaning of the word ‘Secularism in itself is quite vague. There is contradiction in the perception and practice of the concept of secularism. The dictionary meaning of secular is “worldly”. According to Webster dictionary, “Secularism means a system of beliefs, which rejects all forms of religious faith and worship”, or “the view that public education and other matters of civil policy should be conducted without the introduction of a religious element”.

Mr Kulkarni also says that, “In Britain and America, these words originated about four or five hundred years ago. They were the result of political and religious struggles in those countries. Even today, there is no uniformity to the interpretation of these two words, either in the Western countries or in India. Broadly, democracy signifies the form and structure of governance and secularism signifies the way of governance.” (Indian Democracy, p 42)

Technically, America can be called a secular state, but neither UK, where there is an officially established church, the Church of England, nor Scandinavian countries having Lutheran churches, nor Italy believing in Roman Catholicism can be called secular.

  • Secularism is relatively a recent word foreign origin. Its origin of lies in the West. It is an outcome of Renaissance movement of medieval period. Secular formula was evolved after a long conflict between Church and the State over power and supremacy. Concept of secularism was evolved.
  • The Peace of Westphalia’ in 1648 separated completely the functions of the State and the Church. According to it the State was responsible to provide good governance and well-being of society. It has nothing to do with religion. Religion was assigned to take care of spiritual interest of the people.
  • ‘According to Dictionary of Politics “A secular State is one which has no official ties to any religious movement”.
  • The concept of secularism is associated with George Jacob Holyoake, a British social reformer. According to him, Secularism, “selects as its methods of procedure the promotion of human improvement by material means and purposes those positive agreements as the common bond of union to all who would regulate life by reason and enable by service. (Quoted from Kulkarni, Indian Democracy, p.56)
  • According to D.E Smith, a great scholar, a secular state as “a state which guarantees individual and corporate freedom or religion, deals with the individual as a citizen irrespective of his religion, is not constitutionally connected to a particular religion nor does it seeks either to promote or interfere with it.”
  • On 12 October 1947, in a Press Conference in N. Delhi Pt. Nehru said that ‘some people think that the secular state means something opposed to religion. That obviously not correct’. Minoo Masani, a political leader stated that secularism can be practiced only in non-communist countries.

In nutshell, secularism is against the extreme stand for material benefits as well as possessing against blind faith in religion for human development. This is exactly what Hinduism has been teaching since long. When asked ‘whether India is a secular state, Smith replied, “My answer is a qualified ‘Yes’.”

Hinduism – India has been a land of many religions, all religions have flourished without any hindrance here  since times immemorial, in-spite of  majority of its people being Hindus. Their religion Hinduism or its caste-system is not an obstacle to secularism. Tolerance is most evident in the field of religion.

Hindu faith in an all pervading omnipresent god, multiplicity of god and goddesses as representing some portion of the infinite aspect of the Supreme Being, inspires it to accommodate people of all faiths.  Hinduism concedes validity to all the religions and does not lay down strictures against any faith or reject any religion or its god as false.  That is why, all the twelve major religions of the world are present and flourishing in India without much hindrance.

Hinduism has adopted the path of assimilation.  It does not believe in conversion or imposing its beliefs, practices and customs on others. Hindu religion has neither repulsed any trend vehemently, nor allowed others to sweep its own established culture off the roots.As far as Hinduism is concerned, since ages, there has always been religious tolerance, religious cooperation and freedom of religious practices. The spirit of secularism is imbibed in Indian traditions itself. Every person has a right to have faith in any religion, be it Hinduism, Islam, Sikh or Christianity. It has firm belief in ‘Sarva Dharma Sambhav principle’, ‘Live and let others live’, ‘Universal oneness’ and ‘Vasudhaiv Kutambkam’.

In January, Kumbh Mela is organized every year at Allahabad, (in Northern India). It is one of the world’s largest religio-cultural gathering. About 12 million people coming together for a sacred ‘dip’ in the Holy Ganges and to be together with the Saints and Swamies of India. There is no evidence of discrimination of any kind. The Golden Temple in India feeds vegetarian ,eal to over 50,000 people a day regardless of race, religion, and class.

Tolerance is not confined to religion alone.  It is seen everywhere in the Indian way of life.  Indians believe in ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ – The whole world is one family.  Truth, Ahimsa, peace and non-aggression are the hallmark of Indian culture.  India has been the third largest troop contributor to UN Peace-keeping missions. So far India has taken part in 49 Peace-keeping mission with a total contribution exceeding 2,40,000 troops.

Hinduism has never tried to liquidate or absorb new groups artificially into its main stream. Rather it gave them opportunity to come under one umbrella, to preserve their own culture, style of living and traditions, as also an atmosphere to flourish in their own way. While other races and their systems have converted people belonging to other faiths into their own faith, imposing on them their own value system, caste-system has absorbed other groups as whole into itself without annihilating their originality, internal order, customs or language.

The assimilation of various groups be it racial, immigrants, locals, tribal, professionals or other groups under Hinduism has been done through caste system, by assigning each new group a separate caste identity. The culture of each identity, coming into its fold, has been carefully nurtured and preserved. It has absorbed the good points of other cultures also, which has enriched the composite culture of India. More than anywhere else in the world, it holds a multitude of thoughts, processes them and practices them. There has been co-existence of varied belief, pattern and thought due to inter-mixing and cultural mingling. 

Hindu Culture/Hinduism – The ethos of Hinduism has always been secular. Since ages, India has always been known for its secular outlook.

  • India has a Hindu majority population irrespective of who ruled the country. Still it has always remained a multi-religious society. It is a historical fact that for centuries, people believing in different faiths/religions are living together in different parts of India.
  • There had always been social and cultural intermingling. Nobody has ever doubted the secular character of India except in the political circle. The religion of majority Indian people, i.e. for its underlying principles of religious tolerance, religious cooperation and freedom of religious freedom.
  • Hindu philosophy believes that God is one and approach to seek Him are many. (ekma sat ivap’sbahuQaa vadint).
  • The spirit of tolerance and firm belief in the principle, ‘Live and let live’ has always been ethos of Hinduism. Tolerance is most evident in the field of religion. Hindu faith in an all pervading omnipresent god, multiplicity of god and goddesses as representing some portion of the infinite aspect of the Supreme Being, inspires it to accommodate people of all faiths.
  • According to Swami Vivekanand, Hindu culture/Indian concept of religion does not differentiate between religious communities. It honours all the faiths equally and gives them equal opportunities to flourish. Every citizen has full freedom to follow the religion or religious practices of his/her choice.
  • Tolerance is not confined to religion alone. It is seen everywhere in the Indian way of life. Indians believe in ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ – The whole world is one family. There has been a culture of ‘Vasudaiv Kutumbkam’ (whole world is a family), ‘live and let others live’ and ‘Sarva Dharam Sambhava’.
  • Earlier many foreign invaders merged with the Hindus. And for the first time in Indian history, during medieval period, Hinduism was confronted with an alien faith, which kept itself aloof and derived its strength not only from political dominance, but also from gradually increasing number of its followers. It was militant in character. In the zeal of their hatred, they destroyed temples, images and other religious symbols of Hindus. (The cultural heritage of India, published by Ramakrishna Mission Institute of culture, Kolkata). Still Hindus and Muslims have lived together for more than seven hundred years, though in watertight compartment. And ultimately, their hatred led India to be divided into two separate states – Hindustan and Pakistan.
  • According to Gandhiji religion is purely a personal affair. “”The state has nothing to do with it. The state should look-after secular welfare but not your or mine religion.”State has nothing to do with it. He says, “State should undoubtedly be secular. Everyone living in it should be entitled to profess his religion without hindrance, as long as citizen obeyed the common laws of the land. “My reverence for all other faiths is the same as for my own”…
  • John Fischer mentions,  Even during Bengal famine, an extreme situation – when necessity knows no laws, people did not take law in their own hands, nor was there any violence. No grocery stall, no rice warehouse, none of the wealthy clubs or restaurants were ever threatened by a hungry mob… They just died with docility, which to most Americans is the most shocking thing about India.’ (John Fischer, India’s insoluble Hunger – 1947, pp 7-8)
  • Basic Hindu philosophy and its religious values do not require to call India a Hindu State. In the same way, India does not require a label of ‘secularism’.
  • Hinduism emphasizes the universality of spiritual values, which could be attained by a variety of ways.
  • It preaches the importance of equanimity in all adverse circumstances. After Independence, national leaders like Gandhiji, Pt. Nehru, Sardar Patel, Dr. Radhakrishnan told the people again and again about this basic characteristics of Hindu culture.
  • Truth, Ahimsa, peace and non-aggression are the hallmark of
  • Because of its tolerant ethos, many times in the past especially during Muslim and British rule, Hindus had become the targets of religious intolerance. In large numbers, they had been converted into other faiths. Many Hindus resented and raised their voice against conversions. They accepted all kinds of oppression and exploitation without much protest, while such situations would have led to bloody revolutions elsewhere in the world.
  • Finding themselves weak and helpless during a very prolonged domination of Muslim and British rule, they turned introverts. To preserve their Hindu identity, they started following rigidly and blindly religious practices. And became the victim of superstitions and many social evils.
  • One of the reason why, when the Constitution of India was approved in 1949, it did not included the word ‘Secular’ in its Preamble along with the words, “Sovereign, Democratic, and Republic”. The 42nd Amendment Act of 1976 incorporated the words “Socialist and Secular”, more as a political strategy. During 44th Amendment Act in 1978, the term “secular” was defined as, “In the Preamble of this Constitution, the expression ‘Republic’ as qualified by the expression ‘Secular’ means a republic in which there is an equal treatment for all religions.” (The definition could not be adopted because of inadequate support in the Rajya Sabha.)
  • Even today, the people are tolerating the corruption, scams, scandals and criminal activities developed in political sphere, as well as inefficiency seeped deeply in administration without much protest. Administration is one such area, where tolerance is harmful, as it not only hinders the development, but also pushes the nation backwards.

Present position – Quite often, it is said that people of Hindu society are basically so tolerant that they endure injustice and unfairness, until they are pushed right to the wall. But at present, blindly following of the dictates of fake religious Gurus by illiterate and ignorant masses and fiery speeches of short-sighted politicians for electoral gains, has increased the rift between different communities and has adversely affected communal harmony. They are the people, who forget the salient features of Hinduism and spread venom against each other through their irresponsible utterances now and than.

Salient features of Hinduism – Following are some special features of Hinduism –

  • Hinduism has never tried to liquidate or absorb new groups artificially into its main stream or destroy other sects. It does not believe in conversion or imposing its beliefs, practices and customs on others. While other races and their systems have forcibly converted people belonging to other faiths into their own faith, imposing on them their own value system, Hindu religion has neither repulsed any trend vehemently, nor allowed others to sweep its own established culture off the roots. Liberal attitude of Hinduism towards other Religions is one of the reasons of happening a large number conversions in India.
  • Hinduism took thousands of years to develop. Starting with the arrival of Aryans hereditary kinship and tribal groups in India in waves and later on, of numerous social groups from different parts of the world, at different point of time, their association/mixing up with indigenous people (popularly known as Hindus) and their desire to come under one umbrella played an important role in developing the concept of Hinduism.
  • Hinduism had absorbed other social groups as whole into itself without annihilating their originality, internal order, customs or language. The assimilation of different new groups under Hinduism, be it racial, immigrants, locals, tribal, professionals or any other, had been done through caste system It has assigned each new group a separate caste identity, thus gave it opportunity not only to come under one umbrella, preserve its own culture, style of living and traditions, and also provided it an atmosphere to flourish in their own way. In its long process of assimilation, its caste-system has played an important role to develop such an atmosphere, where different identities can co-exist, generally in harmony and sometimes in rift.
  • Hinduism always believed in religious tolerance. Dr. Radha Krishnan says Hindu philosophy always taught God is One, but Paths to seek Him are many. Hinduism concedes validity to all the religions and does not lay down strictures against any faith or reject any religion or its god as false. The culture of other faiths/religions present in India, has always been carefully nurtured and preserved. That is why, all the twelve major religions of the world are present and flourishing in India without hindrance since ages.
  • When in 1947 India was divided into Hindustan and Pakistan, Pakistan chose to be an Islamic state, but India did not choose any particular religion, as ‘State Religion’. Many people say that in Pakistan, Hindus are treated as second hand citizens. But India has never considered it necessary to declare itself a Hindu State. India has always been known as a Hindu State/Hindustan, not officially, but by virtue of its geographical position (people living beyond Indus River) Hindu majority people residing here, irrespective of who ruled the country.
  • Origin of Hinduism can neither be found in one single authoritative text, nor can it be attributed to one single founder. It evolved in a natural way over thousands of years. The experiences and deep thinking of many learned sages and intellectuals belonging to different sections of society at different points of time have contributed to evolve this system. It is a very old and indigenous system, conceptualized, developed and practiced exclusively in India.
  • After partition also, Hindustan welcomed everybody who chose to live in India at that time. In India everybody has fundamental rights, or can occupy important positions. There had been three Muslim President of India – President Zakir Hussain, President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmad and President Abdul Kalm Azaad.

Wonderful fusion of different faiths/cultures in India – The process of assimilation and fusion of different cultures has been a continuous process of the India civilization. India especially presents a unique picture of composite culture, which grew out of intermixing of people of different cultures, belonging to different identities. For centuries, Hindus, Muslims, Christian and followers of other religions lived together. There has been social and cultural assimilation. However there has always been some hindrance in bringing religious and political assimilation. Underneath there has been mutual suspicion between Hindus and Muslims since approximately 7th-8th centuries onwards – Hindus being the majority community in India and Muslims first being invaders and then the rulers.

By living side by side  for centuries, people belonging to different faiths have contributed a lot to each other. They have absorbed the good points of each-other’s cultures, which has enriched the composite culture of India. More than anywhere else in the world, it holds a multitude of thoughts, processes them and practices them. There has been co-existence of varied belief, pattern and thought due to inter-mixing and cultural mingling.

The impact of different religious communities on Indian culture is as follows:

Vedic Hindu Culture- Vedic Hindu Culture is one of the oldest living cultures in the world. The word ‘Vedic’ is derived from the word ‘Vid’ meaning ‘Knowledge’ and signifies’ ‘knowledge par excellence’.  The Vedic culture came into being due to intermixing of the culture of Aryan invaders, who came to India in waves, with the culture of indigenous tribal people of India during 2nd century BC to 650 AD.

The origin of the Vedic culture cannot be traced in any single founder; neither can it be confined in one single authoritative text.  Its sacred knowledge has been handed down from time immemorial, earlier by verbal transmission and later on, in written form by the ancestor to succeeding generations. It has not prescribed final absolutes. It is a constant search for more knowledge.

The Rishis and Munies have always held that Vedas are not the end of quest for knowledge. It is a non-ending process. This is what the Indian culture is. Vedic belief system later on became increasingly ritualistic, susceptible to misinterpretations which supported certain power structure.

It is identified with the whole of India. To foreigners, it represents the ancient culture in its eternity.  It mainly originated and flourished in northern parts of India and later on spread throughout India.  The strength of Vedic culture is proved by the facts:

       despite of centuries of foreign rule over 75% of Indian population remains Hindu.

       Had Hinduism become obsolete, it would have given place to other religions and cultures.

       Value-system of Hinduism has influenced almost all other religions found in India.

Buddhism and Jainism – Both the religions were offshoot of the later Vedic culture, but with certain basic differences. These religions influence the thought, moral and life style of Indian people. Buddhism attracted equally the elite as well as the lower strata of Hindu society.  The main contribution of Buddhism to Indian culture is an attempt to draw the attention of people towards the harsher effects of the caste system, sympathetic attitude towards lesser human beings and system of organized education.  Major contribution of Jainism is the principle of non-violence.

Dravidian culture – After the sudden disappearance of Indus valley culture, of which the most characteristic feature was its town planning, Dravidian culture with its advanced social system, industry and trade made a mark, in the South.

Islamic culture– After the tenth century, under Muslim rule, Islamic culture influenced the Indian culture substantially. Its influence could be seen in the rejection of elaborate rituals and caste pretensions. It preached a simple path of faith, devotion, brotherly love and fellowship.

Sufi tradition and Bhakti movement – With the growing political strength of Muslims, the need for mutual understanding and communal harmony gave rise to Sufi tradition of Islam and Bhakti movement of Hindus. Bhakti movement questioned notions of  casteism/communalism etc. Both these emphasized the need for mutual appreciation, tolerance and goodwill.  Like Buddhism, Islam also provided an alternative to people, wishing to opt out the caste system.

Western/British Culture– Eighteenth century onwards, the British culture influenced the Indian culture substantially, especially that of elite and intellectuals. Access to modern education, Western literature and philosophy gave Indians the understanding of liberal and humanitarian ideas of the West. It produced many great leaders like Dadabhai Naoroji, Ferozeshah Mehta, Gokhale, Gandhi, Jinnah, Ambedkar, Tilak, Lala Lajpat Rai, Moti Lal Nehru, Jawahar Lal Nehru, Subhash Chandra Bose, Patel and many more. The efforts of missionaries, reformers and educationists influenced the thinking of the masses. Missionaries converted many people from the lower strata to Christianity. British systems gave India political and administrative unity. Institutions like Parliament, bureaucracy, and concepts like rule of law, unified nationality, a common currency, a common Judiciary are some of the contributions of the British.  They gave a new economic structure based on industrialization.  The British also gave impetus to social progress and brought many reforms.  The British influence on Indian minds was as discussed below: –

  • Some people welcomed rationality and other good features of Modern English culture, but wished to remain firmly rooted to the Indian Culture. They organised people and made them aware of social evils like Sati, Polygamy, child marriage, untouchablity and many superstitions prevalent at that time. They advised the people to eradicate the same without foreign intervention. Emphasis was laid on education and science.  Brahma Semaj, founded by Raja Ram Mohan Roy in 1928, inspired the people of Bengal, UP, Punjab, Madras and other provinces, to form similar organizations and interpret religion rationally.
  • Some people were so influenced by the alien culture, that they developed a complex about the primitiveness of Indian society. With the help of British rulers, Christian missionaries and religious minded Westerners like William Webberforce or Charles Grant tried to Christianize such people.
  • Some reformists tried to revive their own rich ancient culture and prevent the masses from being swayed away by the glamour and materialism of alien culture. Araya Samaj (1875 onwards) founded by Swami Dayanand, asserted the superiority of Hindu Vedic culture. It gave the call for ‘Back to Vedas’, as Vedas were to them the source of all knowledge and truth. Swami Vivekanand founded the Rama Krishna Mission to reveal to the world Indian Philosophy and culture.

Cultural Synthesis – As India passed through various phases in the past, each and every group left its influence on its culture, which came down to the present generation in an unbroken chain of succession, with some modifications and adaptations.

  • A major cultural synthesis took place during 6th and 10th century, between Vedic Hindu culture, Buddhism and Dravidian culture.
  • Another assimilation was seen after the 10th century, when the thinking of Arabs, Turks and Afghan, mainly guided by reason, influenced Indian thought. Sufi and Bhakti movements are examples of this. These two sects taught the people to love and respect all human beings irrespective of caste or creed. These sects also brought changes in the nature of mutual understanding, communal amity and accommodation.
  • Once again, during the period between 18th to 20th centuries, a major cultural synthesis took place with modernization and industrialization ushered in by the British.
  • All the sects present in India, whether foreign or indigenous, have been influenced greatly by Hindu thinking, practices and systems.

The wonderful fusion of different sects have contributed to the cultural richness of India.  Such flexibility is not seen in the West.  When Christianity broke away from Judaism, it departed totally from the common cultural traditions.  Therefore, it is very difficult for the Western world to understand and appreciate Indian culture fully.

In modern world, no society or nation can exist as a homogeneous cultural monolith. The presence of people following different faiths has led to many controversies. Tense situation arises when instigated by rogue elements in the society. They spread their own biases amongst innocent people. They somehow manage to escape from the  clutches of law for violating the law of the nation. It is a behavioural problem. Authorities quite often fail to identify the miscreants.

In recent past, all over the world, the greed of power and controlling the destiny of masses, intolerance in the sphere of politics and religion is continuously increasing. Along with ‘Secularism’, ‘socialism’ and ‘reservations’, the word ‘tolerance’ has also become the most misused word in the country. No one can imagine how some politicians and ‘messiahs’ of different faiths twist the words and polarize the society.

Some Indian intellectuals think that the terms ‘Democracy’ and ‘Secular’ were alien and are the gift of the Western world to India. In Britain and America, these words originated about four or five hundred years ago. They were the result of political and religious struggles in those countries. Even till today there is no uniformity to the interpretation of these two words, either in the Western countries or in India. Broadly, democracy signifies the form and structure of governance and secularism signifies the way of governance.” (P 42, (Indian Democracy, S.K. Kulkarni, Indus Source Books, Published in 2017)

Most of the politicians and political parties have been entangled in ideological debates on the above mentioned abstract issues rather than tackling its attention on real issues, solution of  which can lead any nation and its society towards sustainable development of the nation, and peaceful  and harmonious living of all in any nation or society.

It has been seen before Assembly or general elections that politicians belonging to national or regional political parties –big or small- give a call to all secular forces to join hands and fight against communal forces together. Most of these self-proclaimed ‘Messiahs of Secularism’ hardly understand in-depth, the true meaning, when and how did the word ‘Secularism’ came into existence, purpose of these ideologies or try to understand how to apply secularism positively in real political arena. They do not even know much about Hinduism or ethos of Indian culture, which believes that each person living here irrespective of which religion he belong to, gets equal treatment. Question arises do they themselves possess a secular outlook? It has been seen that mostly they use it as a political gimmick to divide people into watertight compartments on communal lines and to garner votes. For it, they adopt the path of appeasement to woo the voters.

Winding up

  • Thirty years after Independence, the word ‘Secular’ has been prefixed to ‘Republic’ in the Preamble of the constitution by 42nd Amendment, though nobody has ever doubted the secular character of India.
  • It is a historical fact that for centuries, people believing in different faiths/religions lived together in different parts of India. There had always been social and cultural intermingling. Different sects have contributed a lot enriching each other‘s, as well as the culture of India as a whole. But in political arena there has always been an atmosphere of mutual suspicion between different communities. During freedom struggle, many national leaders and reformers tried their best to create an atmosphere of harmony, but without much success. Intolerance for each-other has grown to such an extent that India was partitioned into two – Hindustan and Pakistan. Even 70 years after independence, the feeling of mutual suspicion is seen now and then in acts of terrorism and other violent activity across the border. Despite all this, India provides refuge to more than 300,000 refugees originating from SriLanka, Tibet, Bhutan, Afganistan and Bangladesh, escaping religious and political prosecution.
  • The ultimate purpose of Secularism, Hinduism or Humanism is the same. If ‘secularism is interpreted in a positive way, it becomes clear that it has been the sine qua non of Hindu religion. Hinduism believes in ‘oneness of human society’. There should be a harmonious atmosphere, so that everybody, belonging to any community, could live in peace and respect each other’s perceptions and beliefs.

January 2, 2018 Posted by | Social and political values and systems | , | 2 Comments

Hinduism, Caste System and Untouchables

Introduction – Hinduism has never been considered as a religion like Christianity believing only in Bible or Islam in Kuraan. It has always been a way of life, which created an inclusive society. In South-East Asia, each social group coming to India, which desired to settle down there with the people living in Indus Valley  and beyond it, were given a separate caste name. Thus many incoming groups were  welcomed and without any difficulty were assimilated into the mainstream and brought under one umbrella called Hindu society.     

Different castes in Hinduism – All local groups, whether high or low, living in a local area were mutually dependent, cared and supported each other and fulfilled different kind of needs of local people. Hindu society ranked different castes not done by putting them within a framework of hierarchical layers of social order, each fitting neatly below the other, but more or less as a series of vertical parallels. 

Interdependence of different social groups living in a local area – Different social groups living in a village or city-state, were bound together by economic and social ties and had a strong bond of mutual dependence. There was hardly any room for any group to consider itself, as being placed in greater or lesser disadvantageous position with reference to another. Concept of forwards or backwards or feeling of exploitation of lower strata by upper castes was almost non-existent at that time.

There was no hard and fast rule of ranking various castes. It did segmental ranking of different caste groups according to relevance and contribution of their occupations to society. Usefulness of a profession to society as a whole, conduct and way of living of different people were the factors to determine social, economic or political status of a group in society vis-a vis others. In addition to it, considerations of self-discipline, hygiene, cleanliness, morality, knowledge and spiritual standards were given importance in their ranking. Higher a caste, purer it was considered, and greater were the self-restrictions on its behavior through rituals. Brahmins commanded respect of the whole society. They were put under maximum restrictions – to lead a simple life, devoted to the spiritual and intellectual pursuits and denied accumulation of wealth.

Stress on self-reliance, self-discipline and self-restraint – Respect to a person or group was never given on the basis of material success or control of power. Different groups earned respect of society was supposed to lead a self restraint and self disciplined life in all respect, be it in the matter of daily routine, occupation or inter caste relationship.   Sir John Shore (Sir John Shore, the Governor General of India during the period 1793-1798) had observed that in spite of being their rulers, Hindus regarded Britishers at par with the lowest natives, no matter how strong or powerful were they. Similarly Brahmins associated with unclean jobs like, Mahabrahmins performing last rites, have also been treated, more or less like Shudras and have been put at the bottom of the social structure. There were instances when non-Brahmins or Harijans served as priests of temples of goddesses like Sita or Kali, where all castes made offerings.

Co-existence of different groups generally in harmony and some times in rift – In its long process of evolution, caste-system has developed such an atmosphere, where different identities co-exist, generally in harmony and sometimes in rift. As far as masses were concerned, the system always kept them reconciled, if not contended in the past. It kept all the sections of society united under one umbrella despite of their diversity and gave the society stability, continuity and prosperity.

At times, there had been strife, contradictions and discords amongst different identities, so much so that India appeared to be a land of contrasts.  Nevertheless, most of the times, the Indian society has been able to develop  an attitude of reconciliation rather than refutation, cooperation rather than confrontation and co-existence rather than mutual annihilation.” (Khan, Democracy in India, pp 4-5)

Existence of Shudras – Existence of Shudras (at present referred as untouchables or out-castes) was recognized, as early as, Pre Mauryan Period (6th century BC to 3rd century BC). Though given a lower status, they were always an integral part of Hindu society. They performed essential social and economic tasks as well as in agricultural sector. 

Who were shudras? – Conquered groups, individuals or groups engaged in unclean occupations, clinging to the practices, which were not considered respectable, or persons born illegitimately or the groups clinging to anti-social activities were treated as Shudras and were given lowest status in the society. Breaking the caste rules meant loss of caste, meaning complete ostracism or having no place in the society. Permanent loss of caste – out-caste- was considered to be the greatest catastrophe for an individual, short of death penalty. By the beginning of Christian era, the out-castes themselves developed caste hierarchy and had their own out-castes. Socially, they were put amongst the lower strata of Hindu community doing all sorts of menial work and serving the upper castes of the three Varnas.

Hinduism taught not to blame others for deprivation – Many studies have shown that Hinduism never prevented Shudras or others to rise in the scale of society or to earn respect of the society. Hindu Dharma never held others responsible for an individual’s misery or deprivation. According to it Adharma” (immoral behavior), “Alasya” (laziness) and Agyan (ignorance) were to be blamed for all evils, exploitation and miseries of people.

In many parts of the country, people belonging to lower strata held position of power/superior status or earned respect of Hindu society. Many warrior kings of Shudra and tribal origin sought Brahmins’ help to acquire Kshatriyas status for themselves. Many Shudras were accepted and revered as philosophers or spiritual teachers like .Lord Rama, a king, ate half-eaten berries of Shabri – an untouchable. Lord Krishna’s foster parents Nand and Yashoda, who in today’s classification would be called OBC, get more respect than his real Kshatriya parents from Hindu society. Vashishtha, the principal of the conservative school of Brahmanism, was the son of Uravshi, a prostitute. Vishwamitra, the maker of the very Gayatri Mantra, the quintessence of the Vedic Brahmanism, was a Kshatriya. Aitreya, after whom the sacramental part of Rig-Veda is named as Aitreya Brahamana, was the son from a non-Aryan wife of a Brahman sage. Vyasa of Mahabharata fame and Balmiki, the original author of Ramayana, both untouchable according to present standards, were not ashamed of his origin and are highly respected persons all over India. In middle ages, Sant Ravidas, Namdev, Tukaram, Malika, Sunderdas and several other saints, belonging to lower ranks, earned the same respect as any higher caste saint. There had been instances of people of lower ranks becoming kings.

Therefore, it is not fully correct that Hinduism or its practices are responsible for Shudra’s isolation, deprivation, exploitation, low social status, inhuman treatment by caste Hindus, their low status in traditional Hindu Society, or forced them to do menial, unsavory and unclean jobs.

All troubles of lower strata of society started after the downfall of Hindu Raj and old Hindus values. Continuous invasions by Turks, Afghans and Mughals who earlier drained out the wealth of the nation to foreign lands and afterwards made India their homeland and ruled the country for centuries. It resulted in Hinduism turning inwards and observing all the rituals rigidly and blindly to save its distinct identity under foreign rule. Afterwards, feudalistic attitude, extravagance and luxurious life style of Mughal rulers and those at the helm of authority, increased the disparity between the rulers and the ruled.

Again, in  nineteenth century during British rule, modernization an industrialization process has made many traditional occupations obsolete or less paying or were regarded more hazardous and more time consuming. White collared jobs gained importance. Modernity taught people to escape from menial work and discredit manual work. More, a person withdrew from physical labor, more civilized, honored and qualified he was regarded by modern society. The British apathy towards indigenous skills, knowledge and occupations pushed millions of rural artisans, craftsman and small scale farmers, for whom work was essential for survival, backwards in a very subtle manner. It resulted in discrediting many traditional occupations and in destruction of Indian handicrafts and cottage industry. It scattered efforts, sense of direction and manufacturing skills of millions of artisans, craftsman, weavers etc. A few of them joined modern occupations. Majority belonging to different groups could neither enter modern sector, nor could stick to their traditional occupations considering menial work derogatory and lost their creativity, sense of achievement and pride. Masses had no option, but to either join band of agricultural laborers, industrial workers, and marginal labor and increase number of poor and unemployed. Outcome of such a change has been casualty of workers first, afterwards their work style, commitment, motivation and culture.

Recently empowerment of backward and untouchable castes has becoming once again a buzz -word in political arena. Poverty is the most pervasive phenomenon, which cuts across all the barriers of caste religion and region. It has been estimated that despite numerous developmental plans, schemes and legislation, including Reservation Policy in higher education and jobs, there are about 500 million Indians are living in squalor. There are many reasons responsible for their deprivation, agonies and poverty other than caste. Population explosion, illiteracy, unemployment, lack of awareness about opportunities to progress, insufficient wages in unorganized sector, indebtedness, politicization of caste system, obsolete forest and land policies and half-hearted implementation of developmental plans.   

Therefore, it can be said that it is not the malice of castes-Hindus, but the circumstances, that are pushing untouchables and some other backward castes away from the mainstream. Suffering from centuries old enslavement, suppression and ostracism deteriorated severely the condition of lower strata of society, stopped growth of their personality and made them dependent on others for their livelihood.

It is a humanitarian obligation of any civilized society to bring suitable changes to uplift and empower the submerged sections of society. The overwhelming poverty of millions belonging to lower strata of society and their near absence in echelons of power has led the law makers in India to intervene. Generally law follows social changes. But in India, after the Independence, the political leadership in their hurry and enthusiasm, tried to foster social changes through law.  In order to finish monopoly of a few groups in power structure and, as well as to bring to an end prejudice against discriminated groups, age-old imbalances and cumulative disparities of power, wealth and culture, they have initiated politicization of Caste-system. They hoped to integrate the whole country by casteless society. Unfortunately, instead creating a better future, it has generated other complications. Its paternalistic policies for bringing the submerged sections of the society into mainstream and creating a casteless society has not yielded the desired results, because these are –

  • Devised by self-proclaimed leaders and administered by bureaucrats belonging mainly to the elite of urban society,
  • Not rooted in local priorities or skills. The beneficiaries do not choose, design and implements the projects.
  • Often represented patronage networks of those doling out the money.
  • Often benefiting the rural elite.

Recently, many reformers and religious/spiritual institutions are focussing their attention on community empowerment. Many self-help groups have emerged all-over India. They  They bypass the government mechanisms and go straight communities. It hopes that their efforts would Recently the world over, community empowerment is becoming once again a buzz -word. The idea is to bypass government mechanisms and go straight to communities. It is expected to check corruption and waste, to take arbitrary power away from politicians at central, state, even at local level, also to build the skills of targeted groups through learning by doing and to empower them as decision-makers.

These self-help groups provide mutual safety-nets to its people in times of distress, use ostracism to penalize undesirable behaviour, rewards those with desirable behaviour, mediate and settle disputes without costs and delays of the formal of the formal legal and administrative system. They involve and encourage its people to design, implement and monitor the schemes, which the feel are beneficial for their community members.

Wherever properly harnessed, efforts of such self-help groups have yielded rich dividends. For example the Parsi and Christian communities, institutions run by Veerashaivya Mutts of Karnataka, Ramakrishan Mission, Radhaswami Satsang, Satya Sai Baba, Sadhu Vasvani and many others are practising community based approach for the development of humanity. They provide far better municipal, civic, educational, and medical services then the government. 

 

 

November 26, 2017 Posted by | Reservation/Affirmative action program, Social and political values and systems | | Leave a comment

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