Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Is casteism racism?

Casteism is very sensitive topic in India, we claim that it doesn't exist in today's Indian society but we still have cast based reservation policy, inter cast marriages are still not very well accepted and many more things like this which indicate that it still exists. I often wonder how it all started? Is casteism different form of racism? Was their any need to divide society in different sections and label them? Should our profession decide our social status? If we say all humans are equal then why we discriminate? I already discussed how religion divide us but within same religion also we find may reasons to discriminate each other, interesting, isn't it.

There are different theories for origin of castes in India. There are religious, biological and socio-historical theories about its origin. Religious theory is most popular and many people (who still practice casteism) like to believe that there is some religious significance attached to their superior or inferior social status based on their caste.

Social division of ancient Indian society into four sections can be traced back to Manusmriti. The book is in the form of discourse given by Manu to a group of seers. Manu is considered as ‘progenitor of mankind’ (I think Moses is similar character in Abrahamic religions). This text became the standard reference for all future related texts (or Dharmashastras). When social division was originally created in four sections or varnas (Vaishya, Brahman, Kshudra and Kshatriya) to run the society smoothly I believe there was no hierarchy or they were not ranked in any particular order. Every section’s work or job was equally important in smooth functioning of society. Varnas or these professions were not inherited but were acquired by merit. I think original intention of this division was good but it also gave opportunity to divide society which resulted in different groups (casts) who started caring for their own interests rather than caring for society and its welfare. It turned out that side effect of medicine was more harmful than the benefit it offered.

I would like to believe that any religion in its original form doesn’t teach any type of discrimination within or outside that religion. So called intellectuals got special status in society (because of their knowledge); this status also gave them some powers and privileges. They failed to realize the responsibility that came with that special status. Selfishness and greed prevented them from implementing actual code of conduct which was recommended (selection by merit not by birth). They wanted to hold on that power so that their future generations also can enjoy the same status and privilege. Only way to stop others to get empowered was to inhibit their ability to acquire knowledge. This was achieved by creating rigid boundaries between sections of societies (or varnas) which were difficult to cross. They manipulated the meaning of scriptures, misused their position for this. As generations passed they gradually started feeling more superior or privileged than others and eventually they started believing that it’s their birth right to rule others and they exploited certain sections of society for their benefit. This resulted in cast system, untouchability, social discrimination, inhuman treatment to so called low cast people. According to me its not in any way different than racism. This mentality hampered human progress of Indian society (on spiritual level as well as material level) for centuries. In similar manure women from all casts were suppressed and forced to live very restricted life, to me it looks like they created separate caste named 'women' and no one even realized this. That is why I raised the question in the beginning that was it necessary to divide society like this based on professions? Today also we see this type of mentality in our society, even after achieving so much progress in all fields we are unable to get rid of this mentality totally.

Discrimination in some form exists even today in almost all societies or countries in world, in some countries it's based on caste or religion, in some countries based on race, color, nationality, etc. Casteism or any sort of discrimination is against humanity; nature doesn’t discriminate based on caste, color or race. This monster of discrimination has survived too long and some elements of our society are still protecting it for some unknown reason. Any type of discrimination should not have any place in civilized society. Lets pledge not to discriminate anyone based on color, religion, nationality or anything else.

Thanks for reading. Your views and comments are welcome.

(Copyright: Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing)


  1. caste/kast/
    Each of the hereditary classes of Hindu society, distinguished by relative degrees of ritual purity or pollution and of social status....: "a man of high caste"
    The system of dividing society into such classes.

    Each of the major divisions of humankind, having distinct physical characteristics.

    The first is man made...
    The second is Scientific (by nature)

    Discrimination is an egoistic trend of humans to prove superiority..Why,What for are questions which are universal..

    Have you read the book by Eckhart Tolle - a New Earth? I suggest you read it...