Should we identify ourselves with our caste?

http://www.politeindian.com/blog/2006/08/29/should-we-identify-ourselves-with-our-caste/

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8 Responses to “Should we identify ourselves with our caste?”

  1. Shivam Vij Says:

    See http://www.mybuildingsociety.net. See all the photos there. Read all the captions. And then tell me what is caste?

  2. politeindian Says:

    Shivam,

    I went through all the photos and the captions. To me it looks like one happy community. But honestly I fail to understand what you wanted to convey by giving this link. I would appreciate if you would elaborate on your point. The community is caste based and I wonder if they are open to people from other castes. I mean if a Dalit comes and lives in that society, will they incude him in all the festivities if he wants to be a part of it?

    Also I read your post about Caste and the City at http://www.ambedkar.org/News/News1207041.htm and I find it appalling to see this blatant caste discrimination in the capital city. This is why I think that caste has to go. I know for sure that it needs to go but I just don’t know how?

  3. Sujai K Says:

    Dear Polite Indian:
    I have to say that I am very impressed with your clarity and logical flow in your article trying to address a complex and complicated issue such as ‘caste’ and ‘our identity’ that goes with it.

    I expected to write a blog on this but after reading yours I think you have left little for me to write! 🙂

    Having said that, I think you asked the right questions. Asking the right questions is the first step. It takes lot of courage and guts to ask right questions.

    But if I were you, I would push the envelope little further. I think, in trying to take a balanced view you have not expressed your inner thoughts completely. After reading your questions and answers I am not sure if I could figure out why caste is so important to Indians (if it wasn’t important it should have gone away long ago). I realize that you want it go away. But you also realize that it may not.

    How does one solve such a problem?

    I may not write a blog on this. Instead I ask you to write one more in which you ask harder questions that go deep deep into our value systems.
    The answers you find may not be comforting. Usually most often such detailed inquiry results in truths which are discomforting.

    There has to be a reason why caste system prevailed so long. There has to be reason why people hold onto it no matter. Just because they tell you they don’t care about it doesn’t make it go away. Look at every matrimonial- its all caste based. When one knows that one of the effective ways to combat caste is inter-caste marriage (as suggested by Ambedkar) why do people not go for inter-caste marriage?

    What is in each of us which make us cling to caste? Do we like it? Is it a matter of convenience? How can a matter of convenience withstand thousands of years? Does it benefit certain sections perpetuate their dominance? And if so, how in and what ways do they influence this perpetuity and thus benefit from this dominance?

    [I apologize for taking so long to visit your site and read through this]

  4. politeindian Says:

    Dear Sujai,

    Thanks for those words of encouragement.

    I was thinking of coming up with a follow up post and make an attempt to further consolidate my thoughts on this.

    You bring up some interesting questions in your comment and it is the answers to questions like these that will help us understand the problem better.

    [I apologize for taking so long to visit your site and read through this]

    I am glad you stopped by.

  5. silkboard Says:

    Well written article PI. Read your other posts as well, you write well – balanced and thoughtful.

    Back to the topic here, let me add one more color to your thoughts. Many hindu right wingers are up in arms against “coversions” and are pressing for legal measures. But dont you think this caste-system (coupled with poverty) encourages these conversions. Why would an ill-treated low caste Hindu not consider turning over to Islam or Christianity? In fact, there are suggestions that many Indian Muslims are low-caste converts from Hinduism. Instead of getting upset over this ‘poaching’, Hindus (we) need to take a stock of (our) own stupid complexities that must go away. Birth based caste-system of today is a serious impedence for progress.

  6. politeindian Says:

    silkboard,
    Thanks for the kind words.

    You are spot on about the relationship of caste and “conversion”. In fact most conversions in the past have happened from the people of oppressed castes. Be it to Islam or Christianity.

    I believe caste is an evil that plagues the Indian society and we better take steps towards eradicating it. The hindutva brigade has never been seen uttering a word against caste system. In fact most conservatives want the Caste system to stay and have opposed most steps to dismantle them.

    The caste based prejudices in India are very prevalent and people who are not on the receiving end of it don’t feel like talking about it. I think it is time the Indian society as a whole realised its responsibilities and took corrective measures towards mitigating the ills of the birth based caste system.

  7. Sandeep Shilawat Says:

    Caste was one subject which I always thought I have good handle on. More I am reading about it more I find the folly of my thought. I have been browsing your blog and lot of other blogs. Lot of things come to mind. Will consolidate my thoughts and write something about it.

    For your this post (for all posts in general) I think they very good writings. Balanced, well thought, analytical and mostly non-controversial. Just as you say it POLITE…

    While I do believe if this will be a forum where I would be discussing my viewpoints. I do believe the question whether or not we should identify ourselves with caste…. You did not gave any concrete answer. Your thoughts do not look fully expressed. While you do say that there is bias in the caste system the evils of the SYSTEM are not fully explored. But thanks for calling it a system.

    Identity is mix of various things. Basically you grow up with it and then you build it more. Its like asking me to abandon concept of family while I grew up with it. (May be the example is not best here) To give up anything the rewards for should be worthwhile and for greater good. So If someone stops identifying himself with caste how is that going to change anything…

    Will people stop calling pundits for Pujas? Will Mathurs of Delhi will start celebrating with Jataws of Munirka? Or the Bhumihars or Jehanabad will celebrate life with Chamars.

    Caste is everywhere. Its from the minds to body to the soul of each individual. Never I have been in a relation where I do not have to tell my caste before getting in to full committed relation. While caste as identity has been a great tool of finding about nature of a person…

    You are a Brahmin so you will be veggie. You will now lot of mantras…. You are Thakur so you will be brave. The threads of caste web have been weave tightly into fabric of this society.

    What should we do so that people stop identifying themselves with caste system? There is no magic formula. Lets talk about it…

    By birth someone is a Brahmin, Thakur, or backward. There traditions differ. They are separated from each other like watertight silos. Everyone has separate traditions. Infuse new traditions. Break these silos. Shivjayanti, Ganesh Chaturthi does not restrict people from mixing. Lets make backwards to perform pujas in Kashi and other important religious locations.

    High symbols of the castist system are Pujas, Land ownership, works of lesser social prestige.. These symbols needs to loose significance. Supreme court last year made an observation that inter caste marriages as good means of mixing the society. Encourage them… Allow people to have more than one caste. Propose free education for all multi-caste children. Children with parents from different caste can use govt policies using the caste that suits them the most.

    There is nothing wrong in preserving the traditions without the ills of it. Asking people to abandon part of identity you must know will be a far fetched dream. It would be possible by taking one step at a time.

    Redefine the processes of modifying religious texts. Perform these modifications by symbols of the society who are the flag barriers for these customs. Let the shankaracharya declare that caste is not a integral part of Hindu religion.

    Like every system there may be a way to modify religion, caste and eliminate ills coming from them. Radical changes in life does not come through very easily. While if the changes evolve and flow through system they cause minimal damage and massive acceptance.

    We will be hypocrites if start saying don’t identify our self with a caste and with the same rhythm we also ask government to identify students in the school so that they should take the benefits of the policies for the backwards. We will be a hypocrites if we ask people not to identify themselves with caste and then ask Infosys Tata and other companies to hire the employees from lower caste. Social transformations will come from accepting the ills not from denying them.

    Finally I think if we do not identify ourselves with caste, we should not look at it as transaction where there will be gainers and loosers. Look at it as how much good will it bring to todays society in totality if caste is gone. How will that happen? I don’t know.

  8. Revathi Says:

    I think you are mixing several things here- the professional life and private life of citizens. Caste system has survived in diffferent forms over 20 centuries or more. We dont have enough data as to whether it was always like what it is now or not. It is impossible to remove these barriers within a generation or two. Giving professional equality and equal legal access is the first step. You cannot force people to change their private life- you can only ban its expression in public. You have to wait until equal opportunities will erase the inequalities in public life and in private in that order. Unfortunately, caste is highly political these days and the politicians have been successful in creating a terrible divide among not just castes but also between hindus and muslims and the number of intercaste unions is on the decrease compared to the eighties. I talked to a person from pakistan a couple of weeks ago and he said that they have a different sort of caste problem out there-powerful family names own almost all the wealth it seems.


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