The Hindu caste system has been the subject of much debate and scrutiny. Some have described it as oppressive, while others argue that it is a necessary part of Hindu society. In this article, we will explore the question of whether an oppressive Hindu caste system actually exists.
Critics of the Hinduism exclusively portray caste system as Hindu and argue that it is oppressive because it reinforces social inequality and discrimination. They point out that people are born into a particular caste and are expected to stay there for their entire lives, regardless of their abilities or aspirations. This can limit their opportunities and restrict their social mobility.
Jati not Caste
In relation to this continuous bashing of Hinduism in the name of casteism, Rajiv Malhotra categorically writes in his book,
“It was better understood as a set of distinctions based on inherited or traditional social status derived from work roles. Jati is a highly localized and intricately organized social structure. One of the important aspects of jati that was conveniently overlooked by Western Indologists was its dynamic nature allowing social mobility as well as occupational diversification. These rural structures were more horizontally organized than vertically stratified.”
Jati was reshaped and turned towards a discrimination based caste-system by the rigorous efforts of Max Muller’s racial theory implemented by Sir Herbert Hope Risely. Risely was the Commissioner for first census in British India.
While he was the bureaucrat in Royal Anthropological Survey he popularised the Nasal index which discriminated people based on their looks. This basic method was adopted world –wide by the European Colonisers to establish an utterly flawed concept of Race.
Caste not unique to Hinduism
It is also worth noting that the caste system is not unique to Hinduism. Similar systems exist in other cultures and religions, such as the Japanese burakumin or the American social class system. So the caste as propagated by European divisive academia and Colonisers, is now a universal phenomenon.
The race- based caste system present in Mauritania and Arab countries which enslaved black people. In Islam we see there are many strands. And those particular sects neither inter-dine nor inter-marry. Shias are fighting against Sunnis while Wahabis are seen as non-Muslims.
In context of Indian Muslims, the Hindus of other varnas or jatis are treated as lower. This particular class is called as Pasmandas; while rest are Ashraf. Because, Ashrafs see themselves as the descendants of Afghans, Turks and Arabs. Therefore, this issue is completely untouched in Indian sociological scenario because of Secular politics.
Caste discrimination in America
This can be a rather intriguing statement to many that why America would have caste. But, it is true. America is actually a land of native tribes who were washed away from the whole scenario by the European Colonists. Although, America supports itself as one of the most superior societies. The rampant discrimination based on race which has actually become so rigid and divisive, that it has become the caste system of America.
Isabel Wilkerson’s book “Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents” presents a powerful argument that caste is the hidden driver of many of the problems facing American society today. While most Americans associate caste with India, Wilkerson contends that it is also deeply rooted in American history and culture.
Wilkerson’s book is an important contribution to the ongoing conversation about racism and inequality in America. By framing these issues in terms of caste, she helps us to see that they are not just the result of individual prejudice or systemic discrimination, but are deeply rooted in our history and culture.
While most of Wilkerson’s arguments are totally against Hindus and Indian Subcontinent. But her lens of observing this whole issue of caste from the European idea of Race supremacism is a way forward to analyse.
The system has been the subject of debate and reform for centuries, and many Hindu leaders and scholars are working to address issues of discrimination and inequality. As with any complex issue, it is important to approach the question of the caste system with nuance and an open mind. Swami Ramananda was the pioneer in the 16th century, who made several disciples of all the jatis. Kabir Das and Ravidas were among them. While, the rapidly growing America is constituting caste based discrimination on the basis of people which migrate to their land and impose their Academic and social biases on country like ours.