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  • Q.“Caste system is assuming new identities and associational forms. Hence, caste system cannot be eradicated in India”. Comment. (250 words)

    10 Jan, 2019 GS Paper 1 Indian Society

    Answer :

    Approach:

    • Briefly explain the traditional caste system in India.
    • Explain how it has evolved in practice and highlight the differences from the traditional/older forms.
    • Explain with examples its associational forms.

    Introduction

    • Caste refers to a broad hierarchical institutional arrangement along which basic social factors like birth, marriage, food-sharing etc are arranged in a hierarchy of rank and status. These sub-divisions are traditionally linked to occupations and decide the social relations with respect to other upper and lower castes.
    • The traditional hierarchical ordering of castes was based on the distinction between ‘purity’ and ‘pollution’. While the manifestation of the order has changed to a large extent in the recent times, the system itself has not changed much.
      • For example- even though untouchability and caste-based discrimination is barred under the Constitution of India, occupations like manual scavenging have the majority of workers from lower castes.

    Body

    New identities and associational forms

    • Political: In contrast to the older structure, various caste communities have asserted themselves by forming political parties based on caste identities. For example-
      • Bahujan Samaj Party. Political mobilization based on caste has been rising.
      • Lingayats’ demand to be considered as a minority community.
    • Economic: Development policies targeting the backward castes and scheduled have benefitted only a section of the population. These sections have emerged as the elite and this has created a division within the backward castes. Also, the welfare policies have led to social stigma among the castes which are not included. These policies have strengthened the caste-based mobilization. For example:
      • Dominant castes like Marathas, kapus and patidars have been demanding reservation.
      • Socially empowered and landholding communities like Jats have also mobilized themselves and have demanded reservation.
    • Social: Under the impact of globalization and technological advancement, the strict codes of marriage and inheritance have diluted with more inter-caste marriages taking place. Caste groups like Khap Panchayats have been brought under the scrutiny of the judiciary. The expression of social exclusion and maintaining the caste-based division by the communities has however not vanished but has changed to become more subtle. For example-
      • The matrimonial advertisements are frequent in the newspapers that especially demand brides and grooms from particular communities.
      • Even religions that do not follow caste systems like Muslims and Christianity have observed caste-like discrimination. Dalits who have converted to Christianity have separate graveyards in States like Kerala.

    Conclusion

    • Considering that these divisions offer solidarity and psychological strength to various marginalized groups, even if the caste-based discrimination is diffused through the legislative enforcement the divisions of identity will be difficult to erase.

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