India’s caste system has unfairly favored a minority of the population at the expense of the vast majority for thousands of years. However, it has recently come under more criticism. The Jat community in India, for instance, has expressed their displeasure with the country’s caste quote system that they allege makes it harder for them to obtain jobs with the government or with educational entities run by the government (“Caste System”). It is clear that the caste system is a deeply entrenched political construct that adversely impacts the lives of many Indians, and despite laws prohibiting it and regulations seek to redress the damage it has caused, this form of institutionalized racism shows no signs of coming to an end.
The Manusmriti is believed by many to be the foremost text of Hindu law, and this authoritative book not only unequivocally supports the caste system, but also insists that this mechanism helps to facilitate the orderly operation of society (“Caste System”). According to the caste system, there are four primary people groups within society, namely the Brahmins, the Shudras, the Kshatriyas and the Vaishyas. The Brahmins are mostly teachers and scholars. Under the Brahmins are the Kshatriyas, or soldiers and rulers. Under the Kshatriyas are the Vaishyas, or the merchants, and under this class are the Shudras, who are the low-skill labor class (“Caste System”). At the heart of the caste system is the notion that some people groups are more important than other people groups are, which means that some people groups will always be treated better than others.
India’s constitution prohibits discrimination on the grounds of caste. Moreover, the government, in a bid to address historical wrongs stemming from the caste system, rolled out a quota system for government employment and education institutions in 1950 for people traditionally relegated to the lowest rungs of the caste system (“Caste System”). Then in 1989, the government revised the quotas to include the so-called other backward classes (OBC) that include caste categories that are below the upper classes and above the lower classes (“Caste System”). But despite government policies, the impact of secular education and marriages between people of different castes, caste identity remains strong in India. And it can be argued that not enough is being done in the political realm to abolish the caste system.
Over the last few years, more Indian communities have demanded that they be added to the OBC. For instance, the Jat and Patel communities, while considered relatively well-to-do and politically strong groups, have pushed to be considered for caste quotas. They’ve done so because, according to these two communities, many among them are poor and struggling (“Caste System”). It can be argued that the quotas actually reinforce the validity of the whole caste system since it justifies the system by simply making provisions to help people unduly hurt by it.
Yes, the caste system is alive and well in India, and whatever progress has been made thus far to get rid of it have not been particularly helpful. The caste system is an institutionalized form of racism, and more will have to be done politically to finally make some meaningful changes.
"What is India's caste system?" BBC News. BBC, 25 Feb. 2016. Web. 11 May 2016.