By Biswaraj Patnaik in Puri, August 29, 2021: We have been hearing heart-rending cries from many of the so called proponents and exponents of a casteless India. But majority of these figures have been proven to be mindlessly self-serving, publicity-hungry and unforgivably hypocritical.Some of the modern day anti-caste advocates, making much public noise, have remained merrily, nay proudly stuck to their upper-caste identities at all times. Many of these loudmouth fraudsters particularly that running social work business through NGO shops and make believe non-profit organisations.

Going deep into the cultural history of India, one gets to know that the caste system had provided a hierarchy of social roles that hold inherent characteristics and, more importantly, remain stable throughout life. An implicit status is attached to one’s caste which unfortunately changed from the social roles to hereditary roles later in time.

According to the social historical theory, the caste system finds its origin in the arrival of Aryans in India around 1500 BC. The Aryans dismissed the prevailing local cultures and forced their own on the conquered original inhabitants. The system which divides Hindus into rigid hierarchical groups based on their karma (work) and dharma (religion-driven duty) is more than 3,000 years old.

Caste system continues even after losing its reason for being. But the scramble for comfort-based development has steadily destroyed the ancient sustainable and joyously shared patterns of resource-use that remained relevant for centuries. The original caste system ensued joyful social order and left no room for discrimination. Each skill-based community enjoyed its unique dignity.

At the present time when social tensions keep rising as people fight over scarce natural resources, it is important to know the original caste system taught ‘genuine cultural adjustment’ and sustainable patterns of resource-use over centuries. Each community was sensitively aware of its entitlements. The present day sociologists seem to have failed in figuring out exactly how India’s caste system, looked down upon as so elaborate, rigid, hereditary determined, hierarchical and essentially oppressive, lasted for so many centuries.

Some truly researching ecologists and anthropologists have reasons to believe that the caste system had ensured a non-negotiable discipline in the use of natural resources. It was a system which forced its members to share natural resources as much as it created the right social milieu in which sustainable livelihoods and peaceful coexistence were strongly encouraged. The social system then forced as well as cajoled the individual being right from birth to adopt sustainable cultural mores. True sustainable development was in the system of every talking thinking member of the caste-based society.

Unfortunately, today the once fantastic caste system is criticised for being unjust and regressive, which is the viewpoint of the colonial British which had introduced the dowry system too? The modern day Indian thinker reads and believes theories and philosophies propounded by western authors. No school, college or university has in its syllabus books by Chanakya, Nagarjuna, Vyasa, Ramanuja, Vatsayana or Manu or for that matter Aswaghosa and many more whose wisdom can persuade anyone to discard all the western crap in the first hour of reading.

Historians say that until the 18th Century, the formal distinctions of caste were of limited importance to Indians, as social identities were much more flexible and people could move easily from one caste to another. But latest research shows that hard boundaries were set by the British colonial rulers who made caste India’s defining social feature when they used censuses to simplify the system, primarily to create a single society with a common law that could be easily enforced for a governance of their choice.

So, in 1950, not surprisingly, independent India’s constitution banned discrimination on the basis of caste, and, in an attempt to correct historical injustices and provide a level playing field to the traditionally disadvantaged, the authorities announced quotas in government jobs and educational institutions for scheduled castes and tribes, the lowest in the caste hierarchy.

In 1989, quotas were extended to include a grouping called the OBCs (Other Backward Classes) which fall between the traditional upper castes and the lowest. In recent decades, with the spread of secular education and growing urbanisation, the influence of caste has greatly declined, especially in cities where different castes live side-by-side and inter-caste marriages are becoming more common.

Successively quite a few petitions have been filed with the constitutional courts including the Apex Court which has ruled very sanely. For instance the observations made by judges during the Maratha reservation hearing, though not binding, their texture indicates that the statements must not be ignored or read in isolation : “For how many generations will reservations continue? This may be a beginning; all reservations may go and only Economically Weaker Sections may remain, but these are all policies. It is for the Government to take a decision on dismantling caste and reservations.”

Obviously, among various affirmative actions taken by a government for the underprivileged, reservation is an extreme measure – in contrast to other steps such as providing free education, housing, etc., because it implies segregation of some posts for certain class of persons, which otherwise might have been secured by other persons. And this is why there is strong reason to perceive that reservation gives benefits to some persons at the cost of many others.

Lastly, the people must know how some of the screaming pretenders weeping for the surname-linked upper caste identity causing discrimination among communities. Incidentally, most Indian communities are caste-identifiable by their popular surnames. In Odisha during the 1980s, a few publicity-mad headless guys made it popularly known that they are dropping surnames to turn true casteless creatures. The leader, a teacher at some college kept changing his name several times eventually over-dragging it to a cocktail of Greek, French and Indian names. The other ordinary disciples followed suit and thumped their chests saying they have given up their caste mentality for good by simply kicking away the surnames.

Come the new millennium, and when publicly asked on television, it got revealed that none of the guys have ever given up anything to do with caste. The one fit to marry then had chosen to wed a caste woman; later in life all their children have married into the caste religiously and kept their surnames intact on all official records. Only if one child of any of these loudmouths had married a Dalit, they would have been deified by now.

People better beware of these hypocrites!

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