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Caste

Introduction

Doctrinally, caste was defined as a system of segregation of people, each with a traditional hereditary occupation. Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas, and Shudras. Certain people were excluded altogether, ostracised by all other castes and treated as untouchables. According to UNICEF and Human Rights Watch, caste discrimination affects an estimated 250 million people worldwide.

Caste system throughout the world.


Caste system of India Caste in rest of South Asia
Nepal Pakistan Sri Lanka

West Asia
Yemen

Africa
West Africa Central Africa East Africa

Caste-like stratification outside South Asia


South-east Asia Myanmar Indonesia

Europe
France and Spain

East Asia
Japan

Caste system of India


Historically, the caste system in India has consisted of thousands of endogamous groups called Jatis or Quoms (among Muslims Ancient Indian texts, such as Manusmti and the Puranas make it clear that a caste system was very much a part of Indian society. Manusmti declared sexual relations between men and women of different castes as illegal but also specifies the varna or jati to which the offspring of such liaisons belong. Upon independence from the British rule, the Indian Constitution listed 1,108 castes across the country as Scheduled Castes in 1950, for affirmative action. The Scheduled Castes are sometimes called as Dalit in contemporary literature. In 2001, the proportion of Dalit population was 16.2 percent of India's total population.

Categories To Classify The Society


The scholarly Brahmans of India envisaged the four wellknown categories to classify the society (the Varnas):
Brahmin or Brahman (fire priests, scholars and teachers) Kshatriyas (warriors, administrators and law enforcers) Vaishyas (agriculturists, cattle raisers and traders) Shudras (service providers and artisans)

It has been pointed out that some people were considered left out from these four caste classifications, and in certain places were called Panchama (literally, the fifth). Regarded as outcastes or the untouchables, these people lived on the fringes of the society.

Hindu caste system


In some parts of India, there was the practice of defining the physical distance one should keep from persons of another caste. As a result of this, children who attended a school where children of lower castes were present had to bathe before returning home. In some parts of the world, as well as in India, such discrimination still exists, though it is punishable by law and unconstitutional in India. The Indian constitution was drafted by Ambedkar, himself of low-caste origins, who is regarded as an emancipator of the Dalits.

Jti
Major castes were subdivided into hundreds of subcastes or Jtis. Each jti typically has an association with a traditional job function in Hindu society, although religious beliefs or linguistic groupings define some jtis. A person's surname typically reflects a jti association: asari meaning carpenter, thattar meaning goldsmith, muusaari coppersmith, karuvar ironsmith, ambattar clothes-washer, parayar cobbler.

Modern developments
With rapid urbanization and education of India's largely rural, agrarian population, the significance of caste has diminished, except in government mediated interventions in the form of quotas and reservations in education, jobs, and promotions for the socially "lower," but numerous and thus politically important, castes. The caste system and its attendant practices have been outlawed and declared punishable offenses, but these laws are difficult to implement. There are occasional violations of human rights of Dalits (outcasts - also called untouchables) by the higher castes, including forcing Dalits into their traditional professions. Dalits in rural areas have often been victimized by other castes. The government of India provides freeships, scholarships, reservations for government jobs and of university seats in programs of higher education for people hailing from Scheduled castes, Scheduled tribes, and Other Backward Castes. Upper caste Hindus and several secular elements counter-argue that unmeritorious Dalits are exploiting this constitutionally obligatory discrimination to their unfair advantage and meritorious candidates are being sidelined.

While the caste system in general is no longer considered acceptable as it denies people many opportunities now considered human rights based on their lineage, it is those that suffer the greatest loss of rights and opportunity, the outcastes, for whom the caste system remains most strongly a reality.

Thank you.

By Shivananthini Sathsivam (A139582)