Caste is a sharpened weapon which has the power to destroy the identity and dignity of an individual in India. Caste is a socially constructed reality. Dr BR Ambedkar has defined caste as a state of mind. It can control an individual’s mind and can make him inhumane in nature. This is exactly what India is visualising for the past years and even now.
We often see people associating caste with the culture and tradition of India. The Indian society likes to be blind about the caste atrocities and have the tendency to shut their mouths and believe that caste is a part of the Indian tradition which has to be followed. But when we analyse the ancient history of India it can be seen that caste society was in effect only during the much later parts of civilizational history. The origin or the history of India begins with the stone age which consists of Paleolithic, Mesolithic and Neolithic age (Stone age : 5,00,000 BCE – 3300 BCE). In this era no evidence of Caste system has been found. Following the stone age came the Indus valley civilization which is also known as Harappan civilization(Bronze age :2600-1900 BCE). In this period evidences of structured houses, settled life, social stratification, practice of religion, practice of agriculture etc. were found. The historians are still undecided about the basis of social stratification and about the language script in that period. But there is no evidence for presence of caste system from this period. So when did the caste system came in India?
It was in the late vedic age (1100 BCE – 500 BCE) that the documented evidence of chathurvarna system is found. In the early vedic age there were eight mandalas in rig veda where there was nothing mentioned about varna system. In the late vedic age the rig veda got modified and two more mandalas got added in and that included purusha suktha which describes the varna system. This was further enumerated and codified in manusmriti.
After years when India became a republic and democratic why is Indian society still following the caste system which is from the late vedic age? Why is the society not understanding the Constitution of India but relying on and following the manusmriti? All these questions and even more questions are still waiting for an answer, and to be more precise, a solution.
Caste is a system which follows the principle of graded inequality. Inequality is prevailing all around the world and the society of India is in such a way that these inequalities are justified. (inspired from the lectures of Sunny M Kapicadu, Dalit activist in Kerala.)
When a young man named Madhu, who was from a scheduled tribe, was beaten to death in Attapadi (Palakkad district) in Kerala, there were people who justified this act of cruelty. Mass public support was there for the culprits of Kathua rape case where a 8 year old girl was kidnapped and brutally raped and killed inside a temple. There are many more incidents which clearly show that the inequalities in India are well justified by the society. The savarnas or the so-called “upper castes” have used this weapon of caste to attack the avarnas or the Dalits. The resistance to this can be achieved through education and political power. Knowledge needs to be used to destroy the illogical reasonings and the powers of the caste hindus who maintain and propagate the caste system in India. (inspired from lecture of Bodhi, Professor at Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai).
Ambedkarism is nothing but questioning the current culture and theories of knowledge which are rooted in Brahminism and Vedas. To destroy this powerful structure, education is the key weapon.To annihilate the caste system a new society has to be born in India. The society should know Ambedkar and Ambedkarism. Babasaheb Ambedkar is a University which has brought the ideals of self respect, dignity and knowledge to a violently discriminatory society.
Educate Agitate Organize!
Aishwarya KS is doing her MSW in Dalit and Tribal Studies and Action at TISS. She is a member of Tripunithura Ambedkar Thinkers Forum in Kerala.