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Is casteism a systemic problem?

The most frequented debate nowadays in India is the new reservation law in central government institutions. Casteism as a system has continued since ages in India - and post independence an effort was made to correct the anomaly by offering reservations to backward classes. However, instead of uprooting the problem, the government has ended up systematically recognizing the very caste that it aimed to de-recognize.

So during one debate, someone suggested that the only solution to the problem was for everyone to renounce his/her caste so that the very root of the evil is removed. I quote -

Lets us give up our caste and second-names/surnames that indicate our castes. Lets pledge that we will not give any castse and surname to our offsprings. Lets appeal it to everyone to display their belief in equality by giving up their caste, surnames and destroying the inequalities that were thrust upon.

But I have a different view; in my opinion castiesm is not a system that can be or should be uprooted - it is a mentality.

Even today a child of say a doctor is asked by acquaintances whether he too would like to become a doctor. In fact if the son of a doctor chooses say engineering as a career, there will be umpteen people who will ask him why he did not become a doctor. The mindset of not accepting that individuals have a right to choose a career based on their interests is a problem.

Another aspect. Ever heard of lobbyism in companies - people from X institute or X city trying to promote junior members of the same to upper positions? This is probably such a common phenomenon that we take it for granted. [Here let me clarify that while associating and helping a person belonging to the same roots (institute, village, city etc) is not per se bad - doing so at the cost of others, or doing so while violating the concept of meritocracy is wrong and casteist.]

If you have been to a national institute [where students from diff states come], you would know that there are lobbies of South Indians, North Indians, Biharis, Bengalis, Delhi-ites, Punjabis and so on .. What is worse is that these lobbies become lines on which people cast votes even for elections to student organizations within these institutions. [These same institutions would give little recognition to the traditional caste system]

The castes usually referred to, are woven around cultural backgrounds. Some of these so called castes often help in keeping us close to our culture, customs, and traditions. They are a strong binding force and people outside India yearn for such association with their roots which might get uprooted if confused with caste.

In essence - these are two separate issues - Caste as a system is not bad, because it helps us keep connected to our roots, our culture and traditions; however Caste as a mindset - the mindset of preferential treatment to a set of people at the cost of others while violating the principles of fair play and meritocracy is wrong and needs to be uprooted.

By calling out for people to renounce their caste one is actually also asking them to cut themselves off from their roots which will be highly detrimental for our society at large and take our nation towards further downfall. One can see the way American society has become in absence of cultural and traditional orientation.

Further, as I pointed out castiesm manifests itself not just in form of ancestral caste but also in new found castiest approaches like lobbying and groupism. This will continue to stay until the mindset that defines casteism is uprooted.

What we need to uproot is the mindset - I know it is infinitely more difficult than uprooting the system and a slow time taking process. But this alone can bring a complete closure to the centuries old debate.

1 comments to " Is casteism a systemic problem? "

  1. Thats an interesting and a convincing point of view...but I had a but of difficulty understanding exactly which aspect of the american society are you talking abt that has been affected due to absence of cultural roots...I just wanted to make sure what I inferred was same as what you tried to say...

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