How Caste System Affected the Indian Society

Long back, the former President of the United States of America, Abraham Lincoln had said, “Democracy is a government of the people, for the people, and by the people”. The term 'democracy' comes from the Greek word 'demokratia' which means “rule of the people”. 

It was coined from two words: demos that means “people” and 'Kratos' which refers to “power”. India is a huge country full of diversities – linguistic, cultural and religious. At the time of independence, it was economically underdeveloped.

Casteism in Post Independent India

There were enormous regional disparities, widespread poverty, illiteracy, unemployment, and paucity of public services. The citizens had enormous expectations from the post-independent India. Since independence, India has been functioning as a responsible democracy. 

It has been appreciated by the international community. It has successfully adapted itself to the demanding situations. However, casteism is an issue that has been a constant challenge. Though it is not new to the Indian context, in the contemporary times it has grown at an unimaginable pace. 

Structure of Caste System

In India, 'caste' is a four-folded structure that has been prevalent for a very long time and where brahmans are at the top and shudras at the bottom. The shudras have been exploited for belonging to a caste that is primarily responsible for serving the other upper castes. 

But, in the recent times, dalits constituting shudras and other such castes have tried to mobilize against all the atrocities and wrongs that have been committed against them. For example, the Ambedkarite students protested against the death of Rohith Vemula. 

Another example of such mobilization was seen on January 1, 2018, when the dalits, the most deprived community present at the bottom of the Hindu caste ladder, had gathered in large numbers at Bhima Koregaon, a village in Pune, to mark the two hundred years of an historical event where Mahars, a dalit sub-group, had helped the British defeat the forces of the Brahmanical Peshwa dynasty. 

How People At Lower Level in Caste System Get Effected

At the event, the dalits were attacked by right wing groups who claimed to be furious at the celebration of the British victory. What followed the next day was a strong retaliation by dalit groups (who were protesting against the attacks) that brought Mumbai, India's financial capital, to a halt. 

Such instances testify to the fact that the dalits can respond strongly to upper caste atrocities. The main source of dalit movements in India has been the sufferings of the dalit people. 

Therefore the primary objective of dalit movements has been to fight against several injustices such as forceful eviction from their own lands, discrimination in institutions of education and employment (though there have been instances where dalits have been denied haircuts for instance in Tumakuru district of Karnataka), and classification of certain activities for dalits only like sweeping, grave digging etc. 

However, in recent times, the dalit movements have questioned the use of violence against the marginalized castes. Some of the examples include the beating of four dalit youth in full public view in Gujarat, thrashing of dalit groom and six others for 'daring' to take a decorated car to the wedding venue in Chhatarpur District in Madhya Pradesh and the arrest of thirty-one dalit activists who had called a press conference in Lucknow to talk about the past atrocities (they had planned to march later towards Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath's house). 


The Bahujan Samajwadi Party has emerged as the party for the dalits and it has a national outreach but in the recent times the politicization of the issue of discrimination against dalits has reduced the significance of the political party. However, the educated elites who have managed to come together against the issue of discrimination are the major force behind the mobilization for the demand for 16 DEMOS 2018 17 DEMOS 2018 identity and dignity of dalits. 

Today, these movements are not only associated with the ideology of Dr. Ambedkar (who spread the slogan 'we must become a ruling community') or groups such as dalit panthers but also of the various dalit leaders such as Jignesh Mewani. All these movements have fought against various odds and have tried to make the world a better place to live in for dalits and various other marginalized castes in society. 


Hence, casteism is one such issue that needs to be addressed by the government on an urgent basis and various policies need to be formulated and implemented for their betterment. Such steps will allow the marginalized people to enter into mainstream as liberalization and globalization have been unable to get the Indian society rid of caste consciousness.

Written- Nidhi Verma

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