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Caste system in India

  • Categories
    Society: Diverse Elements
  • Published
    24th May, 2022

Introduction:

The caste system is an important aspect of Indian social institutions. The word caste has created confusion in the sense that it is used to denote both Varna and Jati. Technically, both are different to each other. Several changes have occurred in the caste system due to the processes of Sanskritisation, westernization, modernization, democratic decentralization, industrialization and urbanization, etc.

Concept and Meaning of Caste System:

  • The word caste has its origin in the Spanish word 'casta', meaning 'race', or a group having hereditary quality'. The term was applied to the people of India by the Portuguese to denote ‘Jati'. Caste can be defined caste as a hereditary, endogamous and usually localized group, having a traditional association with an occupation, and occupying a particular position in the local hierarchy of castes. Relations between castes are determined by the rules of purity and pollution and hence there are restrictions on commensality (inter-dining) and social intercourse among castes.

Features of Caste System:

  • Segmental division of society
  • Hierarchy
  • Restrictions on inter-dinning
  • Endogamy
  • Purity and pollution
  • Occupational association, etc.
  • Social and religious disabilities and privileges of a few sections -
  • The distinction in custom, dress and speech.
  • Conflict resolving mechanisms.

Difference between Varna and Jati:

  • Varna and Jati: Varna means colour. Varna Vyavastha is the textual view of the Indian social system whereas Jati is the field view. In other words, we find jatis, in reality, today and not varnas. There are only four varnas whereas there are about 4000 jatis.

Difference between Caste and Class:

  • Manusmriti, widely regarded to be the most important and authoritative book on Hindu law and dating back to at least 1,000 years before Christ was born, "acknowledges and justifies the caste system as the basis of order and regularity of society".
  • The caste system divides Hindus into four main categories –
    • Brahmins
    • Kshatriyas
    • Vaishyas
    • Shudras

  •  Many believe that the groups originated from Brahma, the Hindu God of creation.
  • While a caste is hereditary, a class is non-hereditary in nature. A class system allows both exogamy and endogamy, permits mobility either up or down the system, and also allows an individual to remain in the status to which he was born. Thus a class is primarily based on socio-economic criteria.
  • A class is more open than the caste in the sense that mobility is allowed in the class system. It is not allowed openly in the caste system. Further, the caste system is based on ritual criteria whereas, class is based on a secular criterion. Ritual criterion means it is based on religious myths, secular means non-religious criterion like economic, political and social criterion.
  • In changing circumstances caste is also adapting to secular criteria, Consciousness is found in the class but not necessarily in the caste. However, today castes are also changing into classes in urban areas, particularly in terms of economic criteria.
Scheduled Castes: The term Scheduled Caste is not explicitly defined and the people belonging to this section vary from place to place in India. Article 341 of the Constitution states, “The President may, with respect to any State or Union territory, and where it is a State after consultation with the Governor thereof, by public notification, specify the castes, races or tribes or parts of or groups within castes, races or tribes which shall for the purposes of this Constitution be deemed to be Scheduled Castes in relation to that State or Union territory, as the case may be”. As per the 2011 caste census, the Scheduled Castes comprise about 16.6%, of India's population. The Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950 lists 1,108 castes across 29 states in its First Schedule.

Dalits:

  • Dalits, also known as "Untouchables," are members of the lowest social group in the Hindu caste system.
  • The word "Dalit" means "oppressed" or "broken" and is the name members of this group gave themselves in the 1930s.
  • A Dalit is actually born below the caste system, which includes four primary castes: Brahmins (priests), Kshatriya (warriors and princes), Vaishya (farmers and artisans), and Shudra (tenant farmers and servants).
  • An Untouchable couldn't enter a Hindu temple or be taught to read. They were banned from drawing water from village wells because their touch would taint the water for everyone else.
  • Indians believed that people were born as Untouchables as punishment for misbehaviour in previous lives.
  • An Untouchable could not ascend to a higher caste within that lifetime; Untouchables had to marry fellow Untouchables and could not eat in the same room or drink from the same well as a caste member.
  • In Hindu reincarnation theories, however, those who scrupulously followed these restrictions could be rewarded for their behaviour by a promotion to a higher caste in their next life.

Understanding the Structure of Hindu Social Order:

  • The structure of the Hindu social order is hierarchical in nature and 82 per cent of the Indian population is Hindu according to the 2011 Census. The origin of the Hindu Social Order is traced from the sacred text of Hindus – the Rigveda. The tenth chapter of this text reveals that there are four groups better known as These groups are arranged hierarchically one above the other.
  • The first group, Brahmin, occupies the top position in this hierarchy. The second group is Rajanya (later known as Kshatriyas), third is Vaishya. The Shudras come last in the hierarchy according to the Rigveda.
  • Yet, sociologists have included a fifth group – the Ashprishyas (literary translated as untouchables) better known as Dalits in the Hindu Social Order. Therefore, it can be concluded that the full scheme of the Hindu social order has five major social groups arranged hierarchically with Brahmins at the top and Dalits at the lowest level.
  • It is this unequal distribution of rights and privileges in a social structure, which also bears religious legitimacy which produces extreme forms of inequality in Indian society.

Caste and the Economic Sphere:

  • The ideology of caste prescribed specific occupations for specific caste groups, which had a specific place in the social hierarchy. The vocations of the upper castes were considered to be the most prestigious while the occupations of the lower castes, especially the untouchables were considered to be polluting and defiling.
  • Influence of British Rule: The advent of the British saw new economic opportunities flowing out, and reaching the masses. The opening up of plantations and the development of towns and cities laid the basis for economic development, which intruded into the functioning of the caste system. The growth of the money economy enabled economic relations to be governed by market conditions as opposed to inherited status. Certain caste groups flourishing in the wake of new business opportunities invested their profits in lands. Because of land reforms like Permanent Settlement, introduced during the British rule, the land came into the market and thus ceased to be tied to caste.
  • The British successfully formalised religion as a category through the medium of the census. Hindus never had a centralised religion until the British told them they did. It was constructed as a creation of Brahmins to enforce caste hierarchy, just as prophets and priests enforced divine law in Christianity.
  • This new vocabulary of religion enabled Britain to justify its rule of India, and ‘save’ Hindus from Muslim rulers, and ‘lower’ caste Hindus from the ‘upper’ caste elite. Later, it enabled elite Muslims to divide India and ‘protect’ Muslims from the now powerful Hindu elite.
  • Caste and the Indian Army: They identified and designated certain caste and religious groups as 'martial races', and gave preference to them over others in recruitment to the Army. Among these 'martial races' were Rajputs, Jats, Marathas, Sikhs, Dogras, Gurkhas and Mahars.
  • Caste considerations were not only evident in the formation of certain regiments in the Army but were seen in a few other aspects of military organisation. For instance, barbers, washermen and sweepers in the military were usually recruited from their respective castes of Nais, Dhobis and Bhangis; and some labour corps was raised in the military, which mostly, if not wholly, consisted of Harijans.
  • The breakdown of the traditional economic system and the emergence of lower caste groups in economic rivalry rather than cooperation undermined the Brahman dominance found in Tanjore, Tamil Nadu. This has been attributed to the changing village structure from a closed stationary system to that of a relatively open system. The closed system was characteristic of a feudal economy resulting in cooperation between ranked castes in ways ordained by religious ideas. An open system is one, which is governed by secular law under the influence of a market economy.

Post-Independence Scenario:

  • Following independence in 1947, India's new constitution identified groups of former Untouchables as "scheduled castes," singling them out for consideration and government assistance.
  • The constituent assembly mandated with the function to draft the constitution of independent India adopted the Constitution based on the principles of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. The real idea behind the said ideals was to create an egalitarian society where discrimination in any form be denounced and the state would aspire to create an empowered society free from any such discrimination. Indian constitution provided constitutional guarantees and protections for a wide range of civil liberties for individuals. On the bedrock of fundamental rights constitution provided for the abolition of untouchability, and discrimination based on caste, race, gender and place of birth.
  • Ambedkar argued for extensive economic and social rights for disadvantaged sections, and also won the Assembly’s support for introducing a system of reservations of jobs in the civil services, schools and colleges for members of scheduled castes and scheduled tribes, a system akin to affirmative action. These were the first of the measures of post-independence, which were conceived for the empowerment of the Scheduled Castes.

Dalit Movements after Independence:

Dalit Panther Movement:

  • Dalit Panther as a social organization was founded by Namdeo Dhasal in April 1972 in Mumbai, which saw its heyday in the 1970s and through the 80s. Dalit Panther was inspired by Black Panther Party, a revolutionary movement amongst African-Americans, which emerged in the United States and functioned from 1966-to 1982. The members were young men belonging to Neo-Buddhists and Scheduled Castes.
  • The Dalit Panther movement was a radical departure from earlier Dalit movements. Its initial thrust on militancy through the use of rustic arms and threats gave the movement a revolutionary colour.
  • The prominent feature which makes the Dalit Panther’s party movement an integral mention in the historicity of the Dalit movements post-independence is its endeavour to conjoin the Dalit identity with the revolutionary proletarian class identity which was a clear-cut departure from the accepted legacy of Ambedkar.
  • Importance of Panther Party Movement: They reflected the positive aspects of the BPP’s contributions in terms of self-defence, mass organizing techniques, propaganda techniques and radical orientation, the onset of the Panther’s movement can be appreciated in the sense of creating a radical force within the Dalit community and opening the prospects of its relationships with the leftist forces in the country, which was harnessed to some extent by Kanshi Ram and his successor Mayawati although in a different form and spirit.

Bahujan Samaj Party:

  • In 1984 Kanshiram, founded a political party – Bahujan Samaj Party to fulfil Dalit consciousness dreams. The BSP states that it represents the people at the lowest levels of the Hindu social system—those officially designated as members of the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and Other Backward Classes—as well as other religious and social minorities.

Government Initiatives:

  • The Indian Government has enacted laws to remove untouchability and has also brought in many reforms to improve the quality of life for the weaker sections of society. Few among them are:
  • Constitutionally guaranteed fundamental human rights
  • Abolition of ‘untouchability’ in 1950
  • Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989
  • Provision of reservations in places like educational institutions, for employment opportunities etc.
  • Establishing social welfare departments and national commissions for the welfare of scheduled castes and tribes.

Changes in Caste System:

Changes in the caste system entail three types of changes such as structural change, functional change and attitudinal change.

1. Structural Changes:

  • Decline in the supremacy of the Brahmins: There has been a sharp decline in the supremacy of the Brahmins in society. In the past, the Brahmin occupied the topmost position in the caste hierarchy. But today consequent of the process of modernization the dominance of the Brahmins have been relegated to the background.
  • Changes in the Caste hierarchy: The caste system is no longer a demarcated system of hierarchically-ordered caste groups. As a result of certain factors such as occupational diversification, migration to urban areas, and mechanisation of agriculture, boundaries between caste groups are tending to blur or break down.
  • Protection of the Harijans: The governmental policy of protective discrimination has gone a long way in improving the socio-economic conditions of the Harijans. Consequently, their social status has improved to a considerable extent.

2. Functional Changes:

  • Change in the fixation of status: In a caste society, birth was taken as the exclusive basis of social status. But in the changing social scenario, birth no longer constitutes the basis of social prestige. Criteria such as wealth, ability, education, efficiency etc. have become the determinants of social status.
  • Change with regard to occupation: So far as the caste system is concerned, the individual had no choice but to follow the occupation ascribed to him by his caste. But today occupation is not the hereditary monopoly of any caste anymore. One is free to take up any occupation he likes according to his ability and interest.
  • Changes in marriage restrictions: Under the caste system endogamy was the basis of mate selection. The members of a caste or sub-caste were forbidden by inexorable social law to marry outside the group. But at present the Special Marriage Act, 1954 and the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 have removed endogamic restrictions and declared inter-caste marriages as legally valid.
  • Change in commensality: In the traditional system, the unit of commensality was defined fairly rigidly in terms of caste affiliation. In recent times, there has been a gradual expansion of this unit. Today, Brahmins are dining with the person of other castes. Furthermore, they do not hesitate to accept food and water from the members of the lower castes to fulfilment of their political ends.
  • Change in the concept of purity and pollution: Under the caste system occupations were ranked in accordance with their ritual purity. For example, a person coming into contact with a barber was supposed to become impure. A menstruating lady was considered impure and as such the food cooked by her was considered impure. In the twenty-first century, the importance of these ideas of purity and pollution in Hindu social life has considerably decreased.
  • Change in the lifestyle: In the past, every caste had its own lifestyle. It was the differences in the styles of life that made the people of different castes appear distinct from one another. But today differences between the lifestyles of castes are gradually being eliminated and there is a marked tendency towards the evolution of a common style. The standardization of lifestyles is due to the twin processes of sanskritization and westernization.
  • Change in inter-caste relations: Of late, the pattern of inter-caste relations has undergone profound changes. The mutual rights and obligations characterising inter-caste relations have crumbled down. Members of the low castes no longer obey the orders of the members of the high castes. They do not come forward to perform forced labour for the members of the upper caste.
  • Change in the power of caste Panchayats: So far as the caste system was concerned, each caste had a caste Panchayat. The caste Panchayat played the role of a judicial body. But today Jati Panchayats are on the decline. Law courts and village factions have taken over most of their roles.
  • Restrictions on education removed: Today education is no more confined to the higher castes. Anybody belonging to any caste can prosecute study in educational institutions.
  • Changes in the system of power: The notions of democracy and adult franchise have affected the caste system in several ways. The new political system attacks the very roots of hierarchization. In the past politics was regarded as the sole preserve of the higher castes. But today people belonging to all castes are becoming conscious that they can play an important role in the political processes and can be benefitted from them.
  • Weakening of the Jajmani system: The Jajmani system in the villages has weakened, affecting inter-caste relations. Several reasons like laxity in the performance of rites and rituals on the part of the members of various castes, the decline of Brahminical supremacy, development in the field of transport and communication, intergenerational educational mobility etc. may be attributed to the decline of the Jajmani system in rural India.
The jajmani system or yajman system was an economic system most notably found in villages of India in which lower castes performed various functions for upper castes and received grain or other goods in return. It was an occupational division of labour involving a system of role relationships that enabled villages to be mostly self-sufficient.

3. Attitudinal Changes:

  • Loss of faith in the ascriptive status: Under the sway of rapid social transformation taking place in Indian society following the processes of industrialization, urbanization, westernization, secularization and modernization, the attitude of the people towards the caste system has undergone considerable changes. They are not psychologically prepared to accept the fixed status of an individual solely based on birth. They attach importance to ability, efficiency, talent and aptitude. Hence it is quite natural that they repose their faith in achieved status. As such, the very foundation of the caste system has been shattered.
  • Change in the philosophical basis: People do not believe that caste is divinely ordained. They have begun to doubt the very philosophical basis of the caste system. Caste has taken the shape of an incarnation in modern India.

Notable work by Politico-Socio-Reformist and the Dalit Rights Movement:

In the 19th century, the ruling British Raj tried to end some aspects of the caste system in India, particularly those surrounding the Untouchables. British liberals saw the treatment of Untouchables as singularly cruel, perhaps in part because they didn't usually believe in reincarnation.

  • Raja Ram Mohan Roy: He believed in the social equality of all human beings and thus was a strong opposer of the caste system. In 1814, he founded in Calcutta to campaign against idolatry, caste rigidities, meaningless rituals and Atmiya Sabha's other social ills.
  • Dadoba Pandurang: He founded Paramhansa Sabha in 1840, and was the first reform organisation of the 19th century in Maharashtra. Its main objective was to demolish all caste distinctions.
  • Swami Dayanand Saraswati: He advocated social equality improvement in the status of women and denounced untouchability, caste rigidities and encouraged rationality.
  • Jyotirao Phule: Jyotirao Phule coined the term "Dalit" as a more descriptive and sympathetic term for the Untouchables. He established Satyashodhak Samaj on 24 September 1873 to liberate the Shundra and Untouchable castes from exploitation and oppression. He also challenges the superiority and domination complex of Brahmans.
  • EV Ramaswami Naicker: He started the Self-respect Movement, which was popularly known as Periyar. He vehemently supported the Harijan's Self-respect Movement and became a hero of Satyagraha at Vaikom, Kerala, started his paper, Kudi Arasu in 1925 and turned into a radical social reformer.
  • Mahatma Gandhi: In 1933, Gandhi thought of untouchability as the bigger evil, and felt it necessary to first abolish the caste system and “cross the other bridge later. In 1920 at Nagpur's speech on untouchability, Mahatma Gandhi called it a great evil in Hindu society but also observed that it was not unique to Hinduism, having deeper roots.
  • He called the doctrine of untouchability intolerable and asserted that the practice could be eradicated. Mahatma Gandhi in 1932 began a new campaign to improve the lives of untouchables, whom he started to call "Harijans" that is the "Children of God".
  • Subsequently, he founded the All India Harijan Sevak Sangh in the wake of his Epic fast at Yerwada Jail, Pune, on the backdrop of the historic Poona Pact.
  • Gandhi Ji also opposed the Second Round Table Conference in London in 1931 which segregated the depressed classes or untouchables of the Hindu community into a separate electoral group.
  • TK Madhavan, K Kellapan and Keshava Menon: Vaikom Satyagraha (Kerala, 1924-25) was led by TK Madhavan, K Kellapan and Keshava Menon. It was the first organised temple entry movement of the depressed classes. They asserted along Gandhian lines the right of Ezhavas and other untouchables to use the road near Travancore temple.
  • BR Ambedkar: Ambedkar was against caste-based discrimination in society and advocated for the Dalits to organise and demand their rights.
  • He established the Bahishkrit Hitakarini Sabha to promote education and socio-economic improvement of the untouchables.
  • He led the Mahad Satyagrah or Chavdar Tale Satyagraha to fight for the right of the untouchable community to draw water from the main water tank of the town.

Evil Faces of this System:

  • Untouchability: Many villages are separated by caste and they may not cross the line dividing them from the higher castes. They also may not use the same wells or drink in the same tea stalls as higher castes.
  • Discrimination: They often do not have the facility to electricity, sanitation facilities or water pumps in lower caste neighbourhoods. Access to better education, housing and medical facilities than that of the higher castes is denied.
  • Division of labour: They are restricted to certain occupations like sanitation work, plantation work, leatherwork, cleaning streets, etc.
  • Slavery: They are subjected to exploitation in the name of debt, tradition, etc., to work as labourers or perform menial tasks for generations together.

Constitutional Provisions for Ensuring Safeguard:

  • Article 14: Equality before law. -The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India.
  • Article 15: Prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth.
  • Article 16: Equality of opportunity in matters of public employment. No citizen shall, on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, descent, place of birth, residence or any of them, be ineligible for, or discriminated against in respect of, any employment or office under the State.
  • Article 17: Abolition of Untouchability. "Untouchability" is abolished and its practice in any form is forbidden. The enforcement of any disability arising out of "Untouchability" shall be an offence punishable in accordance with the law.
  • Article 35 of the Indian Constitution (Article 35(a)(ii)) gave the Parliament the power to make penal laws for the offences mentioned under Article 17. Consequently, The Untouchability Offences Act of 1955 (renamed to The Protection of Civil Liberties Act) was enacted which provided penalties for preventing a person from entering a place of worship or from taking water from a tank or well. Subsequent legislation focused on the discrimination and oppression of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. These include:
    • The Scheduled Castes And The Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989
    • The Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act, 2015
  • Article 243D: Reservation of seats in Panchayats.
  • Article 243T: Reservation of seats in Municipalities.
  • Article 330: Reservation of seats for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in the House of the People.
  • Article 332: Reservation of seats for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in the Legislative Assemblies of the States.

Important Factors Responsible for Change in Caste System in India are as follows:

  • Modern education: Modern liberal education introduced into the country by the British has played a crucial role in undermining the importance of caste in Indian social life. As modern education is usually imparted in co-educational institutions, it encourages inter-caste marriage and inter-caste mixing. Moreover, it acts as a powerful force toward the removal of untouchability.
  • Industrialization: Industrial growth has provided new sources of livelihood to people and made occupational mobility possible. Factories, mills and offices are agog with activities. In the midst of all this, the people belonging to various castes consider it mediaevalist to go into the question of one’s caste.
  • Urbanization: Industrialization has given rise to the process of urbanization. New townships have emerged. The people from rural areas migrate to these towns in order to avail better employment opportunities. With the coming up of big hotels, restaurants, theatres, clubs and educational institutions it is not at all possible to observe communal inhibitions and taboos against food-sharing.
  • Modern means of transport and communication: Modern means of transport and communication are instrumental in increasing the spatial mobility of the people and thereby putting an end to the caste system. Means of transport like train, bus, tram, airplane etc. cannot provide for distinctions between castes, and a levelling effect has been brought into the society.
  • Increase in the importance of wealth: Under the caste system, ascription was taken as the basis of social prestige. But today, wealth has replaced ascription as the basis of social prestige. Occupations are now no longer caste-based. People while choosing their occupations attach greater importance to income rather than anything else. It is because of this reason a high-born may be ill-placed in society while a man of low caste with ample wealth at his disposal has a room at the top.
  • The new legal system: The new legal system, has given a severe blow to the caste system in India. Equality before law irrespective of castes has been firmly instituted. Consequently, the age-old discrimination against the lower castes has been removed. Further, with the establishment of law courts, the traditional castes Panchayats have lost their power and effectiveness to punish the deviants. Not only that a number of Acts like the Untouchability Offences Act of 1955 and the Hindu Marriage Act of 1955 have abnegated the evil effects of the caste system.
  • Sanskritization: It is “the process by which a low Hindu caste or tribal or any other group changes its customs, rituals, ideology and way of life in the direction of a high and frequently ‘twice-born’ caste”. The members of the lower castes leave their own traditional ideals and behaviour patterns and accept the ideals and standards of higher castes. The caste system being a closed one, Sanskritization does not entail structural change. It entails positional change. Hence through Sanskritization, the lower caste people move up slightly in the scale of “Jatis’ within particular varna.
  • Westernization: It signifies the changes in Indian society during British rule. By promoting education, egalitarianism, rationalism, humanism and above all a critical outlook toward various social issues and problems, westernization has gone a long way in undermining the influence of the caste system. It has given a severe blow to practices like child marriage, purity and pollution, commensality, untouchability etc. The effects of westernization are prominently visible in the form of intercaste marriages, inter-community marriages, inter-religious marriages, occupational changes etc.
  • Secularization: The role of secularization in weakening the caste system is great. By legitimizing secular ideologies and formal legal doctrines and promoting rationality, scientific attitude and differentiation, secularization has affected certain characteristics of the caste system especially the concept of purity and pollution, commensality, fixity of occupation etc.
  • Socialistic ideas: The caste system is based on the ideas of high birth and low birth. On the other hand, socialists say, “the differences between human beings have been created by society; hence society only can remove them.” As a result of such socialist thought, the caste system is breaking.
  • Rise of new social classes: Industrialization has given rise to the emergence of new social classes. These social classes are replacing the traditional castes. Trade Unions, Merchants’ Associations and Political Parties are replacing the old caste loyalties. An increase in class consciousness leads to a decrease in caste consciousness.
  • Influence of Indian Constitution: Indian Constitution bestows some fundamental rights on the citizens irrespective of caste, creed, colour or sex. It offers equal opportunities to all. The Constitution, which declares all citizens as equal, directly attacks the Hindu social order based on inherited inequality. No wonder the caste system is withering away.

How casteism can be removed?

  • Emotional and intellectual appeal to economic determinism, as was advocated by Karl Marx.
  • Awareness about Constitutional values, ethics, ill effects of casteism etc.
  • Promote and incentivise inter-caste marriages as is already done for marrying an SC/ST woman in some parts of India.
  • Evaluate the existing customs, rituals etc. on the touchstone of Human Rights. Here judiciary can play a positive role but with due respect to religious feelings.
  • Implement laws and agreements like ICCPR, Protection of human rights, Prevention of atrocities against SC ST etc. with full letter and spirit.
  • Economic empowerment of Dalit through education and ownership of land and capital.

Conclusion:

It is clear from the above discussion that inequality is one of the products of the caste structure in India. The caste structure is responsible for the distribution of rights and privileges among the 80 per cent of the Indian population known as Hindus. It is because of this arrangement few castes have acquired unprecedented social, cultural and symbolic capital in Indian society. In turn, certain castes like Dalits have been completely debarred from any type of capital. This leads to marginalization and exclusion of castes located lower in the caste hierarchy, especially the Dalits.

But with the passage of time the Caste, in its older forms, has become irrelevant. But now instead of getting replaced with a class-based society, the caste system has taken shelter in other walks of our social life. Caste hierarchy might not play a role in these walks, but caste consciousness does. The caste system in India is undergoing changes due to progress in education, technology, modernization and changes in general social outlook. Despite the general improvement in conditions of the lower castes, India has still a long way to go, to root out the evils of the caste system from the society. We must come to terms with the fact that caste by its nature is anti-social (as Ambedkar has rightly suggested), and no social cohesion can be achieved without destroying its edifices.

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