Caste and Race: Two sides of the same coin?

May 29, 2009

The attack in a  Sikh temple in Vienna and the subsequent clashes in Punjab have brought renewed focus on the internationalisation of what many Indians see as a domestic problem.

In August 2001, I heard Martin Macwan, a human rights activist, talk about raising the issue of caste at international forums, specifically in the context of the U.N. race summit in Durban that year. The move was however opposed by the government.

Macwan spoke movingly about how fellow activists had been killed while agitating for their rights.

Nearly a decade later, the debate on how to tackle caste still rages.

Those who want to highlight the issue on international forums, like at the Durban Review Conference at Geneva last month, see no problem in linking it to race since racial discrimination is a widely prevalent practice that helps people understand other kinds of discrimination as well.

Media reports say the Indian government remains opposed to this.

Some experts and newspaper columnists say caste and racial discrimination are similar.

They argue that the focus on race leaves out caste only because Europe’s experience has had more to do with race, and this should not be a reason for ignoring caste discrimination.

Both race and caste involve inequality and prejudice based on birth and descent.

Moreover, as the Vienna incident shows, with the Indian diaspora present in more than a hundred countries and numbering in millions, caste itself has been internationalised and is not a solely Indian concern.

Some say India’s commitment to international conventions and human rights is undermined if the plea of dissimilarity is used to put off raising the issue.

Others say race and caste cannot be equated.

They feel that different races cannot be identified in the diversity of the Indian population and therefore the issue of racial discrimination is irrelevant to India and cannot be likened to caste discrimination which is unique to Indian history and social experience.

In fact, anthropologist Andre Beteille argued that stating caste or any other kind of discrimination in terms of racial discrimination would be unscientific.

He said this may give a new lease of life to the concept of race.

Besides the Indian constitution bans discrimination based on caste, race, language or sex. After all, India’s most populous state of Uttar Pradesh is ruled by a Dalit woman and many call this an example of India’s success at tackling the issue.

Should caste be treated as race? Is the Indian government’s stand justified?


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I would guess that Indians want to hide the caste problem because it embarress them to know that it is central to the religion of Hinduism.

Posted by Martin Luther the King | Report as abusive


@Should caste be treated as race? ————–NO

@Is the Indian government’s stand justified?—-YES

I agree with anthropologist Andre Beteille who says:
“Treating caste as a form of race is politically mischievous; what is worse, it is scientifically nonsensical.”

Foremost question is why label caste as race? Are we into labeling issues or solving them? Racial discrimination is not an Indian phenomenon. Serve the issue as it is and del it. Am I the only one to feel that way? India must make sure that the Constitution that bans discrimination based on caste (and race, language or sex) is followed in each every nook and corner of India.

Posted by rajeev | Report as abusive

I would like to submit my objection on this news. I think media is publishing this news without doing thorough research. Sikhism does not approve any cast system.
this conflict is not because of cast but because somebody try to hurt sikh feelings by disrespecting thier honoured guru – GURU GRANTH SAHIB JI. sikh can tolerate anything but not disrespect of thier guru. so rama nand and his follwer hae provocate sikh to take some drastic action.

Posted by Manpreet kaur | Report as abusive

It is not the religion-Hinduism which defines caste system. Differentiating people exists through out the world and amongst people who follow different religions too..

Posted by Avinash | Report as abusive

@I would guess that Indians want to hide the caste problem because it embarress them to know that it is central to the religion of Hinduism.”
– Posted by Martin Luther the King

“Real” Martin Luther King knew better than that.

Posted by rajeev | Report as abusive

Should caste be treated as race?

No. But, as race, it is based on descent. Untouchability, and all the forms of discriminating practices related to it, is still prevalent in India

Is the Indian government’s stand justified?

No. The international community should exert strongest possible pressure on the government of India to start (yes – to start!) solving the problem. Constitutional guarantees (articles 15-17 of Indian Constitution) are – after nearly 60 years – what they really are, a bunch of empty promises.


Warsaw, Poland

Posted by Konrad | Report as abusive

Jai Bheem,

Those who thinks that caste discrimination is not there in India in any religion that shows their manuvadhi thoughts. I am Dalit and I have friend from punjab to hyderabad I know they are treated.

Posted by Dala | Report as abusive

Manpreet has correctly accessed and commented appropriately. I would just add: this is yet again a case of poor journalism, there is no such thing such as a caste system within Sikhism, this was purely a case of a body of people trying to distort the teachings of Sikhism. Anyone who practices the caste system is simply not a Sikh.

Posted by Satvinder Singh | Report as abusive

Casteism exists in Islam and christianity.
SO, WHAT now!!!!!!

This week’s mosque bombings in Zahedan, Iran, killing shias (by sunnis) is yet another example of ‘caste wars’ in Islam. These two islamic castes perennially fight, say, in Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and Pakistan. A sunni should get converted to shia to enter matrimony with the latter. In turn these two castes target weaker castes like Ahmedias, Bhais (of islam) etc. Catholics and protestants battle for supremacy and encourage ‘conversions’ into their castes………….. Tony Blair, former British PM had switched to Catholicism from his Anglican faith, in 2007 and NYT reports this as ‘conversion’ europe/23britain.html
(Please read this link to see the fierce criticism on this change of faith)
Father Oprah of Miami had, this week ( google it) turned episcopaln leaving his original caste of Catholicism. Back then, President Kennedy, during his election rallies, had to convince other christians in USA that his catholic faith would not influence his presidential decisions, in an effort to allay fears of southern Baptists and other castes.

Outsiders (of Islam and christianity) view this practice as a casteism. I read reports on Japans casteism causing heartache to its people (google it).

Vipul, the point Im making is, that

Each religion has an obligation to institute an internal mechanism, wherein a periodic introspection to keep casteism under check, is in place; other religions should keep a respectful distance. Only, if there are violation of human rights and obvious discrimination in the contemporary world view, then others can intervene. So long as internal remedial measures are legislated and practiced, as in the case of race discrimination in a given country, others should keep away.
If I may, I will go a step further here. The absolute nature and finality of one’s view of one’s own religion, say, excluding existence of other religions, is more of an urgent global concern. One quick example is again focuses on Saudi Arabia. Saudis prevent construction of places of worship of non muslim faiths on their soil. This is a dangerous tenet and maybe identified as of a militant tenet of a faith. Its time, we world citizens have placed this issue of national level discrimination on the international agenda.

Posted by Azad | Report as abusive



Very pertinent points. It is important to ask the same question about “casteism” or other internal differences to put a spot light on all religions.

Muslims and Christians will disagree that there is not caste system in there. But their argument stands only to the point of labels: Shia/Sunni are “SECTS” and Catholic/protestant/methodists and 100 more are “DENOMINATIONS”. But to me these are just different labels and the problem is same. As Shakespeare said “What’s in a name…..”

Not to digress, but to finish my point, I spent some time on faith blog on an article about “New Christian Bible”. I had exchaged several posts with a “Catholic” blogger and I found this blogger so stuck in “Catholic” (supermacy) as if he had nothing to do with non-catholic “christianity”.  /04/28/an-indian-bible-or-a-bible-for-i ndia/#comments

Posted by rajeev | Report as abusive

Satvinder and Manpreet: you are right that Sikhism does not allow caste system. Also the whole idea of Sikhism (acc to Guru Nanak Dev ji;s originally idea) is all are equal-no casteism. But then that was if everything is in the ideal world.

it is not right to leave it at that but ask deeper questions. Since it is human tenedency to develop a hierarchy, this “casteism” creeps in and Sikhism is a branch of Hinduism, so some such differences tagged along. Incidently I am reading “History of Sikhs” by Khushwant Singh plus I am from Punjab. Since POst-Ranjeet Singh era, after the deafeat of Sikh empire, British also carefully gave advantage to jat sikhs in terms of recruitment of troops or land alottment. Non-jat sikhs (labhanas, Majhabis …) were not left out but they definietly were given lower prefernce. This, despite the fact that both Jat and no-jat sikhs were equally great and proven warriors. This trend about Sikhs in Army and land owners continues till today.

It is simplistic to say there is caste sytem in Sikhs but it is wrong to deny that there are categories among Sikhs and mot all are equal. Given a pick on surname, what would you pick: Sandhu or Sidhu or Gill or kamboj?-Kamboj will not be picked by many. It is senstive subject and I do not want a blogger who does not know Sikhism to jump to conclusion that there is Casteism in Sikhs. But this is not a problem in context of Vienna incident.

Posted by rajeev | Report as abusive

Dala, Rajeev

Rajeev,I read your posts and duel with the Pilipino blogger, very interesting indeed.

For evangelists especially catholics, Indian casteism has become an (sham) excuse for proselytism. The conversions are causing unwanted/ undesirable political disturbances. Hatred and intolerance are injected and nurtured thru conversions. Mayavathi would not be sitting in CMs chair if all hindus turn against her. Don’t you know how many dalits are in political positions that other castes cannot dream to get into. Not to mention the reservations they enjoy to become IAS, IPS officers and doctors engineers so forth.
Finally, Dala, I support reservations in India. But I will draw a line here. If you convert into other religions and start killing hindus, you are a murderer plain and simple and not a dalit anymore. You should not, then, use reservation line.

Dala, also read Goa Inquest on Wikipedia to see how it all started.

Posted by Azad | Report as abusive

@The absolute nature and finality of one’s view of one’s own religion, say, excluding existence of other religions, is more of an urgent global concern.”
– Posted by Azad

Azad: That’s right. Rationally speaking, I do not understand how can such religions–namely Islam and Christianity–can claim they are tolerant and peaceful. I am happy if someone can explain me.

@Dala, I support reservations in India. But I will draw a line here. If you convert into other religions and start killing hindus, you are a murderer plain and simple and not a dalit anymore. You should not, then, use reservation line.
-posted by Azad

–This is hypocritical on part of the Christianity which criticizes casteism but never does a thing to ask a dalits, who convert, to stop using reservation. The govt should stop this reservation and you’ll see a drop in the conversions in many places.

Dala: Do not feel shy and enlighten us what your Dalit friend from Punjab says. One of my Dalit Punjabi friends in college decided to compete for medical entrace exam using general quota. He did, but failed and then used reservation next year–but at least he tried. Point is to get out of the mindset–at least those who can afford and don;t tell me there are not many. I wish the Dalit students from prosperous families should pledge not to use the reservations. Not easy, but the right thing to do is always harder, I know. But This will take Dalits out of this mindset. Merging with the mainstream, not crying victim if you are not, is a step forward to get out of this cycle. Else have your generations use crutches even when they can sprint.

Posted by rajeev | Report as abusive

First let me accept that we, Indians have a lot of problems to solve. Not just the one that is being written about on these columns.

But why other countrymen are bothered about that, I dont understnd! In the US it is much more pronounced! But you dont talk about that.

Any thing that is old, is bound to have more problems. And India is older than most other countries.

Unfortunately we were ruled by foriegn powers for a very long time, and that period was very effectively utilised by the then rulers to divide the country more, for their personal benefits.

But inspite of this, its age as well as numerous other differences, it is not just surviving, but glowing year after year.

Wait for another 1000 years to see whether those who are analysing our internal problem survive or not till that time!

Posted by MANI. S.S | Report as abusive

In Hinduism as such there is no caste. Never in any scripture it is mentioned caste by birth. Manu Smriti is a treatise on management and not scripture and there too it is division of labor. In fact scriptures mention that nobody can be dvij(high) by birth. This is division of labour or types of people. One knowledge, One Fighter, One businessman, One worker. These classes exist in every society. Businessmen in any country would like to meet with only their peers.
In UK a queen is born just by being born in a family which is caste system as well. Or lords and sirs or bluebloods. So nobody is immune.
There are 12 traditions major in christianity and many other sub-divisions with snobish outlooks. So is in muslim khoja,suni,siya etc
Not only that there is division as per labor
In INDIA due to invasion by muslims and british who purposefully twisted the division of labor into caste for their divide and rule policy the society has vulgar notions of caste
We are but one human race and division based on Hinduism Christianity etc is nothing but another form of caste system only. It is the same mentality and if you don’t understand it you are condemened with repeating same mistakes as so-called caste do

Posted by Mark | Report as abusive

I see this a little differently. Aren’t we discussing semantics here? The fact remains that whether it is race or caste, both are discriminating against individuals. It is no consolation to those discriminated against whether it be in the name of race or caste.

As Vipul mentions, our constitution is against any kind of discrimination on whatever grounds. The real problem, as I see it, is that this unfortunately remains only on paper. We may boast of a Dalit or woman President, Chief Minister, Prime Minister or whatever. The fact is these are merely cosmetic in nature. The roots of discrimination have not been attacked seriously enough or with enough force. Discrimination on grounds of caste, sex and even regional discrimination exist in our society to a large extent. The least we should do is discuss them openly and freely, we will be spreading more awareness.

I also don’t understand the government stand as to why this should not be discussed in international fora. We have not succeeded in tackling the problem, why not be upfront about it. By objecting to discussion, we are not solving anything or convincing anyone that the problem is being tackled or solved. Perhaps we may be able to convince others that the problem is not that easy to tackle but that we are still making some headway in our own way. Our present resistance seems to be ostrich like.

Posted by Dara | Report as abusive

Indians have discussed and they put in extensive remedial measures in place. Periodically the problems are thoroughly reviewed and necessary additional steps are legislated in a perennial manner.
On the other hand, independently this was already ‘discussed’ on “international “ fora and a very viable solution was ordered by the international bigwigs. The implementation of the latter translated into poaching and eliminating Hinduism altogether thru large scale and ruthless conversions.Thats what is already going on in India. I don’t know if you have thought of some other ‘serious enough’, ‘non cosmetic’ (radical) solutions for this problem. So instead of wasting time why dont you come up with your own proposals to the problem. Go on tell us, What are you sitting on?

Posted by Azad | Report as abusive


You say, “The international community should exert strongest possible pressure on the government of India to start (yes – to start!) solving the problem”.

– And, what pressure would that be Einstein? Democracies cannot force social engineering; they can be catalysts by creating policies and laws, which India already has. The govt of India runs the largest affirmative action program in the world and its laws ban discrimination based on caste or religion.

Social changes occur through civilian movements which are going on as I write.

Posted by Nikhil | Report as abusive


In the UN, any issue becomes political. The GOI should stay out of it. Technically, race and caste are not the same and the Europeans are the last to let us know the difference. In fact, it was the British who turned caste from a variegated phenomenon in to an official system during their stay on the sub-continent.

I admit that the discrimination in the lower eschelons of society exists in parts of north India. Social changes occur through civilian movements and not whether UN calls it out or not. Democracies cannot force social engineering; they can be catalysts by creating policies and laws, which India already has.

Posted by Nikhil | Report as abusive

Dara, Nikhil and Azad: Discussion at International platforms will not lead to any solutions but vested institutions will project it as a case for the need to convert to so-called “equal religion”—meaning, escaping the problem or exploitation. Solutions will have to come from within and the start is there, as the Indian constitution says. Dara, it is not cosmetic that a dalit is considered a probable future PM. For each such cases there are many who are at different phases of the progress.

Posted by rajeev | Report as abusive

Caste is not race… but neither is sexual orientation or religion.. We want to stand with those disenfranchised because of their sex and religion and don’t seem to bother with the technical classification of race etc… The issue here is that millions of people are discriminated against based on a “suspect classification”… that’s what we broadly term as racism.

Posted by rabin | Report as abusive

For those who believe that caste is central to Hinduism, should know that caste as given in scriptures is not based on birth.
It was based on the work that a person does. It was more of a class than anything else. But yes over the centuries the practise got formalised as the son(s) would often tend to carry forward their father’s legacy (occupation).
If you read Buddhist scriptures, even the buddhist sages were called Brahmans, this is to explain that one’s job (occupation) decided the varna (caste) he/she belonged to.

As far as the recent Sikh violence is concerned, it has nothing to do with caste. It is how Sikhism is viewed by two the sects. Giving it caste colors would be unfair to the religion which also propagates equality. Infact in India even Muslim community has caste lines though not formally defined but the practise is still there. So you have rajpuit muslims, gujjar muslims and so on.

Now, how to solve this issue? Well for one a lot of it depends on the new age gurus, mahants and shankaracharyas and political leaders, it is they who will have to sensitise the general public about equality.
In the urban areas the caste factor is almost non-existent. It is only in rural and semi-urban areas where this problem is still quite high. So apart from the religious and political heads taking the lead, the government should focus more on eductaion specially at the primary and secondary level. We may have IITs and IIMs but if the rural people do not have basic education then expecting them to be engineers and doctors is laughable.
As far as involving UN and other international agencies is concerned, it is useless since India by its laws and by-laws rejects caste system and discrimination on the basis of caste is punishable by law. It is the implementation which is lacking. So raising of such voices in the international forums will be more of a political gimmick by other nations to seek trade and other concessions from India.
No doubt that Indian Government should implement its existing laws more efficiently and focus on rural development and education. But taking it to international forums wouldn’t serve any purpose.

Posted by Aman | Report as abusive


First a small clarification. When I say ‘cosmetic’ changes I mean that getting a few Dalits or women into high profile portfolios, when the the real mass is still left relatively untouched is nothing to boast about. This is not to say there has been no success. But I think we are scratching the surface of the problem. For successive administrations, the mantra has been reservations and more reservations. In education, in employment, and even promotions and has at times probably led to dilution of standards. I am not aware of any other tools employed to solve the problem. This has been as divisive as it has been constructive.

More over, the whole policy seems disjointed. We are still adding caste and communities and inventing newer sub-divisions; scheduled caste, backward castes, other backward castes, most backwards etc etc. Surely after 60 years we should, at the very least, be clear who falls into which and how many categories there should be. The whole thing is degenerating into politics, one upmanship and political clout.

Well since you invited me to put my money where my mouth is, here goes. I do believe that we need to tackle the probable of caste and discrimination differently. For example, we have tended to focus too much on the negative aspects of the problem. No one seems to think about enhancing the very real positive aspect that the system has given us.The system has alsothrown up skilled and excellent tradesmen and craftsmen who have had the benefit of centuries of wisdom and experience behind them – weavers, silver smiths, iron mongers, tailors, carpenters, cobblers and a host of others. India needs all of them, and in plenty. We need to concentrate on giving people, who have been trained in their crafts by their own elders, a step up to improve their output and quality using modern technology and tools which they don’t have access to. What is really needed is a basic education followed by hundreds of professionally/trade oriented workshops and institutes in all these trades. Thereafter they need to be helped monetarily to possess modern tools relevant to their trade.I think it will give us a highly skilled workforce, which is lying unexploited and under utilised today because of lack of facilities, knowledge and resources. I honestly believe this will help people far more because we will be concentrating on their strengths, which have been passed on to them, and which no one has to spend energy and effort in training them in. We will in short be honing and fine tuning their skills to everyone’s advantage. Churning out graduates etc is not the final outcome if they are then left to fend for themselves. This way they can perhaps enter their chosen fields and become their own masters.

Sorry this becoming too long so I’ll cut it short here. Though I do have some more ideas on the subject. I hope I have been able to convey the outline of my thoughts. I also hope this meets with your standards of ‘non cosmetic’/ radical solutions which have not simply wasted your time.


Posted by Dara | Report as abusive


I see your point about discussions at international level. However, I also feel that rejecting the proposal out of hand seems like getting on the defensive. I am a firm believer that discussions, with like minded people, is the best way forward to most problems. The same should hold good for national problems also. We should be able to prove our actions are correct and also be seen as being open to suggestions. This does not imply that we will take any and all advice at face value but we will separate the wheat from the chaff and act according to our own national interests.

As to your views about the few who make it to the top also being indicative of the fact that there are others in the pipe line – point taken.

Without in any way detracting from the merits of your opinion, I think we have drastically underperformed in this area. That is my anguish, made worse by the fact that a lot of it is due to political brinkmanship, lack of will and treading the same old beaten path.


Posted by Dara | Report as abusive


I am pretty well aware of what constitutional/legal guarantees and policies re practices of untouchability India has. And you don’t have to tell me that the “govt of India runs the largest affirmative action program in the world”.

India – as a signatory to quite a number of international treatises – <> dia-hidden-apartheid-discrimination-agai nst-dalits

Any change since December 2007 when the Prime Minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh, compared untouchability to apartheid?

A lot of room for pressures from international community, and the highest time, too.


Warsaw, Poland

Posted by Konrad | Report as abusive


Here is link to an old article that raises some of the same issues and comes up with a solution similar to yours: 0604_harnesscaste.htm
This is a nine year old article on a millenia old problem.

Posted by vipul tripathi | Report as abusive

attack on vienna sikh temple were not because of caste discrimination thats another issue that followers are so called dalits. composition of bhagat RAVIDASS ji is given equal status as that of sikh gurus, so there is no question of discrimination. all sikhs have condemned vienna incident,its only individual act, whole sikh nation has nothing to do with it.attacks in vienna were highlighted but dera followers ( so called dalits) destroyed sikh properties, tried to torch sikh temples in punjab were not highlighted. this incident occured coz dera gurus shows disrespect to living guru of sikh SRI GURU GRANTH SAHIB. first these fake babas stob blasphemous act. i still donot approve, vienna like action by any member of any community.

Posted by guru ka singh | Report as abusive

Vipul, thank you for the link, very interesting. What I like most about the author, even though I disagree at times, is that he constantly proposes practical simple solutions.

It is also a co-incidence that he should discuss Panchayati Raj then and now have had his brother be the Minister looking after the very same ministry in the previous government.

Posted by Dara | Report as abusive

India does practise ”Hidden Aparthied”. Castesim practiced in India is even worse than aparthied and racial discrimination. The treatment meted out to dalits in many parts in India is deplorable. Its high time India (government as well as citizens) acknowledge this and take affirmative action and not push it under carpet.

Posted by satish | Report as abusive

The caste system in India has been around for over a thousand years, it is ingrained in their way of life from birth. It is a system in my opinion that will not be changed unless the majority of the people want it changed, even then it will take many, many years. There are over a Billion people in India, many are starving, face facts India is a poor country, the people are more concerned about feed themselves and their families. There is a political class that does not want to change the system, those are the ones who will have to initiate programs to change the system. All these goody, goody activists from the outside are going to do is aggravate the situation, they want immediate change, its not going to happen, it will be slow process, in time it will happen, its up to the people of India to want it.

Posted by Ron | Report as abusive


Under external pressures, the governments often come up with solutions in haste and, in return, people get more bureauracy and more politics. International forums are of little use to change lives of the people in societies. Such forums become political centers. The only things that come out are more announcements and more white papers. May be, it gives jobs to some people and reasons for them to periodically meet at fancy locations.

I doubt if there is enough scholarly work done on castes before labeling it as aparthied, let alone how to solve it at UNHR. Certain states in India have addressed the caste divisions better than others. And, the solutions are reached through civilian movements that began even before the UN came to existance. Is there a need to do more and scale up the solutions? Yes! But it has little to do what the UNHR calls it.

Posted by Nikhil | Report as abusive


Many good points you have raised including in the post to Azad and also the article cited by Vipul.
These all are good ideas. “Skilled work force” is the positive side among many often mentioned negatives of the caster system.

There is no dearth of ideas about what to do in this direction. But they are of academic value and the biggest limitation is implementation of the ideas. That will be true for all ideas/suggestions emerging from discussion at any level (including international). Why that is not happening and how to achieve that practically is important. One good thing is we are not going backwards (IMHO).

Also, reservations is good, but as I mentioned earlier, it is important to phase out reservation to those Dalits who have achieved the objective of reservations. That in many cases is one generation time if a Dalit becomes an IAS officer. Not doing this is hurting tremendously.

Conversions are happening exploiting “untouchability” and glorifying all the negatives. To me conversions (to christianity etc) and retaining Dalits status for job benifits is doing no good and is keeping the problem alive.

If this discussion gets to a bigger stage, I wish they take care of all this.

Posted by rajeev | Report as abusive

Caste is a real problem in India. It has been systamatically making lower caste people to lose thier confident and making them to feel that they are not equal to others. There may be few exceptions to this.

I have one point to hightlight here which has not been addressed. Indian democracy doesn’t have a way to fix caste system. Democratically elected Inidan leaders can only increase more grants, quota and other facilities to any caste or sect but they never able to reduce. This is because of vote bank politics.

Posted by Murugan | Report as abusive

No Caste in islam

There is no caste in Islam. Anyone can lead prayers and anyone can perform marriage. death. There is no priestly class.

Shias and Sunnis are sects, who differ based on political rather than religious view point and are not castes.

The Islamic Shariah make sit very clear that a person cannot be discriminated by race, color, sect, or wealth.

Caste system is native and inherent to Hinduism and a fact of life in India. From birth, naming a child, marriage, to death, life is driven by one’s caste. Period.

Posted by Atish | Report as abusive

I devoted one part of my book “The Bhagavad-gita in Black and White: From Mulatto Pride to Krishna Consciousness” (Backintyme Publishing) to a discussion of “Caste System vs. Varnashrama Dharma.” The perverted nature of India’s caste system notwithstanding, a study of Vedic Dharma is, I believe, essential to going beyond the oppressive race-consciousness that we find in the supposedly progressive West. Go to:


Posted by Charles Michael Byrd | Report as abusive


There is no problem for discussion at any platform. I do not think There are ideas sitting for someone to implement. Ideas emerging from any plateform–national or international–face the same problem, that is how to implement them. It is mainly the vote bank that keeps the problem from getting solved. I wish the UN was powerful enough to enforce the nations to move and that would take away any excuse of internal fear of the politicican that any bold moves might lose them votes.

Also, the point of caste based reservation is to help those who lagged. But why not the politicians of all parties arrive at the consensus on certain critical national issues. To repeat my earlier comments,one is to stop reservation for let us say a Dalit who is an IAS officer now. Continuing to provide reservations for the kids of such parents is ridiculous. It never allows them to come out of a stereotypical mindset.

Your point on using the “skill force” for their and India’s benifits is good one. One gets to see some of the skills at the handicraft MAILAS.

Posted by rajeev | Report as abusive

Dara writes
need to be helped monetarily to possess modern tools relevant to their trade……….
. As per your plan, we will have to force the Mittals to give up steel industry and let the suburban families make the steel/iron tools working from their ‘modern’ furnaces (installed by govt.). Force the mumbai textiles to shutdown and then provide ‘modern equipment’ to the weavers in small towns so that the cloth they make will be used to satisfy our domestic needs and even be exported? Provide cobblers enough tools and facilities that they will compete with Reebok and Nike? World has changed -Modernization and industrialization encouraged research and that in turn had fatally impacted family owned businesses globally. Dara apparently you lack clarity on the issue and worse, your suggested remedial measures sound that you are clueless
Nirmal paintings from Andhra, Poompuhar wood carvings from Tamil Nadu and sandalwood carvings from karnataka are a couple examples that come to my mind here. These successful businesses are largely family owned with a heavy governmental presence. Sure these ‘cottage’ industries proudly reflect the left overs of age old indian artistic skills catering to the needs of art lovers. In spite of millions of indian homes proudly displaying these works of art, the profits are moderate with all the generous government subsidies extended to them. These are the businesses the administration should uplift in all fairness.
Part 1 . cont see part 2

Posted by Azad | Report as abusive

I have been reading all the comments posted here (including the links). One of the suggestions is organising society on the basis of caste, the understanding being that a people from a particular caste are good at one type of job.
I personally don’t agree with this, this is like condemnign the son of a labrour to a labourers job.
In my opinion, it will be better that people understand that the varna system was not designed on the basis of heredity.
For example: in Brahmins, you will find Chaturvedis, Trivedis, Dwivedis, essentially this means people who have mastered the four vedas, three vedas and two vedas respectively. Now just because the father has finished 4 vedas does not automatically mean that the son has also done the same.
Going by this logic in todays world professors/teachers, priests, scientists, etc are Brahmins, the mitlitary, police and administrative people are Kshatriyas, the Bankers,accountats,businessmen and other people involved in services are Vaishyas and labourers as Shudras.
I know this will create classes rather than castes but this distribution is essential for the normal working of a society. You need labourers for doing manual work, you need bankers, police, professors, etc.
As the Swaminomics article said there is a lot of feeling of belonging to one particular community, there is also equal enimity between different communities. As long as they exist on the lines of birth, this enmity will exist and so will the discrimination. The dominant caste, whether in number or power(position/wealth) will keep on discriminiating between its own people and others.
If we go back to the basics (for which the present age gurus and leaders of Hindusim will have to take the charge) then we will be able to conquer this menace.
Ofcourse affirmative action helps but having it on caste lines as in the present day further divides the society accentuatingf the problem rather than solving it. Moreover, it generally helps the people whose earlier generations have already benefitted from it.
Affirmative action on the basis of social class rather than social caste should be implemented. That will go a long way in bringing people together.

Posted by Aman | Report as abusive


First of all my apologies for having misspelt your name in my previous comment.

Where we fail and the principle reason for most of our problems is lack of will in implementing, even the most basic of laws. As you point out it is a major disadvantage we face.

The need for those who have benefited from the policy of reservations and quotas to move on, as you point out, is pertinent. The defining of the creamy layer is, in my opinion, another act of selfishness by those who have gained from the system but are not willing to share. The criteria have been raised to such an extent that it enables those who have already gained, to continue to milk the system at the cost of those who actually need support.

Best to continue seeing the brighter side, for now. A lot of people have benefited and that is good news anyway. We could do better, but then that is applicable in all fields.


Posted by Dara | Report as abusive

At last, the backward classes have flexed their political muscle and that resulted in Yadavs, mayavatis, nitishs, and narendra modis becoming chief ministers. Meera Kumari becomes the Speaker and Prathiba becomes President (the list is very long believe me).Next, the other day, I heard over the TV the Principal running the vedic school in temple of Tirupathi, Andhra, spelling out the policy of admissions. Applicants aspiring to train to become Purohit, pujari etc. can be from any background, and, caste isn’t a barrier. In other words one can apply for an admission to the Vedic school just the way one can seek admission to a B.A course in any state run college. Can you believe it? Its true nevertheless.
On the other hand the SC (scheduled caste) communities in Andhra are demanding sub classification on the lines of BCs (backward classes). Madigas complain that Malas are taking away all the reserved places under SC class. (malas are somewhat smarter than madigas, I subsume).Malas are opposing such division and they want status quo to continue i.e. leave entire SC clumped as a single group. Clearly, things have changed as we all can see back in India. I was told, as early as in 1972, the Dalits who went to medical schools enjoyed free boarding and schooling. Social justice is firmly in place my fellow Indians. Poverty raises passions and result in anger and envy. Overall betterment of indian economy will bring in changes more rapidly and peacefully.
I propose compulsory presence of (part of) police force from backward communities at village level; also, all mandals must have backward community representations (I think its already the case). Some rural areas in North need special focus. Yap, Long way to go, as we all can see.
Finally, you can have the international community involved if you firmly believe (as your reply to Rajeev makes it amply clear) in it for a quick fix. I will be surprised if outsiders ever can come up with anything better. ( Part 2 of 2)

Posted by Azad | Report as abusive


I agree some of your points. Regarding your points I have some questions,


(1)What is “Hinduism”? Does Hinduism exist in India?

(2)According to you- ‘Caste is a Colonial Construction’, then what do you want to call groups/communities in the precolonial India?

Posted by shilpacslc | Report as abusive