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India -Circa 1500Bc to 2006AD- Caste And Reservation

Caste, Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya, Sudra, Reservation,Education


The mosaic of Indian History has enough anthropological and scientific evidence to prove that our country is a melting pot of all ethnic groups. Physical anthropology reveals that India’s population comprises of different racial groups comprising of Negrito, Proto Australoid, Mongoloid, Mediterranean, Western Brachycephals comprising of Alpinoid, Dinaric, Armenoid and Nordics or Indo-Aryans.

While historians trace back human habitations in India to the Second Inter Glacial period –almost 400,000 years back – it is only after the Indus valley Civilization ( 3000B.C.) that the Subcontinent was open to different races.

. A majority of Historians agree that the bulk of immigrants to India occupied areas north of the Vindhyas, leaving South India predominantly to the Dravidians. The Vedic Civilisation brought by the racial groups of Nordic tribes around 1500 B.C. gave India the Caste System. Initially these Nordic tribes had no castes, but subsequently evolved themselves into classes comprising of the Aristocracy and Agriculturists becoming Kshatriyas, the Trading and Merchants Groups becoming Vaishyas. The Brahmins came much later; initially any one amongst their Tribes could officiate as a priest and conduct religious ceremonies. When the Indo Aryan tribes began to expand through conflict or guile the Conquered/ Occupied territories saw the expansion of the Caste System.

Pre Aryan settlers of our country were fitted into the caste created by the Indo Aryan occupiers. Powerful ethnic groups of the earlier settlers like Rajputs, Marathas, Reddys Maravars and Nayars where given near- Kshatriya status fearing backlash from these groups. Even some wise men from the conquered territories were allowed the status of priests or Brahmins; some communities were classified as Vaishyas. However, the vast majority was declared as shudras.

Knowledge of Hindu religious texts will also reveal that the gods worshipped by the Indo Aryans were also reorganised to accommodate the gods being worshipped by the powerful ethnic groups who were occupying the land prior to them just to avoid a backlash while they were expanding their territory. Hence it is to their credit that native Indian Gods (predominantly fertility gods) were amalgamated into the Pantheon of Vedic Gods. It is after this amalgamation of Gods and clear demarcation of their roles that Hinduism evolved as the main religion of India. Religious texts written before and after this amalgamation of gods bear testimony to the unique adaptability of the religion. Add to the Hindu gods, the gods of some of the Tribal Groups who refused to be absorbed into the Hindu fold and opted to live in remote and inaccessible hill terrain (however, most of these tribal religions merged with the Hindu religion subsequently even while worshipping their own deities in addition to mainstream Hindu Gods) and the gods of subsequent invaders like the Greeks, Scythians, Parthians, Shakas, Kushans, Huns, Europeans, Moguls, refugees like the Parsis and Traders like the Jews and the kaleidoscope of religions reveals an intricate pattern unique to our Nation.

Ironically, the numerical strength of the Hindu Community with its now compartmentalized Varna system of Priestly Brahmins, Aristocratic Kshatriyas, Trader Vaishyas and the lowly Sudra spread its tentacles to most of the other religions also and most of the members of these religions were considered as equivalent to lowly Sudras only. Resentment to the Varna system led to the formation of classless religion by enlightened Hindu men like Gautama Buddha and Mahavira but the expansion of these religions within India was limited.

For centuries the Varna system was nurtured and accident of birth became the only criterion to achieve status within the Hindu society. It was natural that when India became a Sovereign ‘Democratic’ republic and adopted a parliamentary system of Governance akin to Britain, the death knell of the Caste system was sounded. ‘One person, One vote’ led to the Varna system turning topsy turvy. The so-called majority sudra- or the original native Indian- became the Brahmin of Indian Polity. Normally when the oppressed gets the upper hand, for a brief period high- handedness prevails to wipe out the stigma of the ingrained inferiority complex. Fortunately for India, there was not much of a backlash due to this trading of power- even to the extent of allowing the upper caste to continue to rule for sometime longer. However thanks to the erudite sudra -as called by the earlier Indo Aryans- politicians they opted for the more pragmatic path of trying to uplift the downtrodden masses by bringing in the policy of reservations and quotas rather than trying to suppress the upper castes. Many state Governments opted for reservation quotas in education and jobs and the progress of the deprived classes who were since called OBC’s(Other backward classes), SC’s(Scheduled Castes) and ST’s( Scheduled Tribes) have been remarkable, particularly in the southern states.

The present reservation issue for Medical seats in Central Government colleges is an extension of the ongoing process adopted by the states. The protagonists of the Reservation System based on caste cite that till sufficient number of persons from OBC’s SC’s(Scheduled Castes) and ST’s( Scheduled Tribes) become professionals in areas like Medicine, Engineering, Corporate Governance, Law, Journalism etc; and join the main stream the end to the oppressive caste system perpetuated for centuries will never occur. The protests against reservation are from mainly the upper castes that find reservations an anathema and cite erosion of ‘merit’ being the end result of reservation.

The answer to the question raised by the protestors of reservation need necessarily to be answered in a civil society like ours. The answer lies in the definition of merit and is merit so defined the most important parameter to the quality of service that is going to be rendered by the person once he acquires the coveted title of a Doctor, Engineer, Journalist, Lawyer, Charted Accountant, etc.? Lets define ‘Merit’- in the present Indian concept of education it is (1) ‘the ability to score the maximum marks in a subject by learning, comprehending and reproducing the same when Examined’ and (2) in the absolute terms of commercialisation it is the “ Survival of the fittest”. In the first instance the test of the ability has to be done on a level playing field by way of the basic environment provided for education of the child. Privileged children with access to good schools and supplementary help by way of special classes should not be compared to children living in slums and trying to learn all by themselves under a street light. In the second instance the concept of “survival of the fittest’ lays emphasis on the extant ability of the student-Intelligence or Capitation – achieving the objective of getting the degree is what matters. That is the reason for the proliferation of Capitation Colleges.

The answer to the first issue of providing a level playing field begins by providing the disadvantaged child a little head start to compensate for the advantage the more privileged child has. The handicap the disadvantaged child (read OBC, SC, ST) suffers is overcome by providing a seat in a Medical or Engineering course even when he has marginally lesser marks (which defines the handicap) over the privileged child (read Upper Caste Child). The claim by some that reservation should be restricted to the under- privileged child to compensate for the environment he is growing people does merit attention.

The mantle of the “Survival of The fittest” in fact does not fall on the student but has fallen on an entire group of communities- the OBC’s(Other backward classes), SC’s(Scheduled Castes)and ST’s( Scheduled Tribes) -due to the electoral process of our country. This group is the largest group in the country and they are the ones who choose the political party that they feel should govern the country. Can their voices be ignored? If they deem it their right to have a quota for their wards in Medical colleges – so be it.

Hence, the provision of a Quota for OBC’s(Other backward classes), SC’s and ST’s cannot be wished away and is bound to stay ‘like it or not’.

Published: 2006-07-06
Author: Balu

About the author or the publisher
I am a qualified Electronics Engineer and a freelance writer.I write articles and books spanning Technology, Management and Sociology.

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