Solving the Caste Problem

Caste in its current form is a horrible, irrelevant, inhuman and highly condemnable social custom. It is not only among Hindus in India. It is also in Christianity and to an extent in Islam in India. I am not sure about Jainism and Sikhism. It has to go. Several Hindu leaders have fought against it for several centuries, even during the time of Ramanuja, Basavanna, etc. It is held on to and propagated by people with selfish interests like power, money, etc. It just has to go. If caste has to go, all forms of reservations and special privileges have to go too. Things cannot change suddenly. As a first step, reservations should be limited to only BPL people and first generation. Then it will go in a few years. No politician has the guts to take this first step. That is the problem. Another problem is fights between OBC castes and between OBC and SC. Swami Vivekananda proposed a gradual merger of similar castes and finally eliminate it. We can consider caste as gone only when there is free intermarriage and absence of privilege – social and governmental. If we start working seriously now, it might take at least 50 to 100 years to reach there.

Another problem is linking social status with economic status, which is artificial. Caste discrimination is based on social status. Reservation if given in fields for economic development. Lower social status does not always mean lower economic status. Elevation of economic status does not automatically result in elevation of social status. Most of the caste based social unrest today because of trying an economic solution to a social issue.

In my opinion, the right solution will be to elevate the socially backward classes socially – by refining their customs, practices, rituals, festivals, etc. Teaching arts like classical music, classical dance, scriptural chanting, Tanjore/Mysore painting, etc, Teaching to celebrate festivals, follow daily rituals, etc. – these are the ways to elevate socially. When this is done, automatically caste differences will vanish and intermarriage also will happen. This is the time-tested method followed by Ramanuja, Basavanna, etc. This is exactly happens when they convert to a different religion – they are taught new culture, rituals, festivals, scriptures, diet, clothing, etc. They can as well get the social elevation within the Hindu fold itself by being taught the customs and practices of the higher castes. The change will be smoother and easier also. Taking this up in a big way is the right way to remove caste based discrimination.

None of the modern Hindu organizations like Ramakrishna Mission, Chinmaya Mission, Art of Living, Amritanandamayi Math, Melmaruvathur Temple, etc. have any caste discrimination within. But these have not sufficiently reached the common man. They still are very limited in spread. Even traditional temples do not discriminate. But the problem is that it has not yet hit the core, which is inter-caste marriage. That is the real test.

Many of these organizations already have certain customs, rituals and value systems within their groups. To start with, the heads of these organizations can propose to their followers to marry within their groups across caste boundaries. That will be a good beginning. But most of the Hindu organizations keep away from the social lives of people. They only focus on personal spiritual development. If the heads of these modern spiritual organizations individually or together, encourage this, it will make a big difference.

An enlightening read would be the lecture Future of India by Swami Vivekananda. You can read it online at
http://ramakrishnavivekananda.info/vivekananda/volume_3/lectures_from_colombo_to_almora/the_future_of_india.htm

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