After a whopping 60yrs of Independence, where do we stand with respect to caste ?
Fact is that caste refuses to go away.That admitted, people tend to argue the -evils of caste is disappearing, caste just lingers on around you like a harmless, colorless identity, like a black mole, -intercaste marriages are increasingly seen.
Change was inevitable, but its important to understand what and how changed. The greatest evil of caste-untouchability has been abolished with the adoption of constitution and made a cognizable offense five years later, with the Protection of Civil Rights Act-1955. Since then, spaces where agents of democracy (including the police) can stretch their limbs occasionally, casteism is considered synonymous to active discrimination. By active discrimination, I mean, to discriminate a person and let him know the basis of it( i.e caste). Insinuation of this definition of casteism which probably originated from the legal recourse on untouchability, has its own ramification. It allowed to flaunt caste without being termed casteist (I have recently been told, some students Mumbai University donned T-shirts with a message ” I am a Brahmin, thats not my fault”) , it allowed casteism without active discrimination (which is camouflaging your discrimination with a vicarious reason), it justified the occupation(or continuation of occupation) of public spaces such as governance/commerce/industry/education/leadership/media by the caste-hindus.In short it maintained the status-quo, which has all the evils of caste without its stench.
This newly acquired definition of casteim i.e of active discrimination, could not have ended discrimination by itself. It resulted in “closet casteists” and “innocent casteists”. The closet casteist could be understood from their counterparts closet gays or lesbians. They changed their casteist color like chameleon, divided their life in public place, where became what their profession expected them to be and private place, where they could be themselves. The innocent casteists are who tend to believe in the status-quo and are ready to take to the street if any alteration proposed. They are innocent cause they dont see much beyond their own self-interests. And because they speak against caste, are willing to marry intercaste if “suitable prospects”(sic) is found and so on. But they dont understand, the status-quo is a manifestation of casteim since it maintains the hegemony of a small number of people derived from a few and former caste-hindus. Innocent casteists, who think they are innocent, dont see the glaring discrepancy in caste composition at important positions and that of the demography of India, which the most direct and visible symptom of casteism/inequality so pervasive in India. And still the “radical casteist” of the pre-independence have not ceased to exist. They still guard their castes, the villages of india, their sacred places and themselves from the liberal democratic ethos and state interference with the same force they use to squelch the aspirations of the “other castes”.
This is the progress we have made.
We have managed to create fakers, who have contained “radical casteists” to their reservations and proliferated in urban spaces, we have been able to redefine casteism. Considering these, it is difficult to contend India has moved an inch towards annihilation of caste, formation of a casteless society. Some might see the three categories as three stages of de-casting a caste-prejudiced individual. Then fourth stage would be caste-hindus who understand and vocal against the ‘politics of status-quo”. The the wheel of Ashoka will start rolling. It is just that one can not have so many transformations in one life.