What is a Caste?
Caste can be defined as a hereditary, endogamous group having a common name, common traditional occupation, and common culture, relatively rigid in matters of mobility, the distinctiveness of status, and forming a single homogeneous community.
The four varna – Brahmana, Kshatriya, Vaishya, and Shudra are the classical four divisions of Hindu society.
Pic Credit – Wikimedia Commons
Features of the Caste System in India
Segmentary division of Society: Indian society is primarily divided into different castes. Caste membership is determined by birth and not by accomplishments.
Hierarchy: Castes have a specific scheme of social and ritual hierarchy. A sense of high and low, superiority and inferiority, is associated with this gradation or ranking.
Restrictions on feeding and social interaction: There are restrictions on the kind of food that can be eaten together, received, or exchanged among castes.
The ideology of purity and pollution: The ideology of purity and pollution regulates the interaction between different castes significantly.
Restrictions on Endogamy: Endogamy or marriage within one’s caste or sub-caste is an essential feature of the caste system.
Rules governing caste system: There is a prescribed set of norms, values, and sanctions that govern social behavior within a caste.
Restricted choice of occupation: Traditionally, each caste was associated with an occupation
Constitutional Provisions Deal with Caste System in India
- Article 14 – Equality before law
- Article 15 – Prohibition of discrimination on the grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, or place of birth.
- Article 16(2) – No citizen shall on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, descent, place of birth, residence, or any of them, be ineligible for any employment or office under the State.
- Article 17 – Abolish the practice of untouchability and make it a criminal offense.
- Article 23 – Prohibition of traffic in human beings and forced labor.
- Article 46 – Promotion of educational and economic interests of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and other weaker sections.
- Article 51A – It shall be the duty of every citizen of India to promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all the people of India.
- Article 330 – Reservation of seats for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in the House of the People
- Article 332 – Reservation of seats for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes in the Legislative Assemblies of the States.
- Article 338 – National Commission for the Scheduled Castes.
- Article 338 A – National Commission for the Scheduled Tribes.
- Article 338 B – National Commission for Backward Classes.
- Article 341 – The President specifies the castes, races or tribes or parts of or groups within castes, races, or tribes be deemed Scheduled C.
Legal Provisions to Counter Caste Discrimination
The Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955: To prescribe punishment for preaching and practice of untouchability for the enforcement of any disability arising therefrom and for matters connected therewith.
The Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989: To prevent the offenses of atrocities against the members of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes.
The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013: To provide for the prohibition of employment as manual scavengers, rehabilitation of manual scavengers and their families, and for matters connected therewith.