Western humanists may be aware of the pervasiveness of the caste system in India and the cursed life of exterior castes (former untouchables).
This social evil was never meant to be limited by regional boundaries. It spread across south asian peninsula and in the various religions that came in to contact with the hindus. Dr. B. R. Ambedkar had quoted another scholar Dr. Ketkar in his essay Castes in India saying,
Practically, it is an institution that portends tremendous consequences. It is a local problem, but one capable of much wider mischief, for “as long as caste in India does exist, Hindus will hardly intermarry or have any social intercourse with outsiders; and if Hindus migrate to other regions on earth, Indian caste would become a world problem.
The British parliament passed the Equality Act in the year 2010 to outlaw the racial discrimination faced by various social groups. However, its clause 9 (5) (a) was activated in June this year. It has been welcomed with jubilation by those of exterior caste descent; it has been claimed as being racist by a certain Alliance of Hindu Organisations. Let us have a look at the issue at hand piece by piece.
What forces people to migrate in conditions other than natural calamities? It is for an assured means of livelihood, safety, and hope for a better future. The exterior castes in India tend to move out of their country for a life with dignity. Here is the story of Balmukund Bharti a young medical sciences student who was harassed by upper caste Hindu students and professors in his college. He was bullied on a daily basis by his co-students; purposefully failed in the exams by his professors. Despite being one of the best students on the campus, he was not to be given an equal treatment but rather to be abused physically and mentally. He wanted to move out of India and start a career as a physician. However, he was forced to commit suicide. Balmukund Bharti is not the only person of exterior caste descent; many from this category want to move out of India and settle down, preferably in western countries.
However, the stigma cannot simply be wished away. Even being born in the UK did not really matter and victimization has continued.
The notion of caste exists as it is enforced by the Hindu religion. Hindus believe in caste because their religion tells them to do so. Other religions that came in touch with Hinduism and are currently living in close contact with Hindus in India are enjoined in following the caste system and replicating its structure. This includes Islam, Sikhism, and Christianity in India. In this structure, one caste is placed above other. An “ascending scale of reverence and a descending scale of contempt” is an essential part of the social psychology of Hindus (Writings and Speeches of B. R. Ambedkar Vol. 9 Page 410).
(To be continued.)