Caste

Caste is a form of social stratification characterized by endogamy, hereditary transmission of a lifestyle which often includes an occupation, status in a hierarchy, customary social interaction, and exclusion.[1][2] It is an extreme evolution of a system of legally-entrenched social classes, also endogamous and hereditary, such as that of feudal Europe. Although caste systems exist in various regions, its paradigmatic ethnographic example is the division of Indian society into rigid social groups, with roots in India's ancient history and persisting until today;[3] it is sometimes used as an analogical basis for the study of caste-like social divisions existing outside India. In biology, the term is applied to role stratification in eusocial animals like ants and termites, though the analogy is imperfect as these also involve extremely stratified reproduction.[4]

Basor Dalit caste
The Basor weaving bamboo baskets in a 1916 book. The Basor are a Scheduled Caste found in the state of Uttar Pradesh in India.

Etymology

The origins of the term 'caste' are attributed to the Spanish and Portuguese casta, which, according to the John Minsheu's Spanish dictionary (1599), means "race, lineage, or breed".[5] When the Spanish colonized the New World, they used the word to mean a "clan or lineage". It was, however, the Portuguese who first employed casta in the primary modern sense of the English word ‘caste’ when they applied it to the thousands of endogamous, hereditary Indian social groups they encountered upon their arrival in India in 1498[5][6], as a direct extension of the concept of ‘casta’ in contemporary Portugal. The use of the spelling "caste", with this latter meaning, is first attested in English in 1613.[5]

South Asia

India

Modern India's caste system is based on the artificial superimposition of a four-fold theoretical classification called the Varna on the natural social groupings called the Jāti. The system of Varnas propounded in ancient Hindu texts envisages the society divided into four classes: Brahmins (scholars and yajna priests), Kshatriyas (rulers and warriors), Vaishyas (farmers, merchants and artisans) and Shudras (laborers/service providers). The texts do not mention any separate, untouchable category in Varna classification. Scholars believe that the Varnas system was never truly operational in society and there is no evidence of it being a reality in Indian history. The practical division of the society had always been in terms of Jātis (birth groups), which are not based on any specific principle, but could vary from ethnic origins to occupations to geographic areas. The Jātis have been endogamous groups without any fixed hierarchy but subject to vague notions of rank articulated over time based on lifestyle and social, political or economic status. Many of India's major empires and dynasties like the Mauryas[7] , Shalivahanas[8],Chalukyas[9],Kakatiyas[10] among many others, were founded by people who would have been classified as Shudras, under the Varnas system. It is well established that by the 9th century, kings from all the four castes, including Brahmins and Vaishyas, had occupied the highest seat in the monarchical system in Hindu India, contrary to the Varna theory. [11] In many instances, as in Bengal, historically the kings and rulers had been called upon, when required, to mediate on the ranks of Jātis, which might number in thousands all over the subcontinent and vary by region. In practice, the jātis may or may not fit into the Varna classes and many prominent Jatis, for example the Jats and Yadavs, straddled two Varnas i.e. Kshatriyas and Vaishyas, and the Varna status of Jātis itself was subject to articulation over time.

Starting with the British colonial Census of 1901 led by Herbert Hope Risley, all the jātis were grouped under the theoretical varnas categories.[12] According to political scientist Lloyd Rudolph, Risley believed that varna, however ancient, could be applied to all the modern castes found in India, and "[he] meant to identify and place several hundred million Indians within it."[13] In an effort to arrange various castes in order of precedence functional grouping was based less on the occupation that prevailed in each case in the present day than on that which was traditional with it, or which gave rise to its differentiation from the rest of the community. "This action virtually removed Indians from the progress of history and condemned them to an unchanging position and place in time. In one sense, it is rather ironic that the British, who continually accused the Indian people of having a static society, should then impose a construct that denied progress"[14] The terms varna (conceptual classification based on occupation) and jāti (groups) are two distinct concepts: while varna is the idealised four-part division envisaged by the Twice-Borns, jāti (community) refers to the thousands of actual endogamous groups prevalent across the subcontinent. The classical authors scarcely speak of anything other than the varnas, as it provided a convenient shorthand; but a problem arises when even Indologists sometimes confuse the two.[15]

Upon independence from Britain, the Indian Constitution listed 1,108 castes across the country as Scheduled Castes in 1950, for positive discrimination.[16] The Untouchable communities are sometimes called Scheduled Castes, Dalit or Harijan in contemporary literature.[17] In 2001, Dalits were 16.2% of India's population.[18] Most of the 15 million bonded child workers are from the lowest castes.[19][20]

Independent India has witnessed caste-related violence. In 2005, government recorded approximately 110,000 cases of reported violent acts, including rape and murder, against Dalits.[21] For 2012, the government recorded 651 murders, 3,855 injuries, 1,576 rapes, 490 kidnappings, and 214 cases of arson.[22]

The socio-economic limitations of the caste system are reduced due to urbanization and affirmative action. Nevertheless, the caste system still exists in endogamy and patrimony, and thrives in the politics of democracy, where caste provides ready made constituencies to politicians. The globalization and economic opportunities from foreign businesses has influenced the growth of India's middle-class population. Some members of the Chhattisgarh Potter Caste Community (CPCC) are middle-class urban professionals and no longer potters unlike the remaining majority of traditional rural potter members. The co-existence of the middle-class and traditional members in the CPCC has created intersectionality between caste and class.[23] There is persistence of caste in Indian politics. Caste associations have evolved into caste-based political parties. Political parties and the state perceive caste as an important factor for mobilization of people and policy development.[24]

Studies by Bhatt and Beteille have shown changes in status, openness, mobility in the social aspects of Indian society. As a result of the modern social pressures on the country, India is experiencing a change in their social sphere dynamic as well as economically in the caste system. [25] While arranged marriages are still the most common practice in India, the internet has provided a network for younger Indians to take control of their relationships through the use of dating apps. This remains isolated to informal terms, as marriage is not often achieved through the use of these apps.[26] Hypergamy is still a common practice in India and Hindu culture. Men are expected to marry within their caste, or one below, with no social repercussions. If a woman marries into a higher caste, then her children will take the status of their father. If she marries down, her family is reduced to the social status of their son in law. In this case, the women are bearers of the egalitarian principle of the marriage. There would be no benefit in marrying a higher caste if the terms of the marriage did not imply equality [27]. However, men are systematically shielded from the negative implications of the agreement.

Geographical factors also determine adherence to the caste system. Many Northern villages are more likely to participate in exogamous marriage, due to a lack of eligible suitors within the same caste. Women in North India have been found to be less likely to leave or divorce their husbands since they are of a relatively lower caste system, and have higher restrictions on their freedoms. On the other hand, Pahari women, of the northern mountains, have much more freedom to leave their husbands without stigma. This often leads to better husbandry as his actions are not protected by social expectations.[28]

Chiefly among the factors influencing the rise of exogamy is the rapid urbanisation in India experienced over the last century. It is well known that urban centers tend to be less reliant on tradition and are more progressive as a whole. As India’s cities boomed in population, the job market grew to keep pace. Prosperity and stability were now more easily attained by an individual, and the anxiety to marry quickly and effectively was reduced as traditional marriage was viewed as a means to attain these principles. Thus, younger, more progressive generations of urban Indians are less likely than ever to participate in the antiquated system of arranged endogamy.

India has also experimented with Affirmative Action, locally known as “reservation groups”. Quota system jobs, as well as placements in publicly funded colleges, hold spots for the 8% of India’s minority, and underprivileged groups. As a result, in states such as Tamil Nadu or those in the north-east, where underprivileged populations predominate, over 80% of government jobs are set aside in quotas. In education, colleges lower the marks necessary for the Dalits to enter. [29]

Seventy-two Specimens of Castes in India (62)
A page from the manuscript Seventy-two Specimens of Castes in India, which consists of 72 full-color hand-painted images of men and women of various religions, occupations and ethnic groups found in Madura, India in 1837, which confirms the popular perception and nature of caste as Jati, before the British made it applicable only to Hindus grouped under the varna categories from the 1901 census onwards.

Nepal

The Nepalese caste system resembles that of the Indian jāti system with numerous jāti divisions with a varna system superimposed for a rough equivalence. But since the culture and the society is different some of the things are different. Inscriptions attest the beginnings of a caste system during the Licchavi period. Jayasthiti Malla (1382–1395) categorized Newars into 64 castes (Gellner 2001). A similar exercise was made during the reign of Mahindra Malla (1506–1575). The Hindu social code was later set up in Gorkha by Ram Shah (1603–1636).

Pakistan

McKim Marriott claims a social stratification that is hierarchical, closed, endogamous and hereditary is widely prevalent, particularly in western parts of Pakistan. Frederik Barth in his review of this system of social stratification in Pakistan suggested that these are castes.[30][31][32]

Sri Lanka

The caste system in Sri Lanka is a division of society into strata,[33] influenced by the textbook varnas and jāti system found in India. Ancient Sri Lankan texts such as the Pujavaliya, Sadharmaratnavaliya and Yogaratnakaraya and inscriptional evidence show that the above hierarchy prevailed throughout the feudal period. The repetition of the same caste hierarchy even as recently as the 18th century, in the British/Kandyan period Kadayimpoth – Boundary books as well, indicates the continuation of the tradition right up to the end of Sri Lanka's monarchy.

Southeast Asia

COLLECTIE TROPENMUSEUM Een soedra een man uit de laagste kaste van Bali. TMnr 60002169
A Sudra caste man from Bali. Photo from 1870, courtesy of Tropenmuseum, Netherlands.

Indonesia

Balinese caste structure has been described in early 20th-century European literature to be based on three categories – triwangsa (thrice born) or the nobility, dwijāti (twice born) in contrast to ekajāti (once born) the low folks. Four statuses were identified in these sociological studies, spelled a bit differently from the caste categories for India:[34]

The Brahmana caste was further subdivided by these Dutch ethnographers into two: Siwa and Buda. The Siwa caste was subdivided into five: Kemenuh, Keniten, Mas, Manuba and Petapan. This classification was to accommodate the observed marriage between higher-caste Brahmana men with lower-caste women. The other castes were similarly further sub-classified by these 19th-century and early-20th-century ethnographers based on numerous criteria ranging from profession, endogamy or exogamy or polygamy, and a host of other factors in a manner similar to castas in Spanish colonies such as Mexico, and caste system studies in British colonies such as India.[34]

Philippines

Naturales 3
A Tagalog royal couple (maginoo), from the Boxer Codex (c. 1590)

In the Philippines, pre-colonial societies do not have a single social structure. The class structures can be roughly categorized into four types:[35]

  • Classless societies - egalitarian societies with no class structure. Examples include the Mangyan and the Kalanguya peoples.[35]
  • Warrior societies - societies where a distinct warrior class exists, and whose membership depends on martial prowess. Examples include the Mandaya, Bagobo, Tagakaulo, and B'laan peoples who had warriors called the bagani or magani. Similarly, in the Cordillera highlands of Luzon, the Isneg and Kalinga peoples refer to their warriors as mengal or maingal. This society is typical for head-hunting ethnic groups or ethnic groups which had seasonal raids (mangayaw) into enemy territory.[35]
  • Petty plutocracies - societies which have a wealthy class based on property and the hosting of periodic prestige feasts. In some groups, it was an actual caste whose members had specialized leadership roles, married only within the same caste, and wore specialized clothing. These include the kadangyan of the Ifugao, Bontoc, and Kankanaey peoples, as well as the baknang of the Ibaloi people. In others, though wealth may give one prestige and leadership qualifications, it was not a caste per se.[35]
  • Principalities - societies with an actual ruling class and caste systems determined by birthright. Most of these societies are either Indianized or Islamized to a degree. They include the larger coastal ethnic groups like the Tagalog, Kapampangan, Visayan, and Moro societies. Most of them were usually divided into four to five caste systems with different names under different ethnic groups that roughly correspond to each other. The system was more or less feudalistic, with the datu ultimately having control of all the lands of the community. The land is subdivided among the enfranchised classes, the sakop or sa-op (vassals, lit. "those under the power of another"). The castes were hereditary, though they were not rigid. They were more accurately a reflection of the interpersonal political relationships, a person is always the follower of another. People can move up the caste system by marriage, by wealth, or by doing something extraordinary; and conversely they can be demoted, usually as criminal punishment or as a result of debt. Shamans are the exception, as they are either volunteers, chosen by the ranking shamans, or born into the role by innate propensity for it. They are enumerated below from the highest rank to the lowest:[35][36][37]
  • Royalty - (Visayan: kadatoan) the datu and immediate descendants. They are often further categorized according to purity of lineage. The power of the datu is dependent on the willingness of their followers to render him respect and obedience. Most roles of the datu were judicial and military. In case of an unfit datu, support may be withdrawn by his followers. Datu were almost always male, though in some ethnic groups like the Banwaon people, the female shaman (babaiyon) co-rules as the female counterpart of the datu.
  • Nobility - (Visayan: tumao; Tagalog: maginoo; Kapampangan ginu; Tausug: bangsa mataas) the ruling class, either inclusive of or exclusive of the royal family. Most are descendants of the royal line or gained their status through wealth or bravery in battle. They owned lands and subjects, from whom they collected taxes.
  • Shamans - (Visayan: babaylan; Tagalog: katalonan) the spirit mediums, usually female or feminized men. While they weren't technically a caste, they commanded the same respect and status as nobility.
  • Warriors - (Visayan: timawa; Tagalog: maharlika) the martial class. They could own land and subjects like the higher ranks, but were required to fight for the datu in times of war. In some Filipino ethnic groups, they were often tattooed extensively to record feats in battle and as protection against harm. They were sometimes further subdivided into different classes, depending on their relationship with the datu. They traditionally went on seasonal raids on enemy settlements.
  • Commoners and slaves - (Visayan, Maguindanao: ulipon; Tagalog: alipin; Tausug: kiapangdilihan; Maranao: kakatamokan) - the lowest class composed of the rest of the community who were not part of the enfranchised classes. They were further subdivided into the commoner class who had their own houses, the servants who lived in the houses of others, and the slaves who were usually captives from raids, criminals, or debtors. Most members of this class were equivalent to the European serf class, who paid taxes and can be conscripted to communal tasks, but were more or less free to do as they please.

East Asia

China and Mongolia

During the period of Yuan Dynasty, ruler Kublai Khan enforced a Four Class System, which was a legal caste system. The order of four classes of people was maintained by the information of the descending order were:-

Today, the Hukou system is considered by various sources as the current caste system of China.[38][39][40]

There is also significant controversy over the social classes of Tibet, especially with regards to the serfdom in Tibet controversy.

Japan

Samurai and servant
Japanese samurai of importance and servant.

In Japan's history, social strata based on inherited position rather than personal merit, were rigid and highly formalized in a system called mibunsei (身分制). At the top were the Emperor and Court nobles (kuge), together with the Shōgun and daimyō. Below them, the population was divided into four classes: samurai, peasants, craftsmen and merchants. Only samurai were allowed to bear arms. A samurai had a right to kill any peasants, craftsman or merchant who he felt were disrespectful. Merchants were the lowest caste because they did not produce any products. The castes were further sub-divided; for example, peasants were labelled as furiuri, tanagari, mizunomi-byakusho among others. As in Europe, the castes and sub-classes were of the same race, religion and culture.

Howell, in his review of Japanese society notes that if a Western power had colonized Japan in the 19th century, they would have discovered and imposed a rigid four-caste hierarchy in Japan.[41]

De Vos and Wagatsuma observe that Japanese society had a systematic and extensive caste system. They discuss how alleged caste impurity and alleged racial inferiority, concepts often assumed to be different, are superficial terms, and are due to identical inner psychological processes, which expressed themselves in Japan and elsewhere.[42]

Endogamy was common because marriage across caste lines was socially unacceptable.[42][43]

Japan had its own untouchable caste, shunned and ostracized, historically referred to by the insulting term Eta, now called Burakumin. While modern law has officially abolished the class hierarchy, there are reports of discrimination against the Buraku or Burakumin underclasses.[44] The Burakumin are regarded as "ostracised".[45] The burakumin are one of the main minority groups in Japan, along with the Ainu of Hokkaidō and those of residents of Korean and Chinese descent.

Korea

Korean caste system
Class Hangul Hanja Meaning
Yangban 양반 兩班 aristocrats
Jung-in 중인 中人 middle people
Sangmin 상민 常民 commoners
Cheonmin 천민 賤民 vulgar commoners
 • Baekjeong 백정 白丁 untouchables
 • Nobi 노비 奴婢 slaves or serfs
VT
Korea-History-Goban Game in Seoul Korea 1904 (LOC)
A typical Yangban family scene from 1904. The Yoon family had an enduring presence in Korean politics from the 1800s until the 1970s.

The baekjeong (백정) were an "untouchable" outcaste of Korea. The meaning today is that of butcher. It originates in the Khitan invasion of Korea in the 11th century. The defeated Khitans who surrendered were settled in isolated communities throughout Goryeo to forestall rebellion. They were valued for their skills in hunting, herding, butchering, and making of leather, common skill sets among nomads. Over time, their ethnic origin was forgotten, and they formed the bottom layer of Korean society.

In 1392, with the foundation of the Confucian Joseon dynasty, Korea systemised its own native class system. At the top were the two official classes, the Yangban, which literally means "two classes". It was composed of scholars (munban) and warriors (muban). Scholars had a significant social advantage over the warriors. Below were the jung-in (중인-中人: literally "middle people". This was a small class of specialized professions such as medicine, accounting, translators, regional bureaucrats, etc. Below that were the sangmin (상민-常民: literally 'commoner'), farmers working their own fields. Korea also had a serf population known as the nobi. The nobi population could fluctuate up to about one third of the population, but on average the nobi made up about 10% of the total population.[46] In 1801, the vast majority of government nobi were emancipated,[47] and by 1858 the nobi population stood at about 1.5% of the total population of Korea.[48] The hereditary nobi system was officially abolished around 1886–87 and the rest of the nobi system was abolished with the Gabo Reform of 1894,[48] but traces remained until 1930.

The opening of Korea to foreign Christian missionary activity in the late 19th century saw some improvement in the status of the baekjeong. However, everyone was not equal under the Christian congregation, and even so protests erupted when missionaries tried to integrate baekjeong into worship, with non-baekjeong finding this attempt insensitive to traditional notions of hierarchical advantage. Around the same time, the baekjeong began to resist open social discrimination.[49] They focused on social and economic injustices affecting them, hoping to create an egalitarian Korean society. Their efforts included attacking social discrimination by upper class, authorities, and "commoners", and the use of degrading language against children in public schools.[50]

With the Gabo reform of 1896, the class system of Korea was officially abolished. Following the collapse of the Gabo government, the new cabinet, which became the Gwangmu government after the establishment of the Korean Empire, introduced systematic measures for abolishing the traditional class system. One measure was the new household registration system, reflecting the goals of formal social equality, which was implemented by the loyalists' cabinet. Whereas the old registration system signified household members according to their hierarchical social status, the new system called for an occupation.[51]

While most Koreans by then had surnames and even bongwan, although still substantial number of cheonmin, mostly consisted of serfs and slaves, and untouchables did not. According to the new system, they were then required to fill in the blanks for surname in order to be registered as constituting separate households. Instead of creating their own family name, some cheonmins appropriated their masters' surname, while others simply took the most common surname and its bongwan in the local area. Along with this example, activists within and outside the Korean government had based their visions of a new relationship between the government and people through the concept of citizenship, employing the term inmin ("people") and later, kungmin ("citizen").[51]

North Korea

The Committee for Human Rights in North Korea reported that "Every North Korean citizen is assigned a heredity-based class and socio-political rank over which the individual exercises no control but which determines all aspects of his or her life."[52] Regarded as Songbun, Barbara Demick describes this "class structure" as an updating of the hereditary "caste system", combining Confucianism and Stalinism.[53] She claims that a bad family background is called "tainted blood", and that by law this "tainted blood" lasts for three generations.[54]

Tibet

Heidi Fjeld has put forth the argument that pre-1950s Tibetan society was functionally a caste system, in contrast to previous scholars who defined the Tibetan social class system as similar to European feudal serfdom, as well as non-scholarly western accounts which seek to romanticize a supposedly 'egalitarian' ancient Tibetan society.

Middle East

Yezidi society is hierarchical. The secular leader is a hereditary emir or prince, whereas a chief sheikh heads the religious hierarchy. The Yazidi are strictly endogamous; members of the three Yazidi castes, the murids, sheikhs and pirs, marry only within their group.

Iran

Pre-Islamic Sassanid society was immensely complex, with separate systems of social organization governing numerous different groups within the empire.[55] Historians believe society comprised four[56][57][58] social classes:

  1. priests (Persian: Asravan‎)
  2. warriors (Persian: Arteshtaran‎)
  3. secretaries (Persian: Dabiran‎)
  4. commoners (Persian: Vastryoshan‎)

Yemen

In Yemen there exists a hereditary caste, the African-descended Al-Akhdam who are kept as perennial manual workers. Estimates put their number at over 3.5 million residents who are discriminated, out of a total Yemeni population of around 22 million.[59]

Africa

Various sociologists have reported caste systems in Africa.[60][61][62] The specifics of the caste systems have varied in ethnically and culturally diverse Africa, however the following features are common – it has been a closed system of social stratification, the social status is inherited, the castes are hierarchical, certain castes are shunned while others are merely endogamous and exclusionary.[63] In some cases, concepts of purity and impurity by birth have been prevalent in Africa. In other cases, such as the Nupe of Nigeria, the Beni Amer of East Africa, and the Tira of Sudan, the exclusionary principle has been driven by evolving social factors.[64]

West Africa

GriotFête
A Griot, who have been described as an endogamous caste of West Africa who specialize in oral story telling and culture preservation. They have been also referred to as the bard caste.

Among the Igbo of Nigeria – especially Enugu, Anambra, Imo, Abia, Ebonyi, Edo and Delta states of the country – Obinna finds Osu caste system has been and continues to be a major social issue. The Osu caste is determined by one's birth into a particular family irrespective of the religion practised by the individual. Once born into Osu caste, this Nigerian person is an outcast, shunned and ostracized, with limited opportunities or acceptance, regardless of his or her ability or merit. Obinna discusses how this caste system-related identity and power is deployed within government, Church and indigenous communities.[60]

The osu class systems of eastern Nigeria and southern Cameroon are derived from indigenous religious beliefs and discriminate against the "Osus" people as "owned by deities" and outcasts.

The Songhai economy was based on a caste system. The most common were metalworkers, fishermen, and carpenters. Lower caste participants consisted of mostly non-farm working immigrants, who at times were provided special privileges and held high positions in society. At the top were noblemen and direct descendants of the original Songhai people, followed by freemen and traders.[65]

In a review of social stratification systems in Africa, Richter reports that the term caste has been used by French and American scholars to many groups of West African artisans. These groups have been described as inferior, deprived of all political power, have a specific occupation, are hereditary and sometimes despised by others. Richter illustrates caste system in Ivory Coast, with six sub-caste categories. Unlike other parts of the world, mobility is sometimes possible within sub-castes, but not across caste lines. Farmers and artisans have been, claims Richter, distinct castes. Certain sub-castes are shunned more than others. For example, exogamy is rare for women born into families of woodcarvers.[66]

Similarly, the Mandé societies in Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Senegal and Sierra Leone have social stratification systems that divide society by ethnic ties. The Mande class system regards the jonow slaves as inferior. Similarly, the Wolof in Senegal is divided into three main groups, the geer (freeborn/nobles), jaam (slaves and slave descendants) and the underclass neeno. In various parts of West Africa, Fulani societies also have class divisions. Other castes include Griots, Forgerons, and Cordonniers.

Tamari has described endogamous castes of over fifteen West African peoples, including the Tukulor, Songhay, Dogon, Senufo, Minianka, Moors, Manding, Soninke, Wolof, Serer, Fulani, and Tuareg. Castes appeared among the Malinke people no later than 14th century, and was present among the Wolof and Soninke, as well as some Songhay and Fulani populations, no later than 16th century. Tamari claims that wars, such as the Sosso-Malinke war described in the Sunjata epic, led to the formation of blacksmith and bard castes among the people that ultimately became the Mali empire.

As West Africa evolved over time, sub-castes emerged that acquired secondary specializations or changed occupations. Endogamy was prevalent within a caste or among a limited number of castes, yet castes did not form demographic isolates according to Tamari. Social status according to caste was inherited by off-springs automatically; but this inheritance was paternal. That is, children of higher caste men and lower caste or slave concubines would have the caste status of the father.[62]

Central Africa

Ethel M. Albert in 1960 claimed that the societies in Central Africa were caste-like social stratification systems.[67] Similarly, in 1961, Maquet notes that the society in Rwanda and Burundi can be best described as castes.[68] The Tutsi, noted Maquet, considered themselves as superior, with the more numerous Hutu and the least numerous Twa regarded, by birth, as respectively, second and third in the hierarchy of Rwandese society. These groups were largely endogamous, exclusionary and with limited mobility.[69]

Horn of Africa

NSRW Africa Midgan
The Madhiban (Midgan) specialize in leather occupation. Along with the Tumal and Yibir, they are collectively known as sab.[70]

In a review published in 1977, Todd reports that numerous scholars report a system of social stratification in different parts of Africa that resembles some or all aspects of caste system. Examples of such caste systems, he claims, are to be found in Ethiopia in communities such as the Gurage and Konso. He then presents the Dime of Southwestern Ethiopia, amongst whom there operates a system which Todd claims can be unequivocally labelled as caste system. The Dime have seven castes whose size varies considerably. Each broad caste level is a hierarchical order that is based on notions of purity, non-purity and impurity. It uses the concepts of defilement to limit contacts between caste categories and to preserve the purity of the upper castes. These caste categories have been exclusionary, endogamous and the social identity inherited.[71] Alula Pankhurst has published a study of caste groups in SW Ethiopia.[72]

Among the Kafa, there were also traditionally groups labeled as castes. "Based on research done before the Derg regime, these studies generally presume the existence of a social hierarchy similar to the caste system. At the top of this hierarchy were the Kafa, followed by occupational groups including blacksmiths (Qemmo), weavers (Shammano), bards (Shatto), potters, and tanners (Manno). In this hierarchy, the Manjo were commonly referred to as hunters, given the lowest status equal only to slaves."[73]

The Borana Oromo of southern Ethiopia in the Horn of Africa also have a class system, wherein the Wata, an acculturated hunter-gatherer group, represent the lowest class. Though the Wata today speak the Oromo language, they have traditions of having previously spoken another language before adopting Oromo.[74]

The traditionally nomadic Somali people are divided into clans, wherein the Rahanweyn agro-pastoral clans and the occupational clans such as the Madhiban were traditionally sometimes treated as outcasts.[75] As Gabboye, the Madhiban along with the Yibir and Tumaal (collectively referred to as sab) have since obtained political representation within Somalia, and their general social status has improved with the expansion of urban centers.[70]

Europe

Basque country

For centuries, through the modern times, the majority regarded Cagots who lived primarily in the Basque region of France and Spain as an inferior caste, the untouchables. While they had the same skin color and religion as the majority, in the churches they had to use segregated doors, drink from segregated fonts, and receive communion on the end of long wooden spoons. It was a closed social system. The socially isolated Cagots were endogamous, and chances of social mobility non-existent.[76][77]

United Kingdom

In July 2013, the UK government announced its intention to amend the Equality Act 2010 to "introduce legislation on caste, including any necessary exceptions to the caste provisions, within the framework of domestic discrimination law".[78] Section 9(5) of the Equality Act 2010 provides that "a Minister may by order amend the statutory definition of race to include caste and may provide for exceptions in the Act to apply or not to apply to caste".

From September 2013 to February 2014, Meena Dhanda led a project on "Caste in Britain" for the UK Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).[79]

United States

In view of W. Lloyd Warner, the relationship between Blacks and Whites in the USA historically showed many features of caste like residential segregation, marriage restrictions. [80] Discrimination based upon socio-economic factors are historically prevalent within the country.

According to Gerald D. Berreman, in the two systems, there are rigid rules of avoidance and certain types of contacts are defined as contaminating. In India, there are complex religious features which make up the system, whereas in the United States race and color are the basis of differentiation. The caste system in India and the United States has higher groups which desire to retain their position for themselves and thus perpetuate the system.[81]

The process of creating a homogenized society by social engineering in both India and the U.S. has created other institutions that have made class distinctions among groups evident. Anthropologist James C. Scott elaborates on how “global capitalism is perhaps the most powerful force for homogenization, whereas the state may in some instances be the defender of local difference and variety.” [82]The caste system further emphasizes differences between the socio-economic classes that arise as a product of capitalism, which makes social mobility more difficult. The United States is heavily divided by race and class status despite the national narrative of integration.

As a result of increased immigration to the United States, many Indian Americans have brought traditional caste values to the United States. A survey commissioned by Equality Labs finds that caste discrimination is also playing out in the United States. 2/3 of the members of the lowest caste, called Dalits, said that they have faced workplace discrimination due to their caste. 41% have experienced discrimination in education because the caste system is now being practiced in the United States.[83]

See also

References

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Sources

Further reading

  • Spectres of Agrarian Territory by David Ludden 11 December 2001
  • "Early Evidence for Caste in South India", p. 467-492 in Dimensions of Social Life: Essays in honor of David G. Mandelbaum, Edited by Paul Hockings and Mouton de Gruyter, Berlin, New York, Amsterdam, 1987.

External links

2011 Census of India

The 15th Indian Census was conducted in two phases, house listing and population enumeration. House listing phase began on 1 April 2010 and involved collection of information about all buildings. Information for National Population Register was also collected in the first phase, which will be used to issue a 12-digit unique identification number to all registered Indian residents by Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI). The second population enumeration phase was conducted between 9 and 28 February 2011. Census has been conducted in India since 1872 and 2011 marks the first time biometric information was collected. According to the provisional reports released on 31 March 2011, the Indian population increased to 1.21 billion with a decadal growth of 17.70%. Adult literacy rate increased to 74.04% with a decadal growth of 9.21%. The motto of the census was 'Our Census, Our future'.

Spread across 29 states and 7 union territories, the census covered 640 districts, 5,924 sub-districts, 7,935 towns and more than 600,000 villages. A total of 2.7 million officials visited households in 7,935 towns and 600,000 villages, classifying the population according to gender, religion, education and occupation. The cost of the exercise was approximately ₹2,200 crore (US$310 million) – this comes to less than $0.50 per person, well below the estimated world average of $4.60 per person. Conducted every 10 years, this census faced big challenges considering India's vast area and diversity of cultures and opposition from the manpower involved.

Information on castes was included in the census following demands from several ruling coalition leaders including Lalu Prasad Yadav, Sharad Yadav and Mulayam Singh Yadav supported by opposition parties Bharatiya Janata Party, Akali Dal, Shiv Sena and Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam. Information on caste was last collected during the British Raj in 1931. During the early census, people often exaggerated their caste status to garner social status and it is expected that people downgrade it now in the expectation of gaining government benefits. There was speculation that there would be a caste-based census conducted in 2011, the first time for 80 years (last was in 1931), to find the exact population of the "Other Backward Classes" (OBCs) in India. This was later accepted and the Socio Economic and Caste Census 2011 was conducted whose first findings were revealed on 3 July 2015 by Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. Mandal Commission report of 1980 quoted OBC population at 52%, though National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) survey of 2006 quoted OBC population at 41%There is only one instance of a caste-count in post-independence India. It was conducted in Kerala in 1968 by the Communist government under E M S Namboodiripad to assess the social and economic backwardness of various lower castes. The census was termed Socio-Economic Survey of 1968 and the results were published in the Gazetteer of Kerala, 1971.

B. R. Ambedkar

Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar (14 April 1891 – 6 December 1956), popularly known as Babasaheb Ambedkar, was an Indian jurist, economist, politician and social reformer who inspired the Dalit Buddhist movement and campaigned against social discrimination towards the untouchables (Dalits), while also supporting the rights of women and labour. He was independent India's first law and justice minister, the architect of the Constitution of India, and a founding father of the Republic of India.

Ambedkar was a prolific student earning doctorates in economics from both Columbia University and the London School of Economics and gained a reputation as a scholar for his research in law, economics, and political science. In his early career he was an economist, professor, and lawyer. His later life was marked by his political activities; he became involved in campaigning and negotiations for India's independence, publishing journals, advocating political rights and social freedom for Dalits, and contributing significantly to the establishment of the state of India. In 1956, he converted to Buddhism initiating mass conversions of Dalits.

In 1990, the Bharat Ratna, India's highest civilian award, was posthumously conferred upon Ambedkar. Ambedkar's legacy includes numerous memorials and depictions in popular culture.

Brahmin

Brahmin (; Sanskrit: ब्राह्मण) is a varna (class) in Hinduism specialising as priests, teachers (acharya) and protectors of sacred learning across generations.The traditional occupation of Brahmins was that of priesthood at the Hindu temples or at socio-religious ceremonies and rite of passage rituals such as solemnising a wedding with hymns and prayers. Theoretically, the Brahmins were the highest ranking of the four social classes. In practice, Indian texts suggest that Brahmins were agriculturalists, warriors, traders and have held a variety of other occupations in India.

Caste system in India

The caste system in India is the paradigmatic ethnographic example of caste. It has origins in ancient India, and was transformed by various ruling elites in medieval, early-modern, and modern India, especially the Mughal Empire and the British Raj. It is today the basis of educational and job reservations in India. It consists of two different concepts, varna and jati, which may be regarded as different levels of analysis of this system.The caste system as it exists today is thought to be the result of developments during the collapse of the Mughal era and the British colonial regime in India. The collapse of the Mughal era saw the rise of powerful men who associated themselves with kings, priests and ascetics, affirming the regal and martial form of the caste ideal, and it also reshaped many apparently casteless social groups into differentiated caste communities. The British Raj furthered this development, making rigid caste organisation a central mechanism of administration. Between 1860 and 1920, the British segregated Indians by caste, granting administrative jobs and senior appointments only to the upper castes. Social unrest during the 1920s led to a change in this policy. From then on, the colonial administration began a policy of positive discrimination by reserving a certain percentage of government jobs for the lower castes.

Caste-based differences have also been practised in other regions and religions in the Indian subcontinent like Nepalese Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Judaism and Sikhism. It has been challenged by many reformist Hindu movements, Islam, Sikhism, Christianity, and also by present-day Indian Buddhism.New developments took place after India achieved independence, when the policy of caste-based reservation of jobs was formalised with lists of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. Since 1950, the country has enacted many laws and social initiatives to protect and improve the socioeconomic conditions of its lower caste population. These caste classifications for college admission quotas, job reservations and other affirmative action initiatives, according to the Supreme Court of India, are based on heredity and are not changeable. Discrimination against lower castes is illegal in India under Article 15 of its constitution, and India tracks violence against Dalits nationwide.

Dalit

Dalit, meaning "broken/scattered" in Sanskrit and Hindi, is a term mostly used for the ethnic groups in India that have been kept depressed by subjecting them to untouchability (often termed backward castes). Dalits were excluded from the four-fold varna system of Hinduism and were seen as forming a fifth varna, also known by the name of Panchama. Dalits now profess various religious beliefs, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism and Christianity. As per the latest census, they comprise 16% of India's population (200 million people), including.The term dalits was in use as a translation for the British Raj census classification of Depressed Classes prior to 1935. It was popularised by the economist and reformer B. R. Ambedkar (1891–1956), who included all depressed people irrespective of their caste into the definition of dalits. Hence the first group he made was called the "Labour Party" and included as its members all people of the society who were kept depressed, including women, small scale farmers and people from backward castes. New leaders like Kanhaiya Kumar subscribe to this definition of "dalits", thus a Brahmin marginal farmer trying to eke out a living, but unable to do so also falls in the "dalit" category. Ambedkar himself was a Mahar, and in the 1970s the use of the word "dalit" was invigorated when it was adopted by the Dalit Panthers activist group. Gradually, political parties used it to gain mileage.

India's National Commission for Scheduled Castes considers official use of dalit as a label to be "unconstitutional" because modern legislation prefers Scheduled Castes; however, some sources say that Dalit has encompassed more communities than the official term of Scheduled Castes and is sometimes used to refer to all of India's oppressed peoples. A similar all-encompassing situation prevails in Nepal.

Scheduled Caste communities exist across India, although they are mostly concentrated in four states; they do not share a single language or religion. They comprise 16.6 per cent of India's population, according to the 2011 Census of India. Similar communities are found throughout the rest of South Asia, in Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, and are part of the global Indian diaspora.

In 1932, the British Raj recommended separate electorates to select leaders for Dalits in the Communal Award. This was favoured by Ambedkar but when Mahatma Gandhi opposed the proposal it resulted in the Poona Pact. That in turn influenced the Government of India Act, 1935, which introduced the reservation of seats for the Depressed Classes, now renamed as Scheduled Castes.

From soon after its independence in 1947, India introduced a reservation system to enhance the ability of Dalits to have political representation and to obtain government jobs and education. In 1997, India elected its first Dalit President, K. R. Narayanan. Many social organisations have promoted better conditions for Dalits through education, healthcare and employment. Nonetheless, while caste-based discrimination was prohibited and untouchability abolished by the Constitution of India, such practices are still widespread. To prevent harassment, assault, discrimination and similar acts against these groups, the Government of India enacted the Prevention of Atrocities Act, also called the SC/ST Act, on 31 March 1995.

In accordance with the order of the Bombay High Court, the Information and Broadcasting Ministry (I&B Ministry) of the Government of India issued an advisory to all media channels in September 2018, asking them to use "Scheduled Castes" instead of the word "Dalit".

Eusociality

Eusociality (from Greek εὖ eu "good" and social), the highest level of organization of sociality, is defined by the following characteristics: cooperative brood care (including care of offspring from other individuals), overlapping generations within a colony of adults, and a division of labor into reproductive and non-reproductive groups. The division of labor creates specialized behavioral groups within an animal society which are sometimes called castes. Eusociality is distinguished from all other social systems because individuals of at least one caste usually lose the ability to perform at least one behavior characteristic of individuals in another caste.

Eusociality exists in certain insects, crustaceans and mammals. It is mostly observed and studied in the Hymenoptera (ants, bees, and wasps) and in termites. A colony has caste differences: queens and reproductive males take the roles of the sole reproducers, while soldiers and workers work together to create a living situation favorable for the brood. In addition to Hymenoptera and Isoptera, there are two known eusocial vertebrates among rodents: the naked mole-rat and the Damaraland mole-rat. Some shrimps, such as Synalpheus regalis, are also eusocial. E. O. Wilson and others have claimed that humans have evolved a weak form of eusociality (e.g., with menopause), but these arguments have been disputed.

Jat people

The Jat people (Hindi pronunciation: [dʒaːʈ]) (also spelled Jatt and Jaat) are a traditionally agricultural community native to the Indian subcontinent, comprising what is today Northern India and Pakistan. Originally pastoralists in the lower Indus river-valley of Sindh,

Jats migrated north into the Punjab region, Delhi, Rajputana, and the western Gangetic Plain in late medieval times. Primarily of Hindu, Muslim and Sikh faiths, they now live mostly in the Indian states of Haryana, Punjab, Delhi, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh and the Pakistani provinces of Punjab and Sindh.

Traditionally involved in peasantry, the Jat community saw radical social changes in the 17th century, when the Hindu Jats took up arms against the Mughal Empire during the late 17th and early 18th century. The Hindu Jat kingdom reached its zenith under Maharaja Suraj Mal of Bharatpur (1707–1763). The Jat community of the Punjab region played an important role in the development of the martial Khalsa Panth of Sikhism; they are more commonly known as the Jat Sikhs. By the 20th century, the landowning Jats became an influential group in several parts of North India, including Haryana, Punjab, Western Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Delhi. Over the years, several Jats abandoned agriculture in favour of urban jobs, and used their dominant economic and political status to claim higher social status.Jats are classified as Other Backward Class (OBC) in seven of India's thirty-six States and UTs, namely Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Delhi, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. However, only the Jats of Rajasthan – excluding those of Bharatpur district and Dholpur district – are entitled to reservation of central government jobs under the OBC reservation. In 2016, the Jats of Haryana organized massive protests demanding to be classified as OBC in order to obtain such affirmative action benefits.

Jyotirao Phule

Jyotirao Govindrao Phule (11 April 1827 – 28 November 1890), also known as Jotiba Phule was an Indian social activist, a thinker, anti-caste social reformer and a writer from Maharashtra.

His work extended to many fields including eradication of untouchability and the caste system, and women's emancipation. On 24 September 1873, Phule, along with his followers, formed the Satyashodhak Samaj (Society of Seekers of Truth) to attain equal rights for people from lower castes. People from all religions and castes could become a part of this association which worked for the uplift of the oppressed classes . Phule is regarded as an important figure of the social reform movement in Lagrange. He and his wife, Savitribai Phule, were pioneers of women education in India. He is most known for his efforts to educate women and lower caste people. The couple was among the first native Indians to open a for girls of India.

Jāti

Jāti (in Devanagari: जाति, Bengali: জাতি, Telugu:జాతి, Kannada:ಜಾತಿ, Malayalam: ജാതി, Tamil:ஜாதி, literally "birth") is

a group of clans, tribes, communities, and sub-communities, and religions in India. Each Jāti typically has an association with a traditional job function or tribe. Religious beliefs (e.g. Sri Vaishnavism or Veera Shaivism) or linguistic groupings may define some Jātis. Among the Muslims, the equivalent category is Qom or Biradri.

A person's surname typically reflects a community (Jāti) association: thus Gandhi = perfume seller, Dhobi = washerman, Srivastava = military scribe, etc.

Mahabharata

The Mahābhārata (US: , UK: ; Sanskrit: महाभारतम्, Mahābhāratam, pronounced [məɦaːˈbʱaːrətəm]) is one of the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India, the other being the Rāmāyaṇa. It narrates the struggle between two groups of cousins in the Kurukshetra War and the fates of the Kaurava and the Pāṇḍava princes and their succession. Along with the Rāmāyaṇa, it forms the Hindu Itihasa.

The Mahābhārata is an epic legendary narrative of the Kurukṣetra War and the fates of the Kaurava and the Pāṇḍava princes. It also contains philosophical and devotional material, such as a discussion of the four "goals of life" or puruṣārtha (12.161). Among the principal works and stories in the Mahābhārata are the Bhagavad Gita, the story of Damayanti, an abbreviated version of the Rāmāyaṇa, and the story of Ṛṣyasringa, often considered as works in their own right.

Traditionally, the authorship of the Mahābhārata is attributed to Vyāsa. There have been many attempts to unravel its historical growth and compositional layers. The oldest preserved parts of the text are thought to be not much older than around 400 BCE, though the origins of the epic probably fall between the 8th and 9th centuries BCE. The text probably reached its final form by the early Gupta period (c. 4th century CE). According to the Mahābhārata itself, the tale is extended from a shorter version of 24,000 verses called simply Bhārata.The Mahābhārata is the longest epic poem known and has been described as "the longest poem ever written". Its longest version consists of over 100,000 śloka or over 200,000 individual verse lines (each shloka is a couplet), and long prose passages. At about 1.8 million words in total, the Mahābhārata is roughly ten times the length of the Iliad and the Odyssey combined, or about four times the length of the Rāmāyaṇa. W. J. Johnson has compared the importance of the Mahābhārata in the context of world civilization to that of the Bible, the works of William Shakespeare, the works of Homer, Greek drama, or the Quran. Within the Indian tradition it is sometimes called the Fifth Veda.

Maratha

According to Encyclopedia Britannica, "Marathas are a major people of India, famed in history as yeoman warriors and champions of Hinduism."

The term Maratha is used in three overlapping senses: within the Marathi-speaking region it refers to the single dominant Maratha caste or to the group of Maratha and Kunbi castes; outside Maharashtra, the term often loosely designates the entire regional population speaking the Marathi language. The "Maratha group of castes" is a largely rural class of peasant cultivators, landowners, and soldiers."This article is only about the Maratha caste. For Maharashtrians or all Marathi speaking people, irrespective of caste, please refer to Marathi people. For the Kunbi caste of Maharashtrians, please refer to Kunbi.

According to the Maharashtrian historian, B.R.Sunthankar, and scholars such as Professor Rajendra Vora (from the University of Pune), the "Maratha caste" is a "caste of peasants" which formed the bulk of the Maharashtrian society together with the other Kunbi peasant caste. Vora adds that the Maratha caste is the largest caste of India and dominate the power structure in Maharashtra, especially in the rural society.According to Jeremy Black, British historian at the University of Exeter, "Maratha caste is a coalescence of peasants, shepherds, ironworkers, etc. as a result of serving in the military in the 17th and 18th century". As per V.M.Sirsikar, political scientist from the University of Pune, Marathas are dominant in rural areas and mainly constitute the landed peasantry. As of 2018, 80% of the members of the Maratha caste were farmers.

Robert Vane Russell, an untrained ethnologist of the British Raj period, basing his research largely on Vedic literature, wrote that the Marathas are subdivided into 96 different clans, known as the 96 Kuli Marathas or Shahānnau Kule The general body of lists are often at great variance with each other.

A report by an independent commission in November 2018 concluded that the Maratha caste is educationally, socially and economically a backward community.

Other Backward Class

Other Backward Class (OBC) is a collective term used by the Government of India to classify castes which are educationally or socially disadvantaged. It is one of several official classifications of the population of India, along with Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (SCs and STs). The OBCs were found to comprise 52% of the country's population by the Mandal Commission report of 1980, a figure which had shrunk to 41% by 2006 when the National Sample Survey Organisation took place. There is substantial debate over the exact number of OBCs in India; it is generally estimated to be sizable, but many believe that it is higher than the figures quoted by either the Mandal Commission or the National Sample Survey.In the Indian Constitution, OBCs are described as "socially and educationally backward classes", and the Government of India is enjoined to ensure their social and educational development — for example, the OBCs are entitled to 27% reservations in public sector employment and higher education. The list of OBCs maintained by the Indian Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment is dynamic, with castes and communities being added or removed depending on social, educational and economic factors. RTI data showed in 2015 that in spite of these 27% reservations in jobs, only less than 12% OBCs are in these jobs (in some departments only 6.67% of OBCs were given employment under these 27% reservations). As of 2015, in educational institutes also funds meant for OBC student reservation policy are not used properly or are underused in case of upgrading infrastructure as well as violation of faculty recruitment according to OBC 27% reservation policy.Until 1985, the affairs of the Backward Classes were looked after by the Backward Classes Cell in the Ministry of Home Affairs. A separate Ministry of Welfare was established in 1985 (renamed in 1998 to the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment) to attend to matters relating to Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and OBCs. The Backward Classes Division of the Ministry looks after the policy, planning and implementation of programmes relating to social and economic empowerment of OBCs, and matters relating to two institutions set up for the welfare of OBCs, the National Backward Classes Finance and Development Corporation and the National Commission for Backward Classes.

Races of StarCraft

Blizzard Entertainment's real-time strategy game series StarCraft revolves around interstellar affairs in a distant sector of the galaxy, with three species and multiple factions all vying for supremacy in the sector. The playable species of StarCraft include the Terrans, humans exiled from Earth who excel at adapting to any situation; the Zerg, a race of insectoids obsessed with assimilating other races in pursuit of genetic perfection; and the Protoss, a humanoid species with advanced technology and psionic abilities, attempting to preserve their civilization and strict philosophical way of living from the Zerg. Each of these races has a single campaign in each StarCraft real-time strategy game. In addition to these three, various non-playable races have also been part of the lore of the StarCraft series; the most notable of these is the Xel'Naga, a race which features prominently in the fictional histories of the Protoss and Zerg races.

The original game has sold over 10 million copies internationally, and remains one of the most popular games in the world. One of the main factors responsible for StarCraft's positive reception is the attention paid to the three unique playable races, for each of which Blizzard developed completely different characteristics, graphics, backstories and styles of gameplay, while keeping them balanced in performance against each other. Previous to this, most real-time strategy games consisted of factions and races with the same basic play styles and units with only superficial differences. The use of unique sides in StarCraft has been credited with popularizing the concept within the real-time strategy genre. Contemporary reviews of the game have mostly praised the attention to the gameplay balance between the species, as well as the fictional stories built up around them.

Reservation in India

The system of reservation in India consists of a series of measures, such as reserving access to seats in the various legislatures, to government jobs, and to enrollment in higher educational institutions. The reservation nourishes the historically disadvantaged castes and tribes, listed as Scheduled Castes and Scheduled tribes (SCs and STs) by the Government of India , also those designated as Other Backwards Classes (OBCs) and also the economically backward general. The reservation is undertaken to address the historic oppression, inequality, and discrimination faced by those communities and to give these communities a place. It is intended to realise the promise of equality enshrined in the Constitution.

The Constitution prohibits untouchability and obligates the state to make special provision for the betterment of the SCs and STs. Over the years, the categories for affirmative action, also known as positive discrimination, have been expanded beyond those to the OBCs.

Reservation is governed by the Constitution, statutory laws and local rules and regulations. The SCs, STs and OBCs, and in some states Backward Classes among Muslims under a category called BC(M), are the primary beneficiaries of the reservation policies. There have been protests from groups outside the system who feel that it is inequitable.

Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes

The Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) are officially designated groups of historically disadvantaged people in India. The terms are recognised in the Constitution of India and the groups are designated in one or other of the categories. For much of the period of British rule in the Indian subcontinent, they were known as the Depressed Classes. The people in scheduled castes are essentially the lowest part of Hindu society.

In modern literature, the Scheduled Castes are sometimes referred to as untouchables. The term Dalit, meaning "broken/scattered" in Sanskrit and Hindi, is still common having been popularised by B. R. Ambedkar (1891–1956), the economist, reformer, author of the Indian Constitution, and Dalit leader during the independence struggle, himself a Dalit. Ambedkar preferred the term Dalit to Gandhi's term, Harijan, meaning "person of Hari/Vishnu" (or Man of God). In September 2018, the government "issued an advisory to all private satellite channels asking them to 'refrain' from using the nomenclature 'Dalit'", though "rights groups and intellectuals have come out against any shift from 'Dalit' in popular usage".The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes comprise about 16.6% and 8.6%, respectively, of India's population (according to the 2011 census). The Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950 lists 1,108 castes across 29 states in its First Schedule, and the Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order, 1950 lists 744 tribes across 22 states in its First Schedule.Since the independence of India, the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes were given Reservation status, guaranteeing political representation. The Constitution lays down the general principles of positive discrimination for SCs and STs.

Varna (Hinduism)

Varna (Sanskrit: वर्ण, translit. varṇa) means type, order, colour or class. The term refers to social classes in Brahminical books like the Manusmriti. These and other Hindu literature classified the society in principle into four varnas:

Brahmins: priests, scholars and teachers.

Kshatriyas: rulers, warriors and administrators.

Vaishyas: agriculturalists and traders.

Shudras: laborers and service providers.Communities which belong to one of the four varnas or classes are called savarna. In the present-day context, they include all the forward castes. The Dalits and scheduled tribes who do not belong to any varna, are called avarna.This quadruple division is a form of social stratification not to be confused with the much more nuanced Jāti or the European term "caste".The varna system is discussed in Hindu texts, and understood as idealised human callings. The concept is generally traced to the Purusha Sukta verse of the Rig Veda.

The commentary on the Varna system in the Manusmriti is oft-cited. Counter to these textual classifications, many Hindu texts and doctrines question and disagree with the Varna system of social classification.

Velama

Velama is a caste found mainly in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. The earliest occurrence of Velama as a term for a community dates from the 17th century.

Vishwakarma (caste)

The Vishwakarma community, also known as the Vishwabrahmin, are a social group of India, sometimes described as a caste. The community comprises five sub-groups—carpenters, blacksmiths, bronze smiths, goldsmiths and stonemasons—who believe that they are descendants of Vishvakarman, a Hindu deity.

They worship various forms of this deity and follow five Vedas—Rigveda, Yajurveda, Samaveda, Atharvaveda, and Pranava Veda.

Yadav

Yadav refers to a grouping of traditionally mainly non-elite, peasant-pastoral communities or castes in India and Nepal that since the 19th and 20th centuries have claimed descent from the mythological King Yadu as a part of a movement of social and political resurgence.The term Yadav now covers many traditional peasant-pastoral castes such as Ahirs of the Hindi belt and the Gavli of Maharashtra.Traditionally, Yadav groups were linked to cattle raising and as such, were outside the formal caste system. Since the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the Yadav movement has worked to improve the social standing of its constituents, through Sanskritisation, active participation in the Indian and British armed forces, expansion of economic opportunities to include other, more prestigious business fields, and active participation in politics. Yadav leaders and intellectuals have often focused on their claimed descent from Yadu, and from Krishna, which they argue confers kshatriya status upon them, and effort has been invested in recasting the group narrative to emphasise kshatriya-like valour, however, the overall tenor of their movement has not been overtly egalitarian in the context of the larger Indian caste system.

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