Neither the clock can be put back nor history of a country be changed. The issue of caste, unique to the land and its people, discussed and debated in a multitude of circles for years has its own history spanning for several centuries. Virtually sounding like sloganeering by public speakers of all hues, the air is abuzz with the untenable statements that India is a casteless country and that the caste system needs to be got rid of. Depending on who are making such statements, some sound hollow some others don’t visualise that to happen while the rest are biding time until the day caste ceases to impact the society. While scholars often cite the line from Bhagavad Gita that the four castes represented the four different classification of people’s calling for a livelihood and integrity of society, that message doesn’t hold water in present times. The disturbing side to the caste system is their social hierarchy which ensued as a result of a plethora of customs and practices amounting to human folly. That is the dark side to the caste system, presently being the central point of the debates on caste.
While the population of the land comprised sections of different religions, the charge of ruling the country by dividing its people on religious count is levelled against the British Raj in the country. Making matters worse, the dividing of the population on the basis of religion, even as the country earned the right of self-rule, caste has sub-divided the people into phenomenal number of castes, not to forget their hierarchical image.
The authors of India’s Constitution, with the intention of undoing the historical wrong of some sections in the population dominating over some other sections and even looking down upon people of castes of lower hierarchy, prescribed what came to be known as reservation, although for a 10-year period initially. The measure having continued beyond the period initially stipulated, the issue has snowballed into the contentious class. The President, in his address to the Nation on the eve of 72nd Independence Day, called upon the people to avoid talking about any contentious issue in order to sustain peace in the land. However, the sections of the Nation’s population outside the reservation radar, being at the receiving end of the perceived past experience of those in lower caste hierarchy of the past, cannot avoid getting rankled. Reservation having been taken to a point that is bound to cause more rankling, namely the measure to include promotion, the Supreme Court has been quoted in the press last week asking the question: Can reservation in promotion be continued in perpetuity? Before talking further on the matter, the discussants need to bear in mind the game of cashing on caste played by politicians of all the parties in the land. The slogan casteless society is for the consumption of the gullible masses.