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Caste, Class and Problem of Establishment of Peace

Caste, Class And Problem Of Establishment Of Peace In The Indian Sub-Continent

Dr. Ravindra Kumar

Needless to dwell in the remote past, but till today the division of human society on the basis of caste and class distinctions, has yet been subsisting as the main hurdle in t he way of establishment of perpetual peace on earth. It is a world-wide problem. It is just possible that its form may be discerned differently in different parts of the world. It is also possible that the ultimate result or effect of this problem may appear to us somewhat distinctive in various regions.

In Western world as also in various Eastern nations, class distinctions perpetuate while mainly in Indian Sub-continent, human society stands divided on the basis of caste differences for centuries. The formation of castes has also resulted from class distinctions. In ancient India, that is, about four or four and a half thousand years ago, class distinctions could be seen in the form of Varnas, which is not discerned today in its original form. In relation to the origin of Varnas, the arguments, pertaining to role of divine power, have been given in various Vedic texts, mainly in Rig-Veda and Shrimadbhagavad Gita.

But as I have already dwelt at length in my article on Caste-System, these arguments are in contradiction to each other. And eventually we arrive at the conclusion that Varna system was man made. No matter, there may be indicated numerous attributes therein, the division of the society on its basis, a feeling of inequality betwixt man and man was certain. Subsequently, this system was disintegrated. Today in the main nations of Indian Subcontinent – India, Pakistan, Bangladesh as also in Nepal, the successor of this system appears dividing the society into about four thousand parts and sub-parts. Along with inequalities there perpetuate serious social evils viz. exploitation and untouchability dwelling in the root of this system.

Certainly, human unity is disrupted as a result of its existence and perpetuation. In the beginning, that is, almost one million years ago, when human beings came into existence at a single place of earth, there was no difference of one person from the other. Neither, there was any class nor such a system which may divide one from another. At that time all parts of earth were annexed with each other in one way or the other. There prevailed an atmosphere of perfectly free human habitation. But soon, the anxiety for the safety of existence compelled human beings to unite and inhabit at a fixed place. Man began to dwell in groups. Collectively, the invasion, of any nature, was encountered. Certainly this led to the safety of existence. In human life the state of peace emerged. This was the most important change in human life. With this change, man passed a long period.

But, the above state of existence was not enough in human life. After the safety of existence, man had to advance on the path of development Progress is the indispensable condition of human life. That is why; searching for adaptable atmosphere, man started to proceed in different directions, forming small groups. First of all the departure took place to the nearest places and then to distant ones. This was another important change in human life. Wherever man went, he added continuously new chapters in history. Conclusively, whatever situation came into being is before us today. Today it may appear to us very much amazing because man has elevated the standard of progress in strikingly wonderful form. He has yet to advance on this path. To what extent the state will reach, probably, it can not be estimated today.

The moment human beings migrated from one place in small groups, searching conducive environment for progress, the process of division was started in human society, although the visibility of state of division emerged after quite a long period. It is a common feature that a particular group of human beings, getting separated from the other ones, inhabited at a different place; subsequently, the direction of progress that they hold, made the same segregated from other ones. Different places have different climatic conditions and the same effect the human body accordingly. That is why, with the passage of time, there appeared material differences in human groups, particularly relating to colour of skin, hair and physical length. Only one type of food stuff, no matter be it the meat, is not available at a particular place, the same will have to be taken by the people, dwelling there. This also happened in the past and this led to the wide differences in the mode of eating. Not only this, due to need of the time or demand, the differences began to appear in human groups, owing to the established conditions and the systems subsisting in them.

All these differences, even after acknowledging divisions in human society, were the definite results of advancing and getting inclined towards the path of progress. I repeatedly emphasize this point of view. In this context, I negate in totality all arguments, which are given about the role of divine influence. This is beyond truth if any one says that he is born in a superior state by the grace of God.

By making a brief discussion on above topic, I only mean to say that none is born unequal from God’s abode. All were born equal. By marching ahead on the path of progress, the state of differences originated which was likely certain. But this division cannot be compared with the division as we see today in the form of class and caste.

Now as first of all the process of division in society started from the moment of departure of human beings in small groups from one place to different ones, in the same way, it was the moment of induction of the word ‘own self’, the process of emergence of classes came into being. The word ‘own self’ can be used for a certain mobile or immobile property that is cattle wealth, plot of land or for any commodity etc. Whatever the arguments are given, intellect, physical power, interest, inclination, sincerity, competency and capability are the main factors for the development of a personality. And all these attributes are not imbibed equally by every one. In establishing ‘own selfness’, in the beginning, the above factors played a decisive role. Subsequently, ‘own selfness’ was changed into ‘ownership’. Plot of land, property and other commodities, even the men and women became the subject matter of ownership. Owner and subordinate became the two classes. The interests of both of them became contradictory to each other.

Now, if there is a question of accomplishing different interests in the classes, living in a single society, the state of clashes is bound to be brought about form time to time. And this actually happened. You may just imagine and view the history of Egypt about four thousand years before Christ, that is, the period prior to eight centuries from ‘Faraun Mainas’. And not only Egypt, look at the regions, under the territorial limit of Mesopotamian Civilization i.e. ancient Babul, Assyria, Hittite, Phoenicia and Palestine, or Persia and India. After deep and intensive study, you may find my argument, more or less, to be true. In the texts and rituals of ‘Rig-Veda’, the description of struggle between Tristsugana and Sthaniagana, under the leadership of King Sudasa, is also a class struggle. But, peace is just the opposite condition of struggle because the basis of peace is mutual cooperation. That is why, in human society, for the people working for the establishment of peace, the class struggles have ever remained a great challenge. These are challenges for them even today, no matter the form and feature of classes might have been of any nature or in Indian Sub-continent, their place might not have been taken by castes.

We know very well that the classes, after creating divisions in society and repeatedly establishing traditions or customs, adversely hit the human values. Not only in economic and social sphere, but also in political sphere, making inequality as the basis, brought about the condition of an owner and a slave even between the offspring of one and the same Father, ‘created the terrible state of exploitation and threw man miles away from the state of perpetual peace. In many Asian nations where there are followers of Buddhism, and evils like caste system and untouchability do not exist, there are class differences on the basis of economic status. Certainly this difference plays a decisive role in establishing the social status. In numerous Muslim nations and even in Western world, the situation is just the same. Contrary to this, in Indian sub-continent, caste, successor of Varna System creates all the more serious and alarming situation.

In Indian Sub-continent, four to four and a half thousand years ago, four Varnas which assumed identical form with different classes, came into existence. Among them the first three i.e. Brahmins, Kshattriyas and Vaishyas were originated from Aryans while the fourth Shudras, were from Dravidians. With the passing of time, amidst Aryans, those who reached at the brink of economic backwardness or due to several other reasons, became socially inferior, were enlisted in the category of Shudras. Prior to the advent of these Varnas, from North to South and from East to West, the inhabitants of Indian Sub-continent or Dravidians were not living under uniformity. By not living under uniformity, we should be clear in our minds that prior to division of Indian Society in four Varnas, the people dwelling here, were not within the sphere of a single class. They had no single or the same nature of religious or social system of living. Along with others, there were also the followers of Jain philosophy.

After the four Varnas came into existence, in Indian society, a new system was established which had rigorous and stiff rules far more than earlier. And within the embryo of that system, all the people of society were not enjoying equal status. Amidst four Varnas, the status of Brahmins was higher; second status was enjoyed by Kshattriyas and third and fourth ones were Vaishyas and Shudras respectively. Shudras were leading the most backward and sub-standard life. They were totally deprived of various economic, religious and social conveniences. It can also be said that they were under the clutches of different economic, religious and social restrictions. In other words, their social position was no less than slaves which later crossed all the limits of inhumanity’.

And the above unfortunate state, of which direct and indirect bad impression was to befall in all the spheres of society for hundreds and thousands of years, the peace of the region was to be effected, which can be known and witnessed even today, was not gauged in all seriousness by the responsible people and their successors. The colossal and inestimable loss which has been caused, which is yet in continuation, was ignored and is yet being done so. The scholars and intellectuals of the Indian Sub-continent, a land of the propounders of loftiest message of non-violence, consummated many wonderful researches and analyses, but they ignored the division of our society on the basis of castes and classes. The forlorn and decaying condition of our society which is yet in existence; nothing was pondered or done for its amelioration by most of them. It is mainly true in reference to the scholars and intellectuals emerged from higher castes. Particularly, the role of social scientists has been quite deplorable. If not much, then the least should be witnessed by the social scientists, scholars and intellectuals, from the institutions like Parliament, Legislative Assemblies and other units which are the basis of democracy. But they do not do so easily. It is because, knowingly or unknowingly, deeming the above state as real, they are keeping the same in their mentality. They are still not ready to change this mentality. But this state of affairs is not to continue for ever.

In my article on Caste System, I have already dwelt on the subject that after the division of Indian Society into four Varnas, their rules were made quite rigorous. It was held to maintain the purity in blood through above rules. Besides food and customs, interclass marriages were banned which was not in accordance with natural laws. And as a result of such rules, not one but many such evils and bad habits originated which were against the principle of humanity too. Certainly these lead to obstructions in the way of establishment of peace. In this context, the state of Indian Sub-continent has been quite different from the rest of the world, whether you revert to middle age retrospectively or to contemporary period or to the present one.

Subsequent to the division of the society into Varnas, whatever hard rules were framed pertaining to day to day practice, they were unnatural. They became the symbols of exploitation of mankind; evidently there was embodied the element of inequality in their root, being rigorous and unnatural these rules could not have lasted any longer. That is why, Varna system could not also exist in accordance to the spirit of framers. Before the period of Buddha, disintegration was started in it. The rules began to be disrupted. Castes emerged out of Varnas which later continued increasing. Sub-castes were also created out of the main Castes. Today the number of Castes and Sub-castes is about four thousand. That is to say, the society is divided into four thousand parts and sub-parts on the basis of inequality. Today, the roots of division are very deep. Not only this, whatever serious problems are there before the Society, there has mainly been Caste System prevalent at the root of majority of them directly or indirectly. The scholars, intellectuals and social scientists of Sub-continent will be able to comprehend its reality if they analyze the problem honestly. It is my firm conviction.

Let us view the existing state. Intellectual class is itself engulfed in the whirlpool of Casteism, which is very serious and unfortunate. Officials, people engaged in education world, even the Vice-Chancellors of Universities, are not free from the evil impact of Casteism. As I have already stated elsewhere, Parliament, State Assemblies and other bodies are within its grip. Hundreds of people who are considered criminals have entered the Parliament and Assemblies under the shelter of Casteism. Open struggles and numerous types of inhuman acts come before us endlessly on caste basis. Last time, about twenty nine Caste-led struggles, occurred in Bihar, are before us wherein about two hundred fifty people were mercilessly massacred.

The young boys and girls who, by breaking the bonds of Casteism show the courage to marry themselves, many of them become subject to various sorts of victimizations. Recently in Mumbai a Sikh family mercilessly murdered a Sikh youth belonging to Scheduled Caste. Why? It is because that family did not like that their so called high Caste girl should marry a Scheduled Caste youth. Day to day such incidents take place, some of them come to the knowledge, most of them subside.

That is to say that for thousands of years Casteism has been the cause of different problems in society which is yet in existence. Probably the extent to which this system has caused severe harm to the inhabitants of this Sub-continent, none else has done so much. If some one wants to achieve something on the basis of his/her strength, intelligence, aptitude, sobriety and competency, there is no reason of any objection to this. But everyone must find opportunity to acquire them equally. Without it, there is no possibility of establishment of peace. So I consider Castes and likewise existing Classes as the serious problem in the way of establishment of peace; I take them in the form of challenge for those working for the establishment of peace. In one of my articles on Caste System lending my suggestions to get rid of it, I mainly said this that the so called high Castes should change their mentality. Without bringing about attitudinal change, it is not possible to get rid of this curse. Whatever regular harm is caused in the spheres like social, political and cultural, due to Caste System, it is necessary to change our attitude to get ourselves liberated from it. But, as narrated, the change in the attitude will not possibly happen soon or so easily. What should then be done?

I have firm belief that education can play a vital role in this regard. Through education, gradually, the present and future generations will have to be acquainted with the reality of Caste System and the harms emerging out of it. So along with the people engaged in the work of imparting education, it is equally the responsibility of peace workers that they, taking Castes and Classes as a challenge, awaken the general people towards it, otherwise in their presence the problem of establishment of peace will remain existing.


Dr. Ravindra Kumar is an eminent writer, thinker, scholar, political-scientist, peace-worker and educationist, who has more than 150 works on great personalities of the Indian Sub-Continent including Mahatma Gandhi, and on various social, religious, political, historical, educational and cultural issues to his credit. Some of his well-known works include Morality & Ethics in Public Life, Theory & Practice of Gandhian Non-Violence, Non-Violence & Its Philosophy, Five Thousand Years of Indian Culture, Mahatma Gandhi at the Close of Twentieth Century, Towards Peace, Fundamentals of Civilization, Towards Buddha, Gautama Buddha and the Dhammapada, and Mahatma Gandhi in the Beginning of Twenty-First Century. A noted Indologist and the Former Vice-Chancellor of Meerut University, India, Dr. Ravindra Kumar has been associated with a number of national and international academic, cultural, educational, social and peace organizations & institutions. He has visited many countries of the world as a Visiting Professor and Scholar and has delivered more than 350 lectures around the world on subjects related to Asian values, civilization, culture, economic-cooperation, Gandhism, human rights, international understanding, way of life and world peace. Dr. Ravindra Kumar is the Editor of Global-Peace-International Journal. Between 1993 and 2007 he has organized many national and international seminars at various places on Religion & Politics, Morality & Ethics, Education, Peace & Development, Non-Violence & Democracy, Human Rights & Relevance of Mahatma Gandhi. Besides Nirala Smriti Samman, Shan-i-Kaum, Ambassador for Peace, Sardar Patel National Award and other honours, Padma Shri was awarded to Dr. Ravindra Kumar by H. E. the President of India.

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