Answer by Raakhee V. Menon:
Thank you for the A2A.
Though I am an ‘Indian Hindu’, I cannot hope to be the voice of millions of others. But I could say what I feel on a personal front.
For me, it doesn’t matter either way.
Because as I understand it, a person’s caste is not something you put down in a piece of paper and if you burn the paper, it is lost. No. Abolishing something takes a lot of effort and needs a lot of convincing and amendments in the law and all that. The time and money and energy being spent on such an exercise will be enormous in a country like India.
And will it bear fruit? I don’t think so.
For caste is something that exists largely in people’s minds rather than in certificates. Even if it is abolished, it can be abolished only from government documents. This means all reservations would go away…as there would be no more ‘caste-based discrimination’ in educational institutions and workplaces. For starters, this is not going to go down too well with those that have been availing the benefits of this system. That’s where the idea will hit its very first road-block.
And abolishing the caste system will not do away with the most widely used purpose – wedding matchmaking. Even if it is nowhere in paper, people will still (at least mentally) differentiate between those of their own caste and those of higher or lower caste, and judge them accordingly. So that’s not going to go away ever.
India has come a long way since the days of yore when people belonging to lower castes were not permitted to live a life like those belonging to upper castes. When it was first formed, the caste system was based on occupation. Then it changed to being on the basis of birth. Now, frankly speaking, money is the basis of the new caste system.
People are either upper class, middle class or lower class based on how much money they have, and not based on their caste names. You can see plenty of extremely poor Brahmins and extremely rich Shudras. It’s no big deal really. The ones who have money are put on a pedestal and revered, while the ones who have no money are treated like dirt. Money rules supreme.
The earlier caste system has been very strongly upheld by politicians all through these years so that they could use it as a weapon during elections. They still project an image that lower caste people are ‘oppressed’ by higher caste people even though that the grossest generalization that anybody could make. It’s more like poor people are oppressed by rich people. Now that would make more sense.
Politicians go and dine and stay with lower caste people and the media plays it all over national news channels and the political party gets a boost out of it. “XYZ has lunch with Dalit family and stays in their house during election campaigning” with a special emphasis on the word ‘Dalit’ all over the article. Ho hum! We’ve been seeing this melodrama for ages. It’s just political comedy for most people now.
So, even if they announce in the papers tomorrow that from today on, there will be no caste system in India, I will be as indifferent to it as I am now. It does not affect me or anyone I know in any way. Then why would I care? Things are going to be status quo.