| Welcome to Global Village Space

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Caste cannot be Abolished by Laws

Legal measures alone cannot eradicate caste discrimination- there is a need of a much larger societal transformation and united struggle to bring about lasting change.

I learnt that Governor Gavin Newsom of California has vetoed the caste discrimination bill passed by the California legislature.

I am not going into the question whether the Governor’s explanation for vetoing the bill was justified or not. But to think that all social or economic evils can be abolished by making laws against them is inane. Otherwise we may as well make laws abolishing poverty, unemployment, child malnutrition, etc., but will such laws mean anything ?

What I submit is that caste discrimination cannot be abolished by making laws, and if such laws are made they will remain only on paper, without implementation, and will only make the practice more secretive and subterfuge.

If a law is made against caste discrimination, such discrimination will still persist, but become more subtle and underhand. For instance, if an upper castE person who is casteist, wishes to deny appointment or promotion to a lower caste person, he can always find something in the latter’s resume or performance  to justify the denial.

Also, it will open the floodgates of false complaints of discrimination by some so called ‘lower caste’ persons. Such persons, even if lacking merit, may allege caste bias against the person denying him something which he claims he deserved. Even if the complaint is eventually found without any substance, it may cause a geat deal of harrassment and mental strain to the person against whom the allegation is made.

Before proceeding further we must understand something about the caste system in India. I have explained in an article the origin and development of the caste system.

In this article I have explained how originally caste probably had a racial basis, but later developed into the feudal occupational division of labour in society. It has lasted for centuries, or maybe thousands of years, in India, and is still deeply rooted. In Indian elections a large number of our people vote on caste basis, without seeing the merit of the candidate.

Indians who migrate to USA or other foreign countries often carry their caste baggage with them. Caste organisations are common in America. So casteism in America and elsewhere abroad can only be destroyed if it is destroyed in the mother country India.

Caste is a feudal institution, and India is still semi-feudal. So caste will only be destroyed if India is transformed into a a highly industrialised and modernised country. How is that possible ?

I have explained in this video interview of me by the eminent Pakistani journalist Moeed Pirzada that the developed countries do not want underdeveloped countries like India to become developed and industrialised, ( because we have cheap labour ) and will fight tooth and nail against such transformation. For this they will act through their local agents, e.g. politicians of underdeveloped countries, to further polarise society on caste and communal basis, to get votes.

But our interest is that we must get highly industrialised, for only then can we abolish poverty, unemployment, child malnutrition, lack of proper healthcare and good education for our masses, and the other socio-economic evils which still plague us today. So the interest of the developed countries directly conflicts with our interest.

The parliamentary system of democracy which we adopted in our Constitution runs largely on the basis of caste and communal vote banks ( as everyone in India knows ). Casteism and communalism are feudal forces which have to be destroyed if India is to progress, but parliamentary democracy further entrenches them.

Read More: Tribute to Imran Khan on His 71st Birthday

So how do we get over this impasse ?

I submit this can only be done by a mighty historical united people’s struggle, led by patriotic, modern minded leaders, which will be arduous, protracted, and in which tremendous sacrifices will have to be made, and will result in creating a political order under which the country rapidly industrialises.

How and when will such people’s struggle begin, how will it be conducted, how much time it will take to achieve success, who will be the patriotic modern minded persons leading it, etc no one can foretell. One cannot be rigid about historical forms. The enlightened sections of our people will have to use their creativity in solving these problems, and in setting up an alternative to the political system we have today, which leads to rapid industrialisation and providing decent lives to the people, and destruction of the curse of casteism and communalism.

So laws made in America, India or elsewhere against caste discrimination will be just gimmicks unless caste is destroyed in India by a mighty historical united people’s struggle which results in setting up a just and modern social order.

Markandey Katju is an Indian jurist and former Supreme Court judge of India who served as chairman for the Press Council of India. He has also worked as Standing Counsel for the Income Tax Department. 

The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not represent the editorial policy or views of Global Village Space.