Indian Democracy and Caste System

By Dr.M Anwar

Indians usually boast around as the bearers of democratic norms and holders of civilian rule through regular holding of elections and observing rituals essentially required by an egalitarian state. The arrangements appear to be going well with the hegemonic designs of elite class or upper caste Hindus yearning to remain in power by clever use of majority vote in India. The “Shining India” slogan jingled through media campaigns and other costly Public Service Announcements (PSAs) also raise speculations about the ground realities in India where discrimination of low caste Hindus and non-Hindu communities is the common practice.

Democracy in India has not changed the status and destiny of untouchables and the MALLEECH. Although at the time of election upper class Hindus make promises with tall claims using voters as a tool to tread the power path. The low caste majority is virtually forced to participate in the electoral process. There are dire consequences for those who opt to vote for a losing candidate. Thus coercion through state authority is openly applied to punish the political opponents and their supporters. The process of electioneering is repeated every time the government completes its term but nothing changes the fate of low caste communities in India. The question arises as to why cannot democracy bring a change in Indian culture where people are treated as equals with similar rights to be citizens of India, having freedom of expression, rights to elect their own representatives, freedom of religious practices and other rights as envisaged in a democratic state? Does India employ coercive methods to hide her real face as a democratic state and cheats her own people by using them as the instruments of power by discriminating against them as untouchable and impervious? Indian social system has the answer.

Unfortunately Indian social system is based on the notion of purity and pollution in which upper class does not interact on equal terms with the low castes. Exchange of eatables is as prohibited among the upper and low caste communities as the marriages. One gets polluted by touching the untouchables, hence drinking or eating with low castes is completely prohibited. Resultantly social exchange activities carry subjective and double meanings as one is never sure to expect that common exchange of pleasantries and promises made by the stake holders will carry the same weight. Social order in India is hate driven and low caste communities irrespective of their claims to be Indians by birth, are despised as much as the outsiders are loathed and rejected. Such a democracy practically leads people to incapacitation and wheezing debilitation while India shines only for the elite class.

Reportedly United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) is taking into consideration to recognize caste-based discrimination as a human rights violation. This will certainly annoy India where low caste untouchable Hindus, Dalits, Muslims and Christians are habitually mal-treated on the basis of their castes. Nepal, where untouchability is traditionally practiced, has openly supported UNHRC draft principles and guidelines for effective elimination of caste based discrimination. This is radically different from India’s aversion to the internationalization of the caste problem. Adding to India’s discomfiture, Sweden in its capacity as the president of European Union (EU) has stated that caste-based discrimination is an important priority for EU. If the issue continues to gather momentum, UNHRC may in a future session adopt the draft principles and guidelines and send these for adoption to UN General Assembly. Though India succeeded in her efforts to keep caste out of the resolution adopted by the 2001 Durban conference on racism, yet the issue has emerged in a different guise. It will encourage other states to raise their voice against discrimination based on caste inequalities, exposing the real face of Indian democracy.



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