Social Inequality and it’s Solution
The Solution to any problem normally lies in the problem itself. As long as the problem is not fully understood, the solution remains evasive. Whether it is medical or engineering, diagnostics or troubleshooting is critical to decide the remedy. Often, symptoms could not be attributed to causes accurately and cures are suggested that may be wide off the mark. In some cases, wrong solutions complicate the problem or inflate the problem into a new dimension.
For the problem of casteism in Indian society (yes, this is prevalent even in Muslims, Christians and Sikhs, despite their religions do not recognize castes), the evolution of the current form of society has to be analysed. Once, my son asked how people classified themselves into various castes. Yes, he is entitled to ask many questions like any child, but for me answering this has initiated a new thought process. My explanation:
“Consider a group of people living in a village. In the good old days (as if it is confirmed that future is going to be bad), they lived together, supporting each other. Strongest person would be the chief or king like in a pack of animals. Yes Sir, after all , humans are social animals. He allocates various jobs to various people depending on their expertise and capabilities. A society needs all types of people, wise men, businessmen, craftsmen, farmers, smiths, barbers, cobblers, soldiers, teachers, negotiators etc. Though people do various jobs, there are no hierarchies. All jobs are equally needed and respected. Without farmers working, everyone would starve. If barber got angry at you, you have to grow pony tail and long beards. If tailor stops working, everybody would be nude or there will be demand for long banana leaves. If teacher stops working, the next generation would be fools. If cobbler doesn’t work, everybody has to walk barefoot. In essence, it is obligatory that everyone does the job allocated to them and all are equally respected, irrespective of their vocations. Here comes the basic human trait, selfishness. If we thought selfishness is the worst trait of humans, we are wrong. Love of offspring is worse than selfishness. One may not break the law for self, but for ensuring a better future for his kids, he may.
Society as a Web of Social Relations
Normally, depending on the intelligence, interests, physical strength, jobs were allocated to the next generation. If learned, a cobbler’s son can be a priest and a soldier’s son can be a farmer. First comes selfishness. Holders of soft jobs feel superior. Even now, this happens. Supervisors and Managers get paid more than workers who work physically. Here the payment is for the knowledge and capacity. It takes into account the impact a person could have on the system. Any society cannot ignore this point. As the ancient societies were apparently better than today’s, there were echelons of jobs, but all people were equal.
This is evident from the example of Ramayana– a single person has written the epic that describes entire India and Sri Lanka. The idea of aeroplane and the weapons described imply there was a science in practice. And the writer was a hunter by profession with whom Sita has lived post separation from Rama. And Rama gave value to the opinion of a washer man.
But, such a society has transformed into a society where people were classified into superiors and inferiors. Again we can refer Ramayana, wherein the love of Kaikeyi for her son. She wanted her son to be the king, not Rama. But, by the time of Ramayana, the ancient society has changed. It changed from a society where in people’s vocation is decided based on their capabilities to the one where vocations were inherited. Yes, Rama, being the first son of the king was the first in line to the throne indicates things have changed already.
If ancient texts were considered, there were inter-caste marriages or relationships. In one text it was mentioned sage Vashishta’s many sons were Panchamas and only few remain Brahmans. The story of Vishwamitra (Kaushika) was an example how one can convert his caste, in his case from Kshatriya to Brahman. And he became Brahman when he leaves his arrogance and attains humility. Vyasa, who was credited with classification of four Vedas and has written the Mahabharata was born to a sage and a fisherwoman. He has fathered Dhritarashtra, Pandava and Vidura and thus the originator of Kuru the dynasty. It was the character that defined a person and so Kamsa, son of Mathura’s king was called Rakshasa. Though born to Kshatriya parents, Krishna became Yadava, as his childhood was spent with Yadavas. Krishna has married Kshatriya girls and his being a Yadava was never considered as a black.
But, things changed gradually. When parents want their children get soft jobs and powerful, there happens a sort of grouping of some people and treat others. In fact, kids of parents who do manual jobs were denied equal opportunities. They might have used the argument that a father can pass on his knowledge to his son easily. All said and done, slowly discrimination has ingressed into the society and evolved into caste.
Often a sloka from purusha sukta is quoted to define the castes. It is said that Brahmans came from the head, Kshatriyas from the arms, Vaishyas from the thighs and Sudras from the feet of God. This sloka is regularly quoted by those who support the caste system to explain their supremacy and by those who oppose caste system to explain the discrimination. However, if this slika may be simply telling, who has knowledge represent the head, those who protect are arms, and those who sustain are the thighs and those who support are feet, and the body being the society that represents the God. Or it might have been a later insertion also. Many ancient texts have undergone changes to suit to the rulers.
[It is not new to alter history. History always belongs to the ruler. What we currently study is: Aryans, who were white men, invaded India and established Indus valley civilisation. All the great ancient Indian texts were written by Aryan. Original inhabitants of the land were black and were pushed down south who are called Dravidians.
If this is correct, I wonder how all Indian Gods were black. Take Shiva, Vishnu, Rama & Krishna – all were black. They were epitomised by calling – “Neela Megha Shyama”. This is not the blue colour, but the colour of a dark cloud. Even in marble rich Rajasthan, Krishna statues were made of black granite. I wonder why white Aryans created and worshipped black gods. But, our text books say so and we believe so. Probably, the British, after recognising the wealth of knowledge of ancient India, wanted some credit of the same and changed the history. We are normally worried about marks in the exam and not bothered about history.
Anyway, this was my explanation to my son, on the evolution of castes and this is the attempt to understand the problem. It seems discussion on solution has to wait till the next part.
By Rama Krishna Prasad Kodundarapulli