Castes in India

What are they really?

Castes in India

What are they really?

Castes or “Varnas” are the basis of the social structure in India and have existed for 3000 years. The four basic castes are: The Brahmins, the Kshatriyas, the Vaishya and the Sudras .

It is said that the Brahmins emerged from the mouth of Brahma, the kshatriyascame from the arms, the vaishyas from the legs and the sudras from the feet.Under these castes are the Dalits or “untouchables”.

Belonging to one caste or another is marked from birth and transmitted from generation to generation, it being impossible for a person to change caste throughout his life. As one believes in transmigration and the doctrine of karma , where one reaps the fruits of his actions in this or other lives, each person is born in the caste that corresponds to him according to his previous actions. Only through the succession of reincarnations can one advance (or retreat) in this status. By fulfilling the ideal behavior of his position man can reach perfection and reincarnate in a higher state. Each caste has its own duties and ethics that are governed by the Laws of Manu.

The social communities that really organize Indian society are the jatis  (subdivisions of the Varnas or castes). There are thousands of jatis in India, they are the protagonists of the social, economic and political life of the country. Everything is regulated by a complex system of privileges and obligations for each caste. The barber goes to cut the hair and shave the other families, the dhobiwashes the clothes of others, the carpenter builds plows and doors, when there is a ceremony the brahmin is called.

The jatis are endogamous, their members can only marry people from the same jati. In addition to having inherited the caste or jati , each person has absorbed in their childhood the values ​​and norms of each caste. The jati is a large family, after the family, the jati is the community that integrates the individual into society. This provides security. The jatis are solidary, the other members help in weddings, funerals, control the way of life of their members but also offer support when they need it. The jati is, together with the family, the main reference of the people and their whole life is conditioned by it: their social relations, their profession, their marriage, etc.

Below these four castes are the excluded, called “untouchables” because their physical contact was avoided as they constitute the lowest stratum of society.They are considered impure by birth and therefore not worthy of a place in the legendary caste system. It was BR Ambedkar who gave them the name of Dalits (oppressed ). Their usual work and way of life have stigmatized them. Those who perform the cremations are untouchable because of their contact with the corpses, the leather workers, since leather is the skin of dead animals and is considered impure, the washers because, among other things, they wash the blood of menstruation, sweepers because, among other things, they are in contact with garbage. Their customs are much more lax. Alcoholism, sexual promiscuity and lack of cleanliness are common among many of them. It is a vicious circle, where these customs often prevent them from being well considered by others and this lack of respect maintains this way of life.

In the villages these jatis live apart from others forming their own society. Often they are not allowed to use the same wells as the rest of the village and until recently they were forbidden to enter the temples. The physical contact with one of them had to be cleaned with a bath. Although the situation has changed a lot in this respect, especially in cities, there is no doubt that they are mistreated in general and often occupy the lowest jobs. 
That is why in states like Bihar, one of the most backward of India, large numbers of Dalits are agricultural workers without land, constituting huge masses of people living in poverty and exploitation.

“Untouchable” people are victims of rape, lynching or murder by members of higher castes. Nearly 90% of the poor and 95% of the illiterate in India are Dalits .Some 40 million people are forced to pay debts they have borrowed in the past.Of the 40 million, 15 million are children who work in conditions of semi-slavery for meager salaries. Half of Dalit children (and 64% of girls) can not finish primary school due to rejection by teachers. Crimes against ” untouchable ” women are especially hard. They are often raped or beaten by men of superior castes, landowners and police, they have no right.

Bihar, is the most populous state in India, 82 million inhabitants in an area equivalent to half of Germany. This state is submerged in economic chaos and social tensions. It is the state with the highest crime rate (14 daily murders and one kidnapping every 4 hours).
The untouchables represent 15% of the State’s population, but they own less than 2% of the cultivated land. This inequality causes social tensions that give rise to frequent clashes between landowners and Dalit day laborers .

Bihar has the lowest literacy rate and per capita income in the country, making it one of the most backward state in India. Sometimes they travel kilometers in search of work to earn  less than 200 rupees a day (2 euros) and these jobs only exist for 4 months, the rest is nothing but hunger and misery. 

Although the 1950 Indian constitution prohibits caste discrimination, as well as the practice of unsociability, atrocities against untouchables are very common.

It was Dr. Bhim Rao Ambedkar, a jurist, economist, politician and social reformer who inspired the Dalit movement and campaigned against social discrimination against his own caste, the “untouchables” (Dalits), while at the same time supporting the rights of women and workers. He was the prime minister of justice and the principal architect of the Constitution of India. Mobilized the “untouchables” to fight for rights such as drawing water from wells, entering temples, etc., Dr. BR Ambedkar became the leader of the Dalits and still remains a source of inspiration for this community.

It is for all this that, we want to give the Dalit children the opportunity to receive training and to be worthy people through education.

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Poor population in India constituted by Dalits

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Of the child population, Dalit shows signs of malnutrition

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Women are illiterate in rural India

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Dalit population lives in rural areas

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Does not have access to land ownership

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Depends on casual employment