Essay on Causes for the Changes in Caste System

The uniform legal system introduced by the British made the Indians feel that “all men are equal before the law” A number of legislations which the British introduced also struck at the root of the caste system. Independent India followed the same legal system.

The Constitution of India has not only assured equality to all but also declared the practice of untouchability unlawful [Articles 15 and 16]. Articles 16, 164, 225, 330, 332, 334, 335, 338 and the 5th and 6th Schedules of the Constitution provide for some special privileges to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes to enable them to come up to the level of other upper, castes.

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2. Impact of Modern Education:

The British introduced the modern secular education in a uniform way throughout India. In independent India educational facilities are extended to all the caste people. The lowest caste people are also entitled to avail themselves of these facilities.

Modern education has given a blow to the intellectual monopoly of a few upper castes. It has created awareness among people and weakened the hold of caste over the members. It does not, however, mean that the modern educated people are completely free from the hold of the caste.

3. Industrialisation, Urbanisation and Westernisation:

Due to the process of industrialisation, number of non-agricultural job opportunities was created. This new economic opportunity weak­ened the hold of the upper castes people who owned vast lands. People of different castes, classes, and religions started working together in factories, offices, workshops etc.

This was unthinkable two centuries ago. Growth of cities has drawn people of all castes together and made them to stay to­gether ignoring many of their caste restrictions. The upper caste people started looking to the West for modifying their life-style on the model of the West. Thus they became more and more westernised without bothering much about caste inhibitions.

As Ghurye has stated between 1950-60, there were about 913 papers Hinid, Gujarati and Marathi speaking areas out of which at least 85 were caste-based.

Ghurye has stated that he himself counted not less than 1700 caste-based trust-units in Bombay and Greater Bombay Suburban District in the published report of the Charity Commissioner of Maharashtra in 1954.

4. Influence of Modern Transport and Communication System:

Modern means of trans­port such as train, bus, ship, aeroplane, trucks etc. have been of great help for the movement of men and materials. Caste rules relating to the practice of purity and pollution and untouchability could no longer be observed. Modern means of communication, such as, newspapers, post, telegraph, tele­phone, radio, television etc., have helped people to come out of the narrow world of caste.

5. Freedom Struggle and the Establishment of Democracy:

The freedom struggle waged against the British brought all the caste people together to fight for a common cause. Establishment of democratic type of government soon after Independence gave yet another blow to the caste by extending equal socio-economic opportunities to all without any discrimination.

6. Rise of Non-Brahmin Movement:

A movement against the Brahmin supermacy was launched by Jyothirao Pooley in 1873. This movement became popular in course of time particu­larly in the South. It created awareness among the lower castes and instilled in them the feeling of “self-respect”.

This movement which became a great political force, brought pressure upon the gov­ernment to establish Backward Classes Commissions at Central and State levels. The recommenda­tions made by these commissions and their implementation provided vast scope for the lower castes to achieve progress.

7. Other Important Causes:

(i) Social Legislations:

A series of social legislations introduced by the British as well as by the Indian governments [such as the Caste Disabilities Removal Act o/1872, The Hindu Marriage Act of 1955, The Untouchability Offences Act of1956 etc.] directly and indirectly altered the nature of the caste system.

(ii) Social Reform Movements:

Various social reform movements [such as Satyashodhak Samaj, Brahma Samaj, Arya Samaj, Sri Ramakrishna Mission etc.] launched during the second half of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries have been able to remove the rigidity and some of the evil practices associated with the caste system.

(iii) Impact of the West:

Influence of the Western thought and particularly the ideas of — rationalism, liberalism, humanitarianism, egalitarianism etc., made the educated Indians to come out of the clutches of the caste.

(iv) Threat of Conversion:

Social disabilities imposed on the lower castes made some of them to get themselves converted to either Christianity or Islam. Pressure tactics and temptations further added to this conversion process. The threat of conversion compelled the upper castes to relax many of the caste rigidities so that they could hold back the lower caste people who were getting ready for conversion.

(iv) Improvement in the Status of Women, Evolution of New Social Classes [working class, middle class and capitalist class] and radical changes in the system of division of labour especially in the rural areas have further loosened the roots of caste system.