Caste Turmoil: Symposium at Panjab University on the topic “Caste question in India and it’s Solution”

Pictures By Udayvir Singh Uppal (ISSER, PU Campus)

A seminar was held on 23rd August at Gandhi Bhawan,  The lecture was given by a Social activist  Mr. Sukhwinder
About the Speaker: Mr. Sukhwinder  has been working as a social worker and activist in remote areas and has worked for the eradication of  the institution of Caste and has written and has researched for it eloquently and is often a part of  social discussions.
Growing up in India, A feature that remains to be a very unique and inevitable  part even in the contemporary era is the institution of Caste. It has been passed on through generations and we’ve learnt it as we’ve come along but there are times when I was told that Caste remains a thing of the past, perhaps that isn’t true because it’s very prominent even now. The lecture’s emphasis was on how vicious and inevitable the institution is, In many cases, it was broadcast in our surnames. Political parties were often created around castes; communities clung together especially as mentioned by the speaker –The Communist Party of India(CPI).
Now, when it comes to defining caste, It’s a tedious task which comes along with it’s own complexities, There was one that I agreed with which was absolute by an author Mrs. Jaiswal that “Caste revolves around and is based on three entities and cannot exist without each other which are Hierarchy, Division of  Labor and the Institution of Marriage”.
Even after, untouchability has been wiped out of the society, castes have managed to be prevalent  and there were two notions presented by the speaker that the people who want  or have been wanting to reduce the implications of the caste system will either kill themselves in their endeavor as it was said by Baba Saheb Bhim Rao Ambedkar  that Caste will always prevail and social movements will only deteriorate society and fragment it. The speaker had the view though a very debatable one that the system of castes should be abandoned through the ideologies of  Sir Bhim Rao Ambedkar and Karl Marx as he feels that class and castes are inter-related and also religion. He also talked about the fact that how caste is not one’s fault as one is born into a caste of someone and their birth is completely accidental.

According to the speaker caste as a hierarchy of categorizing people into castes and sub castes was started roughly between 500 B.C. and 500 A.D. and developed in this time and the remnants of the system still persists if not explicitly. In a census of 2011, 16.6 per cent of  India’s population is scheduled caste and there are 33,000 castes and25,000 subcastes in India, each related to a specific occupation.  In the terms of religion, Sikhism never had a speck of it’s existence but it came into being through a period of time and even in Muslims. In retrospect, India had caste system and it’s survival is very unique especially in India, Nepal, Bangladesh because of similar religions being practiced, it originated but never ceased to stop.



In the traditional era, perhaps changes were observed as populations resented against the system, there was a lot of debate and no consensus was being made on whether such a system of hierarchy should exist or not was a question of importance but the only change that occurred was that one would come above the other and the hierarchy in accordance with purity and pollution would change.


It’s a very well known fact that colonialism had major impacts on the polity, economy and social structure and organization in India and so did Caste.
It was known to the English that Caste was prevalent however they didn’t want to intervene in this system and didn’t do much about it.
In the speaker’s speech a lot of orientalism was present as he mentioned that The West, apparently flourish and are the first world because they weren’t colonized and fragmented like India was, English  had the view that India was a nation of myths ,snake charmers  and was uncivilized and didn’t have a proper administrative of governmental system but he contradicted it by giving examples of  Bhim Rao Ambedkar, Edward Saed etc. and India couldn’t develop as much as the west because of the continuity that wasn’t maintained.  The Indian Population still suffers from oppression and slavery and the scars of which are still there notably.

Meanwhile, In The session a gentleman got up and intervened the speech as the speaker mentioned that Bhim Rao Ambedkar demanded reservations for the lower classes and corrected him saying that apparently that was not the case and in fact it was the Government’s initiative to consolidate these so called lower castes or Dalits and it only made sense for a country like India.

And another intelligent question came up in the session that ultimately reservations has created resentment because of obvious reasons  but  was it given to consolidate the oppression faced by these people or for the betterment of the community itself ? either free the country from reservation or make everybody a slave of reservation. By and large, the Indian system of quotas has endured and been appreciated. In middle school civics, the affirmative action was explained as a bedrock of India’s democracy, a way of reversing unjust systems of the past.

There are numerous fault lines in India’s complex society and history that can flare up almost anytime. The Gujarat crisis is a reminder of the troubles that simmer below the surface, and the need for Modi’s government to create jobs and deliver inclusive growth. The Gujarat crises was commented on and highly debated it in the session.

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Swati (isser)


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