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Caste System Even Now?

The other day, Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama was interacting with over 1,000 foreign tourists in Dharamsala, the headquarters of the Tibetan government in exile. While expressing admiration at the secular nature of India’s thousands of years of tradition that respects all religious faiths, and harping on India being home to all the major religious traditions that has embraced non-believers too with respect, the Dalai Lama, however, condemned India’s discriminatory caste system, saying it should now be shunned. Here is a call from the Nobel Laureate in Peace that the zealous champions of caste-based politics in India would reject on many grounds, chiefly because the varna system has been at the root of our societal mobilization on sheer economic, or profession-based, considerations, and so there is actually nothing wrong in this. But it is a fact of post-Independent India history that the caste system has been expediently converted into a political instrument to put in place caste-based constituencies in the bizarre political universe of this country. Caste has morphed into a political indulgence of a perverse kind, even after over seven long decades of Independence. On the other hand, caste has been at the root of violence too, sometimes of the most barbaric kind as has been noticed in recent times in the many cases of atrocities on Dalits. The Dalits are still regarded as pariahs – as if they have been destined to remain so for eternity. This militates against the idea of a new India on the rise. As the same red fluid flows through the veins of all, there is no reason why one should remain an outcast just because of the accident of birth. Therefore, the Dalai Lama’s is food for great thought. A society cannot progress to new heights unless there is a radical course-correction in ideas and practices whose times were dead long ago. This is a new age. All are equal – and must remain so. And we are a democracy too.

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Ankur Kalita