Describe B.R. Ambedkar’s views on Caste in India.

Ambedkar analysed complex caste system and its essential features. He explained that Hindu social order doesn’t recognize equality, liberty and fraternity. The second feature of Hindu social order is that the occupations of people are inherited. The third principle is that interaction of people is limited to the people that belongs to the same caste. Inter-dining and inter-marrying is not allowed among different castes.

According to Ambedkar, the basic unit of the Hindu social order is neither the individual nor the family. The unit of Hindu society is the caste. If an individual suffers discrimination, it is not due to his or her conduct, but it is due to the class he or she belongs to. Hindus believe that the different castes are born from different parts of the god. The main problem is that the value of caste is associated with the location of the divine body from which it is born. For example, Brahmin caste is associated with higher value because it is believed that it originated from the mouth of the god. This leads to unequal statuses of castes.

Hindu social order fixed occupations of castes. Hence it doesn’t allow ‘Liberty of action’. People cannot choose the occupation of their choice, rather they have to follow the occupation of their parents. Hindu society doesn’t recognize that forced occupations reduce efficiency of the work. It also does not recognize the necessity of a representative government chosen by the people. Hindus believe that all the laws are already exist in the Vedas and think that people do not have the right to modify the existing laws.

Ambedkar analysed the definitions of caste proposed by Senart, Nesfield, Risley and Ketkar. He agreed with some points and disagreed with some other points in the definitions. He explained that the cause of caste system is not the concept of purity and pollution, and not the restrictions on inter-dining, instead the critical element of the caste is that prohibition and the absence of inter-marriage between people of different castes.

Ambedkar does not agree with the assumption that its the Brahmin that created castes. He explains that classes exist in all societies and not just in India. but the difference between Hindu social order and other societies is that in Hindu social order, divisions of society have lost the open-door character of the class system and have become self-enclosed units called castes. They decided to be endogamous units. And other castes imitated the endogamous nature of Brahmin caste. The extent of imitation varied from the caste to caste. The castes that are nearest to Brahmin have imitated all the customs of Brahmin that are Sati, forced widowhood and minor girl marriage. Castes that are a little further away imitated only the minor girl marriage custom.

Ambedkar doesn’t agree with the argument that economic power brings power to the lower caste. He explained that religion , social status and property are all the sources of power and authority that come into play in different situations. Caste superiority is a inculcated in the minds of people. To eliminate hierarchical nature of the caste, these beliefs need to be changed. He opines that caste is a state of the mind. He suggested that people need to criticize shastras for the irrational and inhuman nature. People need to follow the rational thinking rather than blindly following the shastras.

To eliminate the caste system, Ambedkar proposed some reforms within the Hindu religion. The first one is to have only one standard book for Hindu religion. The Other reforms he mentioned are that the job of priest should not be hereditary, instead it should be given based on the knowledge one possesses. He recommended that government should conduct exams for priest job.

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