ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Mirage of a Caste-less Society in India

The goal of creating a caste-less society in India, written into the Constitution, has become a mirage. And the mirage is moving further away.

The author thanks Satyakam Joshi for providing useful data, and Lancy Lobo, P J Patel, M N Panini, and N R Sheth for comments on the draft of this article.

When I was a high school student in Gujarat in the 1940s, the issue of abolition of caste was an important part of our discussions. These discussions took place among students, between students and teachers, in institutions such as the Seva Dal and Vidyarthi Parishad, and also in the newspapers. In 1950, the Constitution of independent India, under Part III on Fundamental Rights, declared discrimination on the ground of caste unlawful (Articles 15 and 16), and abolished untouchability (Article 17). Under Part IV on Directive Principles of State Policy, it provided for promotion of rights of the Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) (Article 46). These constitutional provisions raised hopes of progressing faster towards the goal of creating a caste-less society. Let us examine how far Indian society has progressed in this direction. I am asking substantially the same question as my teacher M N Srinivas asked, “Castes: Can They Exist in India of Tomorrow?” at a seminar1 in Delhi in 1955, and his teacher G S Ghurye asked in a chapter, “A Casteless Society or a Plural Society?” in the fifth edition of his celebrated book, Caste and Race in India, in 1969.

Endogamy and Hypergamy

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