Monday, August 29, 2016

Every religion lays emphasis on universal brotherhood, but still we are into casteism.
One of my friends(practising hinduism)once said to me "How cool is that Intercaste marraiges are allowed in Islam". She bears a surname Sharma & wanted to marry a guy who was also a Hindu with a surname Thakur & was not allowed to,(by the family & relatives) because he was considered an SC, which made me research on this thing only to find that nowhere the Vedas or Bhagwad Geeta forbids marrying another caste, but she told me that her parents were right about the caste system since they say it is mentioned in their holy books. But what is actually mentioned is widely misunderstood by even the Hindus as they determine caste by birth while the original Vedic scripts teach Varnashrama i.e dividing people in a society on the basis of Gunn(qualities) & Karam(activities/deeds). We know these Guna-Karma are not inherited then how do we decide that offspring of a Brahmin will be Brahmin & that of Shudra can't be a Brahmin. In fact if a Brahman treats any so called lower class poorly, he/she will depart of his/her brahamanhood. Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas & Shudras are the four prominent castes among Hindus. In fact there is no direct synonym of caste in Vedas, the two words pointed out to mean caste are Jaati(having similar source of birth) & more specifically Varna(determined by education/Job). Caste is a very controversial & misunderstood word. I believe these four divisions were used as the criterion of social classification but were later on complicated. Acc. to Mahabharat, the whole world was originally of one class, it became divided into four divisions on account of the specific duties where Brahmans were priests/teachers/intellectuals/spiritual guides; Kashatriyas were leaders/rulers/administrators/warriors; Vaisyas were producers(artists, farmers, craftsmen) & Shudras were unskilled men/labouring class and all of these contributed constructively to society. We can conclude that everyone is born as Shudra, one becomes a Brahmin, Kshatriya or Vaishya based on the education(& not family background). Even those who remain uneducated (for whatever reasons) continue as Shudra & perform support-activities for the society & are NOT OUTCAST. RigVeda compares these varnas to the body of Purusa where Brahmin was his mouth, Rajanya/Kshatriyas the arms, Vaisya the thighs, & Shudra the feet. Just because Shudras are compared to the feet doesn't mean they are to be treated poorly; don't we know how important feet are to our body. Proper care of each part of the body (regardless of the position it holds) ensures proper functioning of the body, similar is the case with society. But this passage from Rigveda is often misquoted & presented in support of casteism. How can people even try to justify such a practice?
Now, since we know Vedas never mentioned anything like caste-by-birth then how did the unfortunate history of casteism originated? In medieval times, a coterie of brahma-bandhus (person's born to Brahmans but not qualified of being a Brahman), wanting to hold on to brahminical privileges (without developing the required character) started to claim that caste was decided by birth and was unchangeable & that's how it all started. They also misused their social influence to deprive so called lower castes of access to various religous practices. One more question arising here is that why are even the Varnas mentioned in the Vedas at the first place? Since intelligence & factors of personality are acquired traits hence caste system (as mentioned in vedas) could trigger people to get better education to become a so called higher class. If class was determined by the family he/she is born in (as many of us think) persons would be more comfortable in their own social classes & many persons would be born losers. Which means it was a constructive concept but its shameful that many of us discriminate towards many surnames & call those castes.
However casteism is not confined to just Hindus, Muslims of our country are also into it though no caste system is mentioned in the holybooks. Sources indicate that the castes among Muslims of India developed both because of Arabs in Islamic theology & Hindu casteism effect on Indian Muslims which doesnt mean the influence of Hinduism but the continued impact of Hindu beliefs & customs on the converts who still remained within a largely Hindu cultural country & retained many of the associated beliefs & practices(which were wrong in hinduism as well). Acc. to first criteria of social stratification there are two heads Ashraf(noblemen), who are supposedly descendants of Muslim Arab immigrants, & the non-ashraf(Hindu converts). The Ashraf group is further divided into four subgroups: Sayyids(descendants of Muhammad through his daughter FaŠĻ≠imah); Shaykhs (Chiefs),mainly descendants of Arab or Persian immigrants but also including some converted Rajputs, Pashtuns(Pashto-speaking tribes) & Mughals(persons of Turkish origin, who came into India with the Mughal armies). In India due to diversity there are other castes too but none of the two castes among Muslims are forbidden from marrying each other. When person from one caste is allowed to marry (start a family) with whatever caste he/she wishes to, it eliminates the very basis of casteism. This practice was present in Arab before Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) who once said "O people! Indeed, your Lord is one and your father is one. Indeed, there is no superiority of an Arab over a non-Arab, nor of a non-Arab over an Arab, nor of a white over a black, nor a black over a white". This passage is enough to understand that casteism is prohibitted & if we practice discrimination on any basis(caste,race,colour) we are deviating from the preachings of Prophet Mohammed(PBUH). In India Muslims are also classified(by some people) as Ashrafs, Ajlafs and Arzals where Ashraf are priests/teachers/preachers/ kings/governors/landlords/warriors/soldiers. Ajlaf is the buffer class including cattle herders/ploughmen/artisans/merchants & Arzal is the working class, labouring/providing services to others which is very much simillar to Hindu system of classifying a society. All these castes are spiritually equal to God irrespective of their social position. How on earth can one person be superior to other person (but in terms of knowledge) when we share the same ancestors. Its true that many of our forefathers either used to practice caste discrimination or were a victim to it but I am happy to find that today most of the youngsters of India dont bother about castes. Let's appreciate religion for its actual teachings & not man-made classifications of incorrect ideologies that are spreading hatred within our communities. May this practice vanish soon by the grace of Almighty :)