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Who is responsible for vitiating the caste system? The British!

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sarang

Well-known member
There is one solution to the immense damage caused to the varna/ caste system what we see today. The british were responsible as brought out by the research article by Kevin Hobson:

The Indian Caste System and The British - Ethnographic Mapping and the Construction of the British Census in India By Kevin Hobson.


I have given a few selections from the paper to understand the content and tone of the article with my comments in brackets.

What is the solution? Remove all references to caste from the constitution, statutes, and do away with caste based reservation. This is not abolition of caste, but removal of caste based 'demands' and 'fruits' in public life, and allowing people to practice what they want.

Excerpts:

1. The freebooters of the 18th century were giving way to the bureaucrats of the 19th century. Ironically, it is highly debatable which of the two, freebooters or bureaucrats were the most dangerous to the people of India. Treasure can be replaced. Cultures, once tampered with, are nearly impossible to reclaim.
(freebooters – east india company)

2. Interestingly, as with the Irish, the government had no qualms about including religious questions on the Indian census.
(religion was not included in the 1871 census survey in England.)

3. The point is that the British came to believe that they ruled over a far greater population than was in
fact the case. To make matters worse, these early estimates were perpetuated by their use in later estimates and consequent compounding of the original errors. In any case, the British administrators were, understandably overwhelmed by these figures and felt obliged to find a way to compartmentalize chunks of population into manageable groups. The most obvious way to do so was through the use of India's unique caste system.
. . . but during the 19th century caste was not what the British believed it to be. It did not constitute a rigid description of the occupation and social level of a given group and it did not bear any real resemblance to the class system.
(british thought that the caste system was similar to the british class system)

4. At present, the main concern is that the British saw caste as a way to deal with a huge population by breaking it down into discrete chunks with specific characteristics. Moreover, as will be seen later in this paper, it appears that the caste system extant in the late 19th and early 20th century has been altered as a result of British actions so that it increasingly took on the characteristics that were ascribed to by the British.

(that is the caste system evolved as the british thought it was or it ought to be)

5. One of the main tools used in the British attempt to understand the Indian population was the census. Attempts were made as early as the beginning of the 19th century to estimate populations in various regions of the country but these, as earlier noted, were methodologically flawed and led to grossly erroneous conclusions. It was not until 1872 that a planned comprehensive census was attempted.
(devil in action)

contd . . .
 
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sarang

Well-known member
6. Among the many questions were enquiries regarding nationality, race, tribe, religion and caste. Certainly none of these things were relevant to emergency measures responses by the government. Further, neither the notion of curiosity nor planned subterfuge on the part of the administration suffices to explain their inclusion in the census.
(None of this was necessary, but done for division and control, as is done today)

7. The word caste is not a word that is indigenous to India. . . Thus, from the very beginning of western contact with the subcontinent European constructions have been imposed on Indian systems and institutions. To fully appreciate the caste system one must step away from the
definitions imposed by Europeans and look at the system as a whole, including the religious beliefs that are an integral part of it.
(this is the condition even today; educated Indians too are in the same trap)

8. What the British failed to realize was that Hindus existed in a different cosmological frame than did the British. The concern of the true Hindu was not his ranking economically within society but rather his ability to regenerate on a higher plane of existence during each successive life. ‘within traditional Indian society the caste system was not static either within the material or metaphysical plane of existence.
(start of divide and label classification)

9. The Mahtons claimed that they should be granted the status of Rajputs because of both history and the fact that they followed Rajput customs. Therefore, since they had not received this status in the 1901 census, they requested the change to be affected in the 1911 census. Their request was rejected, not on the basis of any existing impediment but on the basis of the 1881 census which
stated that the Mahtons were an offshoot of the Mahtams who were hunter/scavengers. Thus, it appears that the census system had become self reinforcing. This definitely shows that the actions of the British in classifying and enumerating castes within the census had heightened indigenous awareness of the caste system and had added an economic aspect that the Indian people were willing and anxious to exploit.
(the british created their own system of hierarchy, started ranking castes, which initiated claims, regrouping, demands for change of level the mahtons can join the army if they had rajput status)

10. Contrary to what the British appear to have believed, it seems doubtful that the Brahmans were dominant within the material world in pre colonial Indian society. A cursory examination of any of the ruling families quickly shows a dearth families of the Brahmin caste. Rather, one finds that the majority, though by no means all, of rulers were Kshytria and occasionally Vashnia. This suggests that although the Brahmin caste had power in spiritual matters, their power and control within the material world was limited to the amount of influence that they could gain with individual rulers. No doubt there were instances when this was quite considerable but there is also little doubt that there were times when Brahman influence was very weak and insignificant.
(So Brahmins were neither here nor there, power and wealth more diffused like all dominant communities.)
 
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sarang

Well-known member
11. The British would then take this information, received through the filter of the Brahmans, and interpret it based on their own experience and their own cultural concepts. Thus, information was filtered at least twice before publication. Therefore, it seems certain that the information that was finally published was filled with conceptions that would seem to be downright deceitful to those about whom the information was written. The flood of petitions protesting caste rankings following
the 1901 census would appear to bear witness to this.
(like today’s census, the enumerators did a bulk survey and filled most of the details themselves. Ranking of castes and publishing it is responsible for today’s mindset)

12. What seems, however, to have confused the British, was the fact that when they asked Indians to identify the caste, tribe or race for census purposes, they received a bewildering variety of responses. Often the respondent gave the name of a religious sect, a sub-caste, an exogamous sect or section of a hypergamous group, titular designation, occupation or the name of the region he came from. Obviously Indian self identifying concepts were quite different from those concepts that the British expected.
(so the british, filled the blanks, deleted unknown words and made a grouping and ranking that suited their convenience and benefit)
13. The simplest explanation for this is that on a day to day basis caste may not be the most important factor in the life of a Hindu. While it is granted that extremely low groups such as the untouchables who suffer under a constant burden of being ritually polluting were very conscious of their caste and that Brahmins were also very caste conscious, it is questionable whether the majority of the Indian
people actually concerned themselves with caste on a daily basis.
(what is the position today? All notified castes are caste conscious and demand bigger and bigger slices of cake. Since untouchables are labeled as such and notified, they cannot upgrade their caste status, despite upward mobility and relinquishing polluting professions.)

14. Such was the case during the census of 1891. In an effort to arrange various castes in order of precedence: "... functional grouping is based less on the occupation that prevails in each case in the
present day than on that which is traditional with it, or which gave rise to its differentiation from the rest of the community." This action virtually removed Indians from the progress of history and
condemned them to an unchanging position and place in time. . . the census began to increase the rigidity of the caste system, particularly when one considers the fact that one of the primary ways that a caste could traditionally raise its status was to change its occupation.
(Aryan race theory was at its peak)

15. The censuses forced the Indian social system into a written schematic in a way that had never been experienced in the past. While the Mughals had issued written decrees on the status of individual
castes, there had never been a formal systematic attempt to organize and schedule all of the castes in an official document until the advent of the British censuses. The data was compiled on the basis of British understanding of India. This understanding was deeply affected by British concepts of their own past, and by British notions of race and the importance of race in relation to the human
condition.
(who is responsible for this caste division?)
 
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sarang

Well-known member
Author's concluding remarks:

16. These same notions led to a classification of intelligence and abilities based on physical attributes, and this in turn led to employment opportunities being limited to certain caste groupings that displayed the appropriate attributes. Indians attempted to incorporate themselves into this evolving system by organizing caste sabhas with the purpose of attaining improved status within the system. This ran contrary to traditional views of the purpose of the caste system and imposed an economic basis. With this, the relevance and importance of the spiritual, non material rational for caste was degraded and caste took on a far more material meaning. In this way, caste began to intrude more pervasively into daily life and status became even more coveted and rigid. In a sense, caste became politicized as decisions regarding rank increasingly fell into the political rather than the spiritual sphere of influence. With this politicization, caste moved closer to class in connotation. The actions of the Indian people that contributed to this process were not so much acquiescence to the British construction as they were pragmatic reactions to the necessities of material life. In expropriating the knowledge base of Indian society, the British had forced Indian society and the caste system to execute adjustments in order to prosper within the rubric of the British regime.
 

Raghy

Well-known member
Sri. Sarang, Greetings.

This subject was discussed/debated/argued and fought upon in one of the previous thread... quite extensively, I should add!

Cheers!
 
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sarang

Well-known member
I did a forum search for kevin hobson; as no posts were returned, this effort.

Sri. Sarang, Greetings.

This subject was discussed/debated/argued and fought upon in one of the previous thread... quite extensively, I should add!

Cheers!
 

Raghy

Well-known member
I did a forum search for kevin hobson; as no posts were returned, this effort.

Sri. Sarang, Greetings.

The thread was called " The Britih are to blame" started by Sri. Nara.

That above thread was an offshoot of "Culture- Some Questions"

The thread started By Sri. Nara was exclusively for discussing the subject addressed by yourself.

Cheers!
 
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sarang

Well-known member
Thanks. I start from a different point. Why caste based census by the british rulers in 19th century changed the social setup, and made caste an important issue for jobs and governance, whereas it was was loose, liberal and essentially personal.

The earlier threads on caste swiftly degenerated into brahmin bashing. I hope this does not become one.


Sri. Sarang, Greetings.

The thread was called " The Britih are to blame" started by Sri. Nara.

That above thread was an offshoot of "Culture- Some Questions"

The thread started By Sri. Nara was exclusively for discussing the subject addressed by yourself.

Cheers!
 
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