Dr. B.R. Ambedkar views on Abolition of Caste System in India

Caste is a system in which determination of position, rights and duties of an individual is done...

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Caste is a system in which determination of position, rights and duties of an individual is done on the basis of the birth of such individual in a particular group. In other words we can say that, the status of an individual is determined by birth. Under caste system an individual is not allowed to change its status. We can say that it is a rigid form of stratification system, which restrict the mobility and distinctness of status. Due to the caste system several evil prevails in the society. Under a caste system and individual is compel to follow the caste occupation. Caste system leads to untouchability. It restricts the growth of brotherhood among people and also it hold off national unity and create obstacles to social progress. Caste system denies equal rights of individual, that why it is considered as undemocratic. For eradicating the problems of caste system many steps were taken by various leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi, Jyotiba Phule and the most significant role was played by Dr. B R Ambedkar. According to him for eradication of caste, it is necessary to break the religious notion on which caste system is laid down. He is of the view that caste system is not merely division of labour perhaps; it is also a division of labourers. Equality should be for all and though the success shared by all. Instead of thinking about one single community there should be a deep cultural unity of all community. The relevance of this research is to indicate that what Dr. B R Ambedkar regarded as the right path of investigation, to achieve some serviceable truth. Sentiments must be outlawed from the domain of science and things should be judge from objective standpoint.



In 16th century the word caste was derived from the Spanish and Portuguese word Casta, which means race or lineage. Caste system is an example of rigid social inequality from the perspective of social organization and system of values. So far as social organization of caste is concerned, there is division of society into groups ranking in a different hierarchy and in a system of values, caste provide legitimacy to the concept of social inequality among the masses as well as give importance to the idea of purity and pollution. The roots of Hindu caste system were already in place between 1000 and 1500 B.C. When the Aryans settled near the Indus river valley. The Rig Veda a sacred text from the period describe four main Varna in traditional Hindu society : Brahmanas ; the class of priests and teachers ; Kshatriyas, the warrior class who were the rulers and soldiers ; Vaishyas, the commercial class of artisans, traders and cultivators and Shudras; the servant and peasant class.

The word caste signifies breed, race and rank which came into use for the first time in 1563 A.D. by Gracia De Orta wrote – no one can changes from his father’s trade and all those of the same caste of the shoe maker are the same. To Hindu, however, the concept of caste has a narrower and more precise meaning, referring to the smaller sub-groups defined by subtle distinction of birth, intermarriage and occupation. The four Varna’s described in Rig Veda comprises more than 2000 sub castes .Beneath these caste is a fifth population group- those without any caste, literally, outcastes. They are treated as Untouchables. The Indian Constitution of 1950 made untouchability illegal. Today these people call themselves Dalits (oppressed) .

In India Caste System consists of two different concepts that is Varna and Jati, the real concept of Varna has almost disappeared in the present context and has changed into Jati. The former was based on color of the skin and later on birth. It is the religious and social institution of Hindu peoples who comprised about 80% of India’s population. The rest of India is Muslim, Christian, Sikh, Jain or Buddhist. Caste is such a deep rooted and pervasive concept, it is a rigid form of stratification system, in which mobility of rank and status is not allowed. However, that it has also influenced Muslims, Christians and Sikhs, for instance, they have separate churches for dalits and non dalits Christians. The 50 million Indians who live in tribal community predate the Aryan and Dravidian civilization. They are members of backward classes, they are not the part of Hindu society even then, they have started observing untouchability towards Dalits- who themselves have a caste hierarchy.

Although, it is difficult to establish as to when the caste system originated, but there is no doubt that the institution of caste for the convenience of the ruling class leading to successful administration by them. There are different theories about the establishment of the caste system. These are Religious mystical, Biological, Socio-historical theories.

Religious Theory
The religious theory explained how the four Varna’s were founded, but they do not explained how the Jaats in each Varna or the untouchables were founded. According to Rig Veda, the ancient Hindu book, the primal man- Purush –destroyed himself to create human society. The different Varnas were created from different part of his bodies. The Brahmans were created from his Head; the kshtriyas from his Hands; the Vaishyas from his Thighs and the Shudras from his Feet. Other religious theory claims that the Varna’s were created from the body organs of Brahma, who is the creator of the world. According to Iravati Krave : the four rank system was creation of ruling class which originally had a three rank system in which whatever the differences of rank all people had right to certain rituals and sacraments from birth to death.

Biological theory
The biological theories claims that all existing things, animated and in animated, inherent three qualities in different apportionment. Sattva attributes includes wisdom, intelligence, honesty, goodness, and other positive qualities. Rajas attributes includes velour, passion, pride and other passionate qualities. Tamas attributes includes dullness, stupidity. Lack of creativity and other negative qualities. According to these attributes Brahmans inherent Sattva qualities. Kshatriyas and Vaishyas inherent Rajas qualities and Shudras inherent Tamas qualities.
In ancient India the religion had a prominent place; the king was considered the image of God. The Priest King accorded different position to different functional groups. According to Senart, like human beings food also inherent different dosage of these qualities but he explained the origin of caste system on the basis of prohibition regarding sacramental food. He holds that the followers of a particular deity considered themselves the descendants of the same ancestors and offered a particular kind of food as offering to their deity. Those who believed in the same deity considered themselves as different from those who believed in some other deity.

Socio historical theory
The socio historical theory explains the creation of the Varna, Jaats and untouchables. According to this theory the caste system begins with the arrival of Aryans in India. Before the Aryans there were other communities in India of other origins among them Negrito, Mongoloid, Austroloid and Dravidian. When the Aryans arrived in India their main contact was with the Dravidians and Austroloids. The Aryans disregarded the local culture, they begin conquering and taken control over regions in north India and at the same time pushed the local people towards the south, jungles and mountains in north India.
The Aryans organized among themselves in three groups. The first was of a warrior called Rajayana later they changed their name to kshatriya. The second group was of priest called Brahmans. The third group was of farmers and craftsmen and they were called as Vaishyas. In order to secure their status the Aryans resolved some social and religious rules which allowed only them to be the priest, warrior and the businessmen of the society. For instance: Maharashtra in West India, many think that the meaning of the name Maharashtra is great land but some claim that the name Maharashtra is derived from the Jaats called Mahar who were considered to be the original people of this region. In the caste hierarchy the dark-skinned Mahar were outcastes. The skin color was an important factor in the caste system.
The meaning of the word Varna is not class or status but skin color. In Hindu religious stories there were many wars between the good Aryans and a dark skinned demons and devils, but the real fact was that the dark skinned slaves were in fact the original residence of India, whom the Aryans coined as monsters, devils, demons and slaves.

Therefore the caste system did not come into existence all of a sudden or at a particular date. It is the result of the long process of social evolution. A number of factors played their part in the development of the present caste system enumerated as follows:
• Hereditary occupation.
• The desire of the Brahmans to keep themselves pure.
• The lack of rigid, unitary control of the state.
• The unwillingness of ruler to enforce a uniform standard of law and custom and their readiness to recognize the worrying custom of different groups as valid.
• Believe in re-incarnation and the doctrine of karma.
• Geographical isolation of the Indian peninsula.
• Static nature of Hindu society.
• Foreign invasion and rural social structure.

All these factors conspired to encourage the formation of small groups based on petty distinction from time to time. It may however be noted that the caste system is not specifically an institution of Hindus but it is a typical Indian institution. Further caste system is not a monopoly of India it existed and still exists in many parts of the world. What is unique in the Hindu caste system is that it alone classified some groups as untouchables and unapproachable.

According to P.N Bose,- the caste system has acted essentially to impose that attitude of money, needed to raise men from savagery but to stop them halfway on progress.

Disintegrating factor:
The caste system has literally split up the society into hundreds of hereditary caste and sub castes and encouraged a spirit of exclusiveness and class-pride, narrowed the outlook and created wide gulfs between the various sections of the community. The caste system resulted in lots of evils because of its rigid rules. It perpetuates exploitation of the economically weaker and socially inferior caste. It protects the privileged caste and thus, builds up economic discontent and social prejudices. A person born in one caste was doomed to remain in it forever, and keep check on economic and intellectual advancement and a great stumbling block in way of social reforms, because it keeps economic and intellectual opportunities confined to a certain section of the population only and denies them to other. The Shudras and untouchables had to perform all the menial tasks. They could not do anything for their own development. The worst thing is that they cannot be permitted to devote himself to any educational or scientific profession, even when they have natural aptitudes and physical and intellectual equipment for it. Worthy and capable person are prevented by caste rigors from getting their proper and rightful places, even there next generation has to follow the same rigidness of caste system, and they too remain closed slaves and bonded labors. The caste system however is guilty of just the opposite demerit. It does not make proper provision for low-born talents or high-born incompetence.

Barred to religious ties;
As far as religion is concerned the lower caste people were not even allowed to touch the holy book and sacred literatures and they were devoid to enter into the temple. This problem has given scope for religious conversion. The lower caste people were getting converted into Islam and Christianity, due to the tyranny of upper caste. Along with these issues the old Hindu Law Marriage Act 1955 promotes Anuloma marriage i.e. a boy from upper caste can marry a girl from lower caste and prohibits Pratiloma marriage i.e. a girl from lower caste cannot marry a boy from upper caste. It also inflicted untold hardships on women through its insistence on practices like child marriages, prohibition of widow remarriage, seclusion of women etc. these have made the life of women miserable.
History bears testimony that the issue of caste system sanctioned privileges to a section of society who understood themselves as a superior class and at the same time it inflicted a series of disabilities on their sections which continues from generation to generation.

Contrary to Democracy;
Democracy is based on principle of equality, fraternity and liberty. On the other hand the caste system is based on inequality of status and opportunities, which often creates conflict and tension in the society. It acts as an obstacle in the normal and smooth functioning of democracy. No doubt India has got political freedom but it must be the concerned of every individual that real freedom cannot be cherished without attainment of the social and the economic democracy. It is unfortunate that the Indian society is sharply divided into various caste and sub caste which acts as a barrier due to rigidity and division of the society based on caste consideration.

Perpetuates Untouchability:
The caste system has condemned large groups of people to a life of degradation without any hope of redemption. It has created Untouchables, an evil that has been sapping the very vitals of the society. This untouchability is reduced to the state of natural slavery and hindered the growth of brotherhood; hold off the national unity as it disallowed any type of social intercourse. B.R Ambedkar rightly said, Untouchability of Hindus is a rare phenomenon, humanity is any other part of the earth has never experienced it. There is no such thing in any other society. Really, the tyranny is perpetuated in the name of untouchabilty are the black lesson in human culture. . According to Mahatma Gandhi, untouchability is the hate fullest expression of caste.

Hindrance in the way of Modernization:
The caste system obstructs the process of Modernization as it also restricts the mental development of an individual. Modern Indian intellect is, therefore burdened with the sense of contrition over the matter. Passions overwhelmingly carry us to a position of hostility towards any compromise, and the entire caste structure placed in the docks. Despite this it cannot be said that the caste system offers a place in which any group religion or occupation can fit in as a cooperating part of the society.

Bhim Rao Ambedkar was born in December 1981 in a Mahar community, an untouchable caste of Maharashtra. His father Ramji and grandfather Maloji was in military services. He was the youngest child of his parents and was just only five when his mother died. Thereafter his aunt took care of him. He was enrolled in a local school of Satara where he had to sit on the floor and his teacher would not touch his books as because he was untouchable. Facing so many hardships in his life B R Ambedkar continued his studies and passed his matriculation. In 1913 Maharaj OF Baroda awarded scholarship to B R Ambedkar and send him to America for attaining the degree of Masters, it was for the first time in his life he was not degraded for being Mahar.

He submerged himself in the studies and obtained the Degree of M.A, PHD from the University of Columbia. There after he proceeded to London but soon Baroda government ended his scholarship and bring him back. The Maharaja of Baroda appointed him as a Secretary but here also he faced discrimination because of being Mahar. In 1917 he returned to Bombay and joined syndrome college, Bombay as a professor of political economy on a temporary basis. the social treatment of other professors were so pathetic as they all belongs to high caste even they objected that Ambedkar can’t drink water from the pot reserved for the professional staff. When he started legal practice in the High Court of Judicature, Bombay. He had no money even to obtain sanad. He had joint the appellate side of the bar. The solicitor would not condensed to have any business dealing with him because of untouchability .therefore, all these circumstances forced him to be a great rebel against the Hindu orthodoxy and its discriminatory treatment to turns his mind for searching a cult where a man is not discriminated by the another man.

Dr. Ambedkar played a significant role for the upliftment of downtrodden. He was considered as messiah for suppressed class as he belongs to untouchable’s community. He experienced caste discrimination right from the childhood, that’s why he raises the issues related to untouchability there are many leaders who raise their voice for the down trodden of India, but the most significant, eminent actions were taken by B R Ambedkar because he himself faced such problems ,After noticing the evils of prevailing caste system and its impacts on suppressed human being prompted founding father of the Constitution of India to create an egalitarian society wherein justice, social, economic and political right prevails which includes equality of status and opportunity may be available to everyone irrespective of caste system.
No doubt India has got political freedom and has political democracy, but it must be the concerned of everyone that real freedom cannot be cherished without attainment of social and economic democracy. It is unfortunate that the Indian society is sharply divided into various caste and sub caste which is obstacle due to rigidity segregation and division of the society based on rigid caste consideration. B R Ambedkar was impressed enough by the conduct and humanism of the great social reformers like Budhha, Kabir and Jyotiba Phule. He declared that Untouchables must leave the Hindu culture and accept another religion instead, and he himself embraced Buddhism.

Dr. Ambedkar criticized old Law books like Manusmriti and Arthshastras who showed the inferiority and bitterness towards the suppressed class. He also criticized the higher standard of Brahmans who are category above of all. The Brahmans are somehow responsible for social exploitation and the backwardness of untouchables.
Ambedkar also rejected that there were no such invasion of Aryans as mentioned in the ancient Vedic and Sanskrit literature. He argued that Shudras were not dark skinned but Shudras were also belongs to the Kshatriyas class but due to the defeat in a battle with VAISTHA after which they became their subordinates. He raises many question against the political minded Hindus such as are you fit for political power even though you do not allow a class of your own countrymen like the untouchables to use public school, public well, public street, to wear what apparel or ornament they like, food they want to eat, he who emerged a revolutionary leader, approached the problem of Hindu caste system and the fate of suppressed human being from different perspective. In estimation of Dr. Ambedkar caste is a barrier to social progress and was the direct result of Hindu caste system.

According to him Varna and Caste were evil ideas. He was of the belief that by the eradication of the Varna system, a cohesive and egalitarian society may emerged the concept if equality and fraternity and viewed that every congressmen who was of the opinion that when one country is not fit to rule, another country must admit that one class is not fit to rule another class. If he talks about political reformation he criticized both Mahatma Gandhi as well as Congress Party. He said that Congress to be the sole representative of people of India including all communities’

But congress does not pay much emphasis on the interest of the untouchables and when he mentioned Gandhi, Ambedkar says that he give many quotes and sayings but no views and suggestions that were helpful for the development of un-trodden He was of the view that there should be reorganization and reconstruction of the society which relates to the abolition of caste system. High class Hindu never feel the necessity for agitating for the abolition of the caste system, rather they felt quite a greater urge to remove those evils such as child marriages, sati etc One important fact that deserves to be mentioned over here is that Gandhi could never rid his mind of a concept of Varna system and he never directly asked people to give up on caste system. On the other hand Dr. Ambedkar clearly mentioned outcaste is the byproduct of the caste system. There will be outcaste as long as there are castes. And nothing can emancipate the outcaste except the destruction of the caste system.

Political democracy cannot last unless there lies at the base of it social democracy. What does social democracy mean? It means a way of life which recognizes liberty, equality and fraternity as the principles of life.

Dr. Ambedkar’s initiative for the abolition of caste system
Dr. B R Ambedkar throughout his lifetime was considered to be a controversial personality. He was a great nationalist who was less understood and more misunderstood by his own countrymen. But his worth could not be hidden for a long time, he began to be hailed by the people of the India as a great patriot throughout his life. There were various initiatives taken by him for the course of the memorandum that he submitted jointly with Roa Bahadur K. Srinivasan of the minority committee of the round table conference he had outlined the terms and conditions on which the depressed classes will consent to place themselves under a majority rule in a self governing India as follow:
• Equal citizenship and fundamental rights declaring the practice of untouchability as illegal.
• Free enjoyment of equal rights protected by adequate constitutional remedies.
• Protection against discrimination.
• Adequate representation to the depressed classes in the legislature. They must have the right to elect their representative by Universal Adult Suffrage.
• Adequate representation in the services.
• Redress against pre judicial action or neglect of interest and obligation should be imposed on the legislation and the executive to make adequate provision for the education, sanitation, recruitment and other matters of social and political advancement of the depressed classes.

Ambedkar was called upon to play a stupendous role in his capacity as chairman of the drafting committee of the constituent assembly and as a minister of Law in the Nehru Cabinet. He was entrusted with the responsibility of safeguarding the rights of every Indian, especially for depressed sections. A quick glance at the provisions enumerated in part III, IV and XVI of the Indian Constitution.

On his return to India in 1923, he founded, Bahishkrit Hitakarini Sabha with a main object of spreading education and improving the economic conditions of the oppressed classes. With a slogan of Educate-Agitate-Organized the social movement led by Dr. Ambedkar aimed at annihilation of the caste and the reconstruction of the Indian society on the basis of equality of human beings.
In 1927 he led the march at Mahad, Maharashtra to establish the rights of the untouchables to take water from the public Chawdar Lake. This marked the beginning of anti-caste and anti-priest movement. The temple entry movement launched by B.R. Ambedkar in 1930 at the Kalaram temple is another landmark in the struggle of human rights, political and social justice.
One of the greatest contributions of Dr. Ambedkar was in respect of fundamental rights and directive principles of state policy enshrined in the constitution of India. The fundamental rights provide for freedom, equality and abolition of untouchability and remedies to ensure the evolution of rights. The directive principles mentioned fair distribution of wealth and better living conditions for all.
It was he, who forsook his high pedestal, lying down to their level, gives them a helping hand and raised them to human stature. For Indians, Ambedkar is no more a historical personality named Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar. He is already metamorphosed into a symbol-a symbol for their collective aspiration and an icon for the thesis of their emancipation. Human history is replete with such icons; rather it is largely made of them.

Caste system was very much stringent and rigid institution of early society which was responsible for the pathetic condition of different groups of the community and they were treated as suppressed and untouchables class. Various successful steps were taken by different social reformers to eradicate this evil from the mind of the people, because every individuals mind were responsible to generate this evils into once mind. This paper emphasized the annihilation of caste system in the light of the views if Dr. B R Ambedkar. He made valuable contribution to the social and political thinking and denounced the outrageous attitude of the Brahmanical Hinduism towards the untouchables and worked for the liberation of oppressed class from the high caste Hindus. Through his writing and speeches he made the people conscious of the political, economic and social problem of the untouchables and impressed the need of paying special attention to the conditions of untouchables.

The influence of Ambedkar idea is evident from the fact that the new constitution not only assured equality to all the citizens but also took definite steps to abolish untouchablity and made its factors in any form an offence punishable under law.

Author: Anam Sabir & Malka Tazeen



This Article Has been Published in Legal Desire International Journal on Law, ISSN 2347-3525 on Page no 32 and Issue no.8th

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