In this essay we will discuss about caste in Indian politics. After reading this essay you will learn about: 1. Role of Caste in Indian Politics 2. Definition of Caste System 3. Caste and Politics in Free India 4. Caste System and Bureaucracy 5. Strengths of Caste Politics.

Essay Contents:

  1. Essay on the Role of Caste in Indian Politics
  2. Essay on the Definition of Caste System
  3. Essay on Caste and Politics in Free India
  4. Essay on the Caste System and Bureaucracy
  5. Essay on the Strengths of Caste Politics

1. Essay on the Role of Caste in Indian Politics:

In India caste has been playing a very big role since long time past. Indian society is a caste ridden one, is known to world all over. But it is in modern times that the system has degenerated itself. It was felt that after independence the system will gradually disintegrate and shall have no impact because in the constitution there is no place for it.

In fact, making discrimination on the basis of caste and creed is an offence and a punishable crime. But with the passage of time it has undoubtedly been established that caste has not ceased to play its part. It still plays an effective role in all walks of political life more at the local, less at state and lesser at national level. But its punch is felt at all levels.

But usually caste is proving a heavy weight on the political system and people under the influence of caste do not even vote for the most suitable person not belonging to their caste. Not only this, but candidates for contesting elections are picked up taking caste structure of constituency into consideration.

Some constituencies and areas have always returned people belonging to the same caste. There is today no state which is free from the influence of caste, though in some cases its hold may be more, while in others comparatively less.

2. Essay on the Definition of Caste System:

Caste system finds its origin in the Spanish word “casta” meaning breed or race. Thus, basically caste means people belonging to the same breed. The term caste has been defined differently by different people. According to Cooley, “When a class is somewhat hereditary we call it caste.”

In the words of Risley, “A caste may be defined as a collection of families or groups of families bearing a common name which usually denotes or is associated with specific occupation claiming common descent from a mythical ancestor, human or divine professing to follow the same professional calling and are regarded by those who are competent to give an opinion as forming single and homogenous community.”

According to Maclvex, “When status is wholly pre-determined, so that men are born to their lot without any hope of change in it, then the class takes the extreme form of caste.”

According to E.A.H. Blum, “A caste is an endogamous group, or collection of endogamous groups, bearing a common name, membership of which is hereditary imposing on its members certain restrictions in the matter of social intercourse, either following a common traditional occupation or claiming a common origin and generally regarded as forming a single homogenous community.”

Martindale and Monachese say, “A caste is an aggregate of persons whose share of obligations and privileges is fixed by birth, sanctioned and supported by religion and magic.”

Prof. M.N. Srinivas says, “A sociologist would define caste as a hereditary endogamous, usually localised group, having a traditional association with an occupation, and a particular position in the local hierarchy of castes. Relations between castes are governed among other things, by the concepts of pollution and purity, and generally, maximum commensality occurs within the caste.”

Majumdar and Madan say, “Caste in India is a social institution deriving sanction from and intimately interwoven with the Hindu religion.” According to G.S. Ghurye, “Castes are small and complete social words in themselves, marked off definitely from one another, though subsisting within the larger society.” Thus, there is no definition of caste which can be accepted as complete and perfect.

3. Essay on Caste and Politics in Free India:

In free India it was hoped that caste would gradually cease to exert its influence. But it appears that things have not come up to our expectations and the caste still continues to influence politics.

In the words of Prof. M.N. Srinivas, “The elections of 1957 may be said to have awakened the Indian intelligentsia as to the actual considerations which influenced voting. It also led to the widespread condemnation of exploitation of caste links for election purposes…. Elections to panchayats and municipalities held in subsequent years have shown conclusively that caste considerations are potent.”

There can be very many instances to prove that during the last few elections both local and national, caste has influenced the course of elections and also in the selection of candidates. In Rajasthan Swatantra Party largely represented the wealthier classes, landlords and others and was dominated by the Rajputs.

Ghurye says, “On the village level, in Panchayat Raj elections, the toughest struggle was alleged in Jodhpur Division where one of the two parties was for opposing the alleged Jat oppression, the other pleaded for a combined Jat-Ahir-Gujar-Mina combination construable against the Rajputs…. In Gujarat, Patidars may be with one party and Baniyas with another.”

In Kerala politics Nayar and Izhavas influence political life of the state and have their well organised associations and organisations. Similarly one finds that in Orissa Bhumihars, Kayastha and Rajputs pull in different directions at the time of elections and wish to see the candidates belonging to their castes in office.

Caste is not influencing politics in the north India alone but has impact, rather more forcefully and effectively in the south. One of the worst examples of caste-politics inter-relationship was socio-economic feuds between the Maravan and Shanar which took a political turn in 1957. The Maravaas expected the support of the scheduled castes, who were in turn favourably inclined to the Congress political party.

The feud took the turn of riots which took place between July 4 and September 10. It is alleged that 2830 houses were burnt, 25 persons were killed in the riots and 130 villages saw the burning of the houses of the scheduled castes. Ghurye says, “The genesis of this holocaust is very instructive as revealing the explosive nature of the caste situation lending itself in every field for exploitation for political purposes.”

Impact of caste and politics in Mysore (Karnataka), becomes clear from the fact that at one stage the private staff of Ministers belonged to the caste to which most of the Ministers belonged.

Caste politics also plays its role in Bihar, where there are four dominant castes, namely, the Rajputs, the Brahmins, the Kshatriyas and the Adivasis. The Rajputs in the past used to lend their support to Janata party and Janata Dal; the Kayasthas have almost always opposed the Brahmins in their struggle for the getting powers and in Ministry making process. The Adivasis have organised themselves into a separate political party, known as Jharkhand party and have been demanding a separate Jharkhand State.

In Andhra politics caste has played a bigger role than in many other states. In this state there are two predominant castes, namely, the Kammas and the Reddys; whereas the former usually side with the communists, the latter with the Congress party.

In order to reduce the influence of Kammas caste, the Congress party during the times of second general elections secured the support of some of the leaders of this caste. Here the castes have blended religion with politics. In the words of Prof. M.N. Srinivas, “The regional claims in Andhra are often only a disguise for caste claims.”

About Andhra politics Prof. Harrison says, “As an example of Hindu caste discipline in political motion, the post war decade in Andhra merits special attention. Caste has played so fundamental role during this period that this examination becomes in effect a caste history on the impact of the caste on India’s representative institutions.”

In Maharashtra also caste has gone a long way in politics. Important castes in the state are the Marathas, the Brahmins and the Mahars. In the state though the Brahmins are not in majority, yet they dominate the political show. But in the state the Mahars are in good majority and no political party can expect to establish its hold unless and until it can win the co-operation of this caste.

In the state politics Congress party has been in a position to maintain its hold only with their active co-operation.

4. Essay on the Caste System and Bureaucracy:

Caste system plays its parts not only in politics but also in bureaucracy. In many cases those who sit on the selection committees to recruit public servants try to pick up people belonging to their own caste. Favours are shown to own caste people at the time of promotions, etc.

The employees belonging to the same caste try to adjust each other and give even out of the way benefits. They promote each other’s cause even in the absence of those who are to be benefited. Not only this but they communicate with each other on equal footings, irrespective of their official status. In fact, the whole bureaucratic system is becoming gradually and rapidly caste ridden.

5. Essay on the Strengths of Caste Politics:

In free India where state was interested in having a casteless society but it is amazing that caste is more and more influencing both politics and elections. There are certain factors responsible for this. One such reason is establishment of Panchayati Raj institutions. Things as these at present stand, in our local politics Panchayats have been allowed to have a considerable position and authority.

The people belonging to different castes, therefore, try to have maximum control over Panchayats. The area of elections being very limited, the castes play a role in influencing the voters. In fact, the candidates win and lose on the popularity and strength of the caste to which they belong. Each election thus strengthens caste system.

Then another reason is the desire of the castes, particularly the low castes, not to give up their privileges. Since the British days, the low castes have been given certain privileges. These have considerably increased now. There is reservation of seats in all educational institutions, services and elected bodies.

These castes are not at all prepared to give up privileges and thus they try to strengthen their castes. Any attempt to provide a solution to a problem other than caste basis is resented by these castes. One finds that on the basis of facts and figures, Mysore Backward Classes Committee Report, 1961 classified hitherto called backward caste of Lingayats as forward caste.

Since this caste was likely to lose its privileges by being categorised as forward class, therefore, it put political pressure and arranged to be classified as a backward caste.

In the words of Prof. M.N. Srinivas, “The Report of the Administrative Reforms Committee of Kerala (1958) pointed out, in an admirable way, the risks and drawbacks of treating caste as the basis of backwardness and the attraction of using the economic criterion in determining the backwardness of individuals, but the time was not ripe for its adoption.”

Still another reason for strengthening caste in politics is the extension of adult franchise. Under the scheme every adult in every caste has a right to vote. There is a growing feeling among the peoples of all castes that if they do not vote on caste basis, they will be out-numbered by the members of other castes, who will in turn dominate them.

In this way the people belonging to all castes strictly favour the idea of voting in favour of their caste candidates. Prof. M.N. Srinivas says, “Adult franchise, and Panchayati Raj have provided new opportunities…. Numerically large castes have become an important pressure groups in politics at district and state levels … caste is indeed only one element in state politics but a very important element.”

Still another factor responsible for this is the system of indirect elections. Under the existing system in states which have bicameralism, members of the Upper House are to be nominated by local self-bodies, etc. Similarly for the Rajya Sabha the members are to be elected by the state legislatures.

In this way there is a close link in which once a caste gets control even over local bodies it is likely to have some say in national politics. Thus the caste gets its roots at the local level as well and this deep relationship, on caste basis finds roots and develops links between Ministers at the state level and village leaders.

Prof. M.N. Srinivas says, “Village favours, and the Ministers in turn need the help of village leaders during elections. Many, if not most, Ministers at the state level are also leaders of their castes, and through this, of their regions also.”

In this way it can be said that due to the privileges which have been guaranteed and given to the people belonging to some castes and denied to the others, the attitude of the latter has considerably hardened. In some parts of the country, caste barriers have become very rigid which have helped in strengthening rather than abolishing caste from society.

In the words of Prof. Kothari, “The process of politics is one of manipulating and identifying existing structure in order to mobilise support and consolidate positions. When the caste structure provides one of the most important organisational clusters in which population is found to live, politics must strive to organise through such a structure. The alleged casteism in politics is thus no less than politicisation of caste.”

Not only this that caste influences politics but politics also effects caste and both its solidarity as well as hierarchy.

The quote Prof. Kothari again, “It is not politics that gets caste ridden, it is caste that gets politicised. Dialectical as it might sound, it is precisely because the operation of competitive politics has drawn caste out of its political context and given it a new status and identify hitherto unknown has begun to disintegrate.”

No amount of propaganda and legal measures and punishments for caste offences have relaxed the hold of caste on politics. In fact, day-by-day the weight of caste on politics is increasing. There is no political party in the country, both at the central as well as state level, which can disown caste in any constituency.

Every political party is trying to become the champion of weaker castes particularly scheduled castes and scheduled tribes, who hold a balance in many constituencies.

Every political party is trying to win their pleasure and keep these in good mood so that their co-operation can be got at the time of need and necessity. Every incident of some significance linked with any important caste gets wide publicity and made an issue, both inside and outside the legislature.

At the times of elections, at any level, local caste leaders are elevated and brought on election meeting stages and for their speeches special times are allotted and loud announcements made in advance. In this way caste holds ground in India.

In case it is desired that hold of caste over politics should come to an end for this concerted efforts at all levels will have to be made and political parties at all levels will have to develop a code of conduct not in theory alone, but in practice as well, in which these will have to ensure that at the time of elections and in Ministry making process caste will be completely ignored.

When that is done, it is only then that caste will not influence decision making process at the lower level as well and politics will be free from caste.

But it is impossible to think of freeing the society from the hold of caste system as long as reservation system for the castes exists. The present position in India today is that no political party is in a mood to oppose reservation system. Percentage of reservation for scheduled caste and scheduled tribes is every where increasing.

A new dimension in this system has been added by reserving seats for OBC (Other Backward Classes). Reservation policies thus instead of weakening caste system and caste politics strengthening it. In fact, at present there is no political will to weaken the system. The task ahead is of course difficult, but sincere desire and will implement that can solve every problem, including this one as well.