Many tend to believe that caste as an instrument of segregation would fade away in the modern times, but caste as a graded system was made a political entity during colonial times and the segregation only increased after the formation of the modern nation, Prof. G. Aloysius, visiting faculty, English & Foreign Languages University (EFLU), said on Saturday.
Delivering a lecture at the three-day national seminar on ‘The Other Backward Classes in India: Exclusion, Empowerment and Modernisation’, held by Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR), he said caste was retrieved, politicised, and nationalised during the early phases of colonial rule during which any non-Muslim was considered as a Hindu and those belonging to tribal communities were incorporated into the folds of Hinduism as ‘shudras’.
Since the British rulers depended heavily on local, socially-dominant classes to maintain their rule, these classes were given a blank check to impose their beliefs and religious practices on the rest of the people and convert them into a norm in the country, he argued.
“Even the Indian nationalism was a reaction to the efforts made by the British rulers to allow more broad-based representation and inclusion of people from lower castes after 1857 Sepoy Mutiny and other similar agitations,” he said, alleging that leaders from forward caste ‘conspired’ to keep the people from backward classes away from the political power.
“It is time for people from backward communities to demand for their share and not expect doles from governments,” he said. But this view was contested by other speakers like Kancha Ilaiah, director of Centre for the Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy, Maulana Azad National Urdu University.
He argued that caste as an entity was present ever since its mention was made in the Rig Veda. Quoting several Buddhist texts, Prof. Ilaiah pointed out that caste and social segregation was prevalent even during the sixth century BC.
He exhorted BCs to look at Buddhism as a viable alternative rather than worshipping the Hindu Gods.
Former chairman of National Commission for Backward Classes Justice M.N. Rao, also spoke.