This refers to the article “Caste system: an indigenous invention in south India?” (Jan. 10). Tribal groups in India have existed for years. It is a human tendency to live in groups for various reasons. But caste and groups are two different things. Dr. B.R. Ambedkar rightly described the caste system as “chopping off of the population into fixed and definite units, each one prevented from fusing into another through the custom of endogamy.” Endogamy is what protects, propagates and perpetuates the caste system. Aryans were the practitioners of the caste system, which was then adopted by the indigenous people of India.
The letter refuting the scientific analysis of the caste system (Letters, Jan. 11) reiterates the Dravidian ideology which refuses to accept anything contrary to its claim that the varnas were the creation of the “invading Aryans,” which they imposed on the subjugated Dravidians. Castes are not to be confused with the four varnas, which are broad divisions and theoretical. Aryans might indeed have come from outside. Wherever they came from, there is no remnant of any caste system anywhere else. It seems therefore to be unique to and a product of the Indian sub-continent.
I read the article with interest and admiration. Though I am against casteism, I couldn’t agree with M. Sendhur’s dismissal of the findings. Even if caste was indigenous, one could yet blame the Aryans for its blanket use for their own benefit and for making it profoundly irreversible by giving it a theological ground for political and economic gains over the underprivileged. Hierarchy could be an evolved mechanism in any society in any form (racism, casteism, sexism, etc.). It could be the case in ancient South India as well. Even if the caste system were indigenous, there could be no argument to justify it. My simple contention is that one can’t dismiss certain research findings simply because one sees the ghosts of rightist or leftist politics in it.
Exploring the origins of the caste system in India may be a good intellectual exercise. But we should give more importance to eradicating the heinous practice. It is a ‘particular job’ or a ‘particular ritual’ practised by different communities that perpetuated the caste system for centuries. In the modern era, people belonging to a community do not perform the same job or ritual. It is only marriage that keeps the caste system alive today. If the youth decide to marry outside their caste, the caste system will be eradicated within a decade.