The riddle of caste

On the 12th March, Professor Dr. Jakob De Roover from the Ghent University gave an interactive lecture. The lecture was mainly focused on India’s history, social structure and values.

Professor De Roover commenced his lecture by asking a few questions like “Do you believe that your ancestors were good people with moral values i.e. they were ethical and had integrity?”; “Do you think that Corruption is a bad thing and must be eradicated.” Most of the attendees answered these questions with an affirmation.

While there is a lot of disagreement about the social structure and its origins, India has seen centuries of injustice against the lower castes and the untouchables; caste discrimination is an evil that must be wiped out. In other words, the caste system is based on the value of immorality and is completely unethical. But, does that mean that our ancestors were in fact unethical? Looking further into historical evidence, it is apparent that the caste system is indeed a fictitious entity like the unicorn or the leprechaun for that matter. Although, it exists in books, pamphlets, policy notes and legal texts, it is not really a part of the society it is supposed to dominate. So the question is why educated Indians of today accept that they belong to an immoral culture, which in fact is completely negated by their everyday experiences.

India owes its stunted development largely to corruption. There is corruption at all levels. But it is not only the corrupt that must be blamed but also the people who pay bribe to get their work done. How can Indians say and believe that they are full of integrity when they are involved in unethical and immoral practices on an everyday basis? Is this sheer hypocrisy? Or lack of values?

The history of India was created from a western perspective. Travellers with a foundation of Christianity made up a religion called “Hinduism” adding to it levels of hierarchy with reference to the Old Testament and Christianity. So today when we think about problems like an unfair caste system and its eradication, we are in fact trying to get rid of something that never existed.

It is high time that we start looking beyond history textbooks to understand our own history and culture and get a fresh perspective. India certainly is faced with a problem of corruption but our corrupted history is equally daunting.

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