Caste and Patriarchy

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Priyanka Sisodiya

Write a brief essay on the interaction between caste and patriarchy in India.

A khap panchayat in Haryana ‘declares’ that mobilization of women(of a particular age gap) should be monitored(in reality restricted). Marriage by choice or outside one’s caste or inside one’s gotra is forbidden and those who challenge it, become a story in themselves. Young girls(at few incidents boys too) fall prey to moral policing. A high court judge asks the ‘wives’ to learn to adjust. In spite of abolition of caste in public life, manual scavenging is practiced by the untouchable caste(but of course , most of us will refer to it, an activity by “free will”. These examples are just a few from the never ending list. All these examples, focus on two major identities of an Indian- caste and gender. On of the most fascinating adjectives given to these identities is what is called ‘natural’ or simply acquired by birth. The moment one attaches the word natural to it, it appears inevitable and beyond human reach. In colonial India the naturallity of these institutions, especially caste was challenged by many thinkers. Every layer of caste system came under scrutiny. But unlike these thinkers, our nationalist leaders were ashamed and uncomfortable of discussing on these ‘not so important issue of caste and gender’. Though Gandhi , did acknowledge the various faults of the ongoing caste system (e.g. untouchability), but he never accepted the eradication of it, rather he was a believer of the ‘vedic’ caste system. It was Ambedker, who brought the caste argument in relation with many other socio-economic-cultural identities. For Ambedker caste was a lens to see the more precise and accurate nature of Indian society. So, as he and many thinkers who proceeded him, made it very clear that caste was nothing but a human creation (brahmanical creation to be specific, though word human could be used, as the lower caste was considered non human by the producers of caste), so it can be removed even. In the process of making India a caste free society, a number of laws and policies were formulated in the post independence era, beginning from the affirmative action. Nehru was not ready to talk about caste at the public forum, maybe he was of a belief that by not mentioning caste it’ll vanish(for him economy and industry were enough to eliminate caste like issues).

1990’s brought back caste to news headlines as well as assemblies. Caste not only emerged strongly but it was evident that it never left. Our ‘welfare’ policies of years and century old silence on caste, instead of eliminating caste, pooped it up. There were both sections, one who wanted a change in the system and other who were not ready to share from their share. All this did emphasize on something, there was a visible yet hidden force, that kept the caste practices, caste norms , over all the caste system very intact. This force was behind the anti mandal agitations or any change in the caste system itself. It was there pre independence and post independence. We term it as patriarchy. In Indian context is can be termed as BRAHMANICAL PATRIARCHY.

Though we are already familiar with patriarchy, Uma chakravarti observes that in India , those who dominate and control the economy and material basis of life, also begin to dominate and control the means of producing symbols and their representation. In India, caste is such a symbolic hegemony that allows the oppressor to control the very standards by which their rule is evaluated. In the process the vision of the oppressed is completely obliterated, dismissed and ridiculed. Ambedker, observed that control of women and their subordination through rigid marriage norms , is a fundamental principle of caste and its perpetuation. Feminists in post independence era have evaluated his argument and strengthened it with closer dissection of caste and gender. This dissection brings us to a point, where gender and caste are so interlinked...
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