Caste and Politics in India

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India became a nation under the British regime after 400 years of Mughal rule. Despite many changes during this long period, one unchanging phenomenon was castediscrimination. Before British rule, a stream of Sufi saints had rejected the Brahmanism and injustice to Dalits (untouchables), but their main focus was on encouraging self-awareness and trust in a seemingly egalitarian religion with a non-discriminating, omnipresent and omnipotent god. Real changes came in the 19th century, when the leaders of deprived castes espoused both revolt against the ideas of high-caste Hindus led by the Brahmins and belief in the modernity which had led to democratisation in Europe and the United States. Democracy is essentially a practice of alliance building. Jyoti Ba Phule forged a grand alliance of farmers and marginalised and deprived communities. He considered that India was being led by minority high-caste Hindus. Dr Ambedkar, who was educated in the United States, the UK and Germany, was more concerned about the constitutional provisions for Dalits. Institutions should be strong enough to protect the constitutional provisions made for the most marginalised communities. The community that he was leading was thoroughly disempowered. They couldn’t understand what their rights were because they had been brainwashed to accept ideologies that kept them in enslavement and poverty. They accepted the theory of karma, that misfortunes were due to bad behaviour in a previous existence, and believed that all they could do was to hold to their duties. In Ambedkar’s opinion, the greatest damage to Dalits was caused by theory of karma. Ambedkar thought that the Dalit minority needed constitutional protection from the tyranny of the majority. In the 1930s, he fought for them to have a separate electoral identity and the British made what was known at the time as a communal award. After India’s independence, Ambedkar led the drafting of the Indian Constitution. Dalits were reserved 17.5...
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