India's Caste System

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The caste system is a system of division of labour and power in human society. It is a system of social stratification, and a basis foraffirmative action. Historically, it defined communities into thousands of endogamous hereditary groups called Jātis. The Jātis were grouped by the Brahminical texts under the four well-known caste categories (the varnas): viz Brahmins, Kshatriyas,Vaishyas, and Shudras. Certain people were excluded altogether, ostracized by all other castes and treated as untouchables. Although identified with Hinduism, caste systems have also been observed among other religions on the Indian subcontinent, including some groups of Muslims, Buddha. Caste is commonly thought of as an ancient fact of Hindu life, but various contemporary scholars have argued that the caste system was constructed by the British colonial regime. Caste is neither unique to Hindu religion nor to India; caste systems have been observed in other parts of the world, for example, in the Muslim community of Yemen, Christian colonies of Spain, and Japan.

The Indian government officially recognizes historically discriminated lowest castes of India such as Untouchables and Shudras underScheduled Castes, and certain economically backward castes as Other Backward Castes. The Scheduled Castes are sometimes referred to as Dalit in contemporary literature. In 2001, the proportion of Dalit population was 16.2 percent of India's total population. Since 1950, India has enacted and implemented many laws and social initiatives to protect and improve the socio-economic conditions of its Dalit population. By 1995, of all jobs in the Central Government service, 17.2 percent of the jobs were held by Dalits. Of the highest paying, senior most jobs in government agencies and government controlled enterprises, over 10 percent were held by members of the Dalit community, a tenfold increase in 40 years but yet to fill up the 15 percent reserved quota for them. In 1997, India democratically...
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