Caste and Politics in Himachal Pradesh: The Revival of India’s Caste System through Politicization



Caste system in India got a new lease of life with its increased politicization. Do you agree with this statement? Substantiate your answer with relevant examples from the state of Himachal Pradesh. (HPAS Mains Question Paper 2022 – GS 1, Q.27)

Caste refers to a broad hierarchical institutional arrangement along which fundamental social factors, like birth, marriage, food-sharing, etc, are arranged in a hierarchy of rank and status. These sub-divisions are traditionally linked to occupations and decide the social relations concerning other upper and lower castes.

The traditional hierarchical ordering of castes was based on the distinction between ‘purity’ and ‘pollution’. While the manifestation of the order has changed to a large extent in recent times, the system itself has not changed much. For example- even though untouchability and caste-based discrimination are barred under the Constitution of India, occupations like manual scavenging have most workers from lower castes. There are about 3,000 castes and 25,000 sub-castes in India.

New identities and associational forms:

1. Neo-Brahmins: Neo-Brahmins are a new caste group due to India’s reservation policy. They are a subset of the Brahmin community that includes people who were not previously considered Brahmins but have received access to education and social mobility. Neo-Brahmins are primarily prevalent in India’s cities and are viewed as more liberal and progressive than traditional Brahmins.

2. Dalit Bahujan: Dalit Bahujan refers to the coalition formed by Dalits and other disadvantaged classes. It is a new identity that has arisen due to these groups’ persecution and marginalization. The Dalit Bahujan movement aspires to overthrow the Brahmanical hierarchy and establish a more equitable and fair society.

3. Caste-Based Political Parties: In recent years, caste-based political parties have developed in India, attempting to serve the interests of various caste groups. Caste is used as a political tactic by these parties to motivate people and win elections. The Bahujan Samaj Party, the Shiv Sena, and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam are examples of such parties.

4. Inter-Caste Marriages: Inter-caste weddings are becoming increasingly prevalent in India, with young individuals crossing caste barriers to marry. As a result, new identities have emerged depending on the caste mix of the couple’s families.

5. Caste-Based Social Media Groups: As caste identities grow more prevalent on social media, caste-based social media groups are becoming more frequent. These organizations offer a forum for individuals to meet and debate caste-related concerns, as well as contribute to the formation of new identities based on caste.

6. Caste-based associations: Formation of caste-based associations/ caste panchayats like Himachal Pradesh Brahmin Sabha, Anusuchit Jaati Kalyan Sangh, Himachal Pradesh Rajput sabha

7. Casteism in the economic sector: like the formation of the Dalit Chamber of Commerce and Industry

8. Casteism on Internet : like #Jai Bheem, #Jai Parshuram etc

In recent years, the caste system in India has undergone significant changes, with the emergence of new identities and associational forms. While these changes have called into question traditional caste boundaries, the caste system continues to be a significant factor in Indian society, with caste-based discrimination and marginalization affecting the lives of millions of people.

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