Before the invasion of Muslims on India there were only four castes. They were not by birth but by profession. All the boys and girls had to study in Ashrams. These ashrams were financed by the king. The stu­dents studied there up to the age of twenty five. Those who were learned, pions and had a spiritual leaning were declared Brahmins. Those who were perfect in martial performance were known as Kshatriyas. They would save the honour of their country. Those who were considered Vaishya. The rest, who could not gain perfection in anything but could serve the society were called Shudras. Thus the castes were not based on birth. The son of a shudra could become a Brahmin and that of a Brah­min might become Shudra.

After the invasions, as the people were not united they had to face the invaders separately. This changed the pattern of the society. The lust of the invaders compelled the people to keep the girls within the four walls of the house. This resulted in the illiteracy among women on the one hand and formation of different groups gradually became so conserva­tive that they named themselves as a different caste. People belonging to these newly formed castes won’t intermarry – not even interdine. It was an unhealthy practice divided the country into a large number of castes and sub castes. The country was rather a divided lot when the Britishers stepped in. They, besides communal division took advantage of the caste system too. Divide and rule became their policy. They ruled over India with this policy for 300 years.

In post independence India it was the thought that the country would be united on national issues and castes would gradually disap­pear. Baba Saheb Ambedkar and Mahatma Gandhi made great efforts. But nothing materialized. By the time Mandal Commission was appointed there were near about 6000 castes and sub castes in the country. The Mandal Commission report was not published by two Prime Ministers. They feared that it would divide the country further more. But when V. P. Singh was about to lose his Prime Minister ship he published the report.

The publication of this report proved a curse for the national life. Gradually efficiency is being submerged by caste. It is rather surprising that elections are not contested on communal basis but on the caste basis. The candidates of all the parties in a constituency are decided by the majority of people belonging to a particular caste. This if there are more Reddys in an area almost all the candidates would be Reddys. The same is true about Yadavs and other castes. Thus a good person of moral bearings can never contest an election. On the basis of castes even crimi­nals are elected. According to Election Commission there were 40 per cent criminals in the legislative assemblies and the Parliament.

In certain areas of the country caste system has resulted in great violence. Different castes have formed their own ‘Senas’ (armies). Ranvir Sena in Bihar is one of them which are responsible for killing a large number of members of scheduled castes and burning their villages. Members of scheduled castes there have formed their own ‘Senas’ in cooperation with Naxalites. The situation is very grave in Bihar, Bastas in Chattisgarh and one third of Andhra Pradesh.

In rural areas of the country the caste system is so dominant that it has affected the social fabric of the society. In many villages it has resulted in mass migration to cities. But there too in persists in the slums that surround the big cities. Caste system is also responsible for huge amounts spent in dowry. Education has rather increased it than checking it. The more educated a person the more dowries he fetches. The only answer to this malady is intercaste marriages.

Let the new generation of young men and women have a conscience to do away with the curse of casteism. Let us hope for the best in the new millennium.