I would like to pick up the thread on ‘the caste system’ and begin at the beginning. Let us find out what we are discussing about and disagreeing with.
Assuming for this entire post, ‘caste’ is an English word for ‘Jati’, the first question is:
1. Are there Jati’s in India?
Yes, of course, there are. No one is denying this obvious fact.
2. Is there a system of Jati in India?
This question is ambiguous because it is unclear what ‘system’ means in this context. It could mean,
3. Is it possible to describe (or classify) all the jati’s in India as though all jati’s are related to each other?
Let us assume ‘relations’ to mean: hierarchical relationship, part-whole relationship, hetararchical relationship, relation of descent, kinship etc. In that case, once one has specified what kind of relationship one ‘wants’ between all the jati’s, then the answer can be given. My hypothesis is: No, it is not possible to describe all the jati’s in such a manner.
Or, the second question could mean:
4. Do all the Jati’s, together, form a ‘structure’ of sorts?
Again, the issue is what this structure is: mathematical structure, logical structure, or whatever else. I do not know, because no one has specified what kind of structure Jati’s (in their entirety) are supposed to exemplify.
5. Is Jati a social system or a social structure?
This question can only be answered when someone tells us what a social structure or social system is. There are many senses in which these terms are used: one speaks of democratic structures of a polity, social structure of a Feudal society, the Capitalist social system, kinship and family structures, the system of nuclear family, and so on. Given this plurality of uses, it becomes necessary to specify very clearly the sense in which the Jati’s are not only a system but also a social system.
In short, after the first question, the discussion about jati’s is mired in ambiguities, table-thumping, and flag waving. Perhaps, it is best if people begin by getting a handle on the second question before coming up with anecdotes.
- What do Indians Need: A History or the Past–S.N.Balagangadhara
- The dominant story about the ‘caste system’