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Probably most Americans think the caste system in India is unfair cruel, inhuman, and directly opposite to our equalitarian society. It seems hard to understand why India has lived under a system like this for so long, doesn't it?
But what about our caste system? We have one which is as rigid as India's. Our caste are the Negro, American Indian, Asiatic, and white.
As the Negro and white castes are the most rigid, they will be used as a basis of comparison. It seems that it would be easier to understand the caste system and its problems in India if we realized how similar India's caste system is to the caste system in the United States.
In India, as in the United States, the castes are kept apart by restrictions against marriage outside of one's caste. Limitations are placed on educational opportunities, and bans against social contacts with the other castes. In many cases, the higher or better occupations are saved for the higher castes relegating the lower or despised jobs to the lower castes.
Just as we often force Negroes into unskilled or menial jobs.
The Hindu system has multiple castes. At the top are the Brahman, followed by the Kshatriya and Vaisya. These top three castes are thought to be a different type of people from the Sudras, which are the low caste group.
The "Bagavad-Gita" states that caste divisions are in accordance with each man's character and aptitude. This is somewhat similar to our feeling that the Negroes belong in a lower caste because they are inferior in character, aptitude, and intellect.
Below the Sudras are the outcastes or untouchables, who are thought to pollute the food and water and are not allowed to go near the higher caste neighborhoods.
This can be compared to the separate rest rooms, drinking fountains, and restaurants for Negroes. There are many towns in Indiana where Negroes are allowed to pass through but never spend the night, and many more neighborhoods where Negroes are allowed only as servants.
In most cases. Negroes ore forced to live apart in slum neighborhoods. This is the type of behavior required of untouchables in India.
There is differentiation within a caste. Cox, in CASTE, CLASS. AND RACE, states that "castes of any size always have their superior and privileged families.
Individuals within the caste may differ in wealth, in occupation, efficiency, in physical attainments, in choice of vocations among those to which the caste is limited, and in political position." But, individuals cannot move from one caste to another.
Some of the more strict barriers of the caste system have been relaxed, however the Indian caste system is much older and more highly established than our caste system.
The problems caused by the desegregation process in our society are even more difficult in India, thus giving rise to a great deal of conflict and controversy.