UPSC SOCIOLOGY MAINS – Paper 2 – Introducing Indian Society – Part B – Social Structure.
(a) Perspectives on the study of caste systems: GS Ghurye, M N Srinivas, Louis Dumont, Andre Beteille.
(b) Features of caste system.
(c) Untouchability – forms and perspectives
THE ORIGIN AND FORMS OF UNTOUCHABILITY
- Untouchability is characterized by certain avoidance of physical contact, social sanction, social disabilities and the maintenance of social distance in the attempt to maintain the purity of an individual.
- There are to ensure that this social distance among the higher and the lower castes are maintained. The lower castes are considered so impure that their mere touch is considered to be polluting.
- There is a notion of distant pollution that has existed in many regions of south India, such that the shadow of the untouchable is considered to be polluting. Further, in the case of pollution, the upper castes are expected to go through a purification ritual.
- According to Prof. Satyavrata, “Untouchability is that system of society on account of which one individual cannot touch another individual and one society cannot touch another society on the basis of convention and if so touches, becomes profane and in order to remove that profanity has to perform penance.”
THEORIES ON ORIGIN AND GROWTH OF UNTOUCHABILITY
- Hindu tradition believes that the untouchables were the children born of the prohibited ‘pratiloma’ or hypogamous marriages between Shudra males and Brahman females.
- So far as Mana theory is concerned, those who were engaged in some kind of dirty or unclean occupations were not permitted to mix with the members of the higher castes. They came to be regarded as the untouchables.
- Majumdar rightly observes, “The disabilities of the so called depressed castes are not ceremonial but probably founded on racial and cultural differences.”
- Nesfield holds the view that association with dirty, impure and unclean occupations is an important factor for the growth of untouchability.
- The roots of untouchability in the Indian context are to be found in the socio-religious structure and more importantly in the time-honoured system of social stratification based on caste.
FORMS OF UNTOUCHABILITY
- Habitation Segregation – Segregation of Dalits is seen almost everywhere in Tamil Nadu’s villages.
- Occupational Segregation and Manual Scavenging
- Civic Segregation – In villages there are still prohibitions on commensuality, social mixing, using common wells, separate dwelling and so on.. Ritual Segregation – scriptures and holy texts were disallowed for the untouchables. Certain rites like Upnayana ceremony is preserved for twice born castes.
- Inter Caste Marriages – especially in villages of North India – Haryana, Western UP and Punjab – Khap Panchayats still disallow inter-caste marriages.
PERSPECTIVES ON UNTOUCHABILITY
- Vivekananda Jha on origin of untouchability: He uses a historic indological perspective to trace its origin. He traced origin of untouchability using ancient texts by finding words which would have been used for untouchables.
- Gandhiji supported Varna Vyavastha and Ashram Vyavastha as organizing principles of Indian society, however he condemned the current caste system. In his opinion ‘Untouchability has made Indians untouchables in the whole world’. According to him while Varna Vyavastha united society, untouchability is exploitative. To Gandhiji, the continuance of untouchability meant a slow destruction overtaking the Hinduism. He was also of the opinion that without integrating the vast sections of the Depressed Classes in the Hindu society and without removing untouchability, it would be difficult to achieve ‘swaraj’.
- Ambedkar – He had a radical view of caste system and called for annihilation of caste system. He considered Gandhian view as utopian where castes should voluntarily come forward to bridge their differences and Varnisation of caste system will only make it stronger. So, legislative measures and political empowerment are the only way to get rid of