The Persistance of Caste Despite Its Official Illegality By: Emily Shi

The caste system is a tradition from ancient India where people inherit a caste that determines their spiritual purity/part of their dharma, or role in life. Although now the caste system has been outlawed and there as been action being taken to get rid of caste discrimination, the Hinduism system still lives on in a different way.

The castes go in order depending on your spiritual purity/role in society, from Brahmins (priests), Kshatriyas (warriors and princes), Vaishyas (farmers and merchants), Sudras (farmers and laborers), to an unofficial caste, the untouchables who do not even have a real place on the caste system and are meant to be landless farm laborers or manual scvengers, and have to live separately from others, not even being able to use community water pumps. It is frowned upon for them to marry somebody from a higher caste.

This image shows one Dalit community working together. (

After India became independent, they changed the term "untouchable" to "scheduled past", and also created a quota where 23% of government jobs and places in public universities were reserved for lower castes. This was done in order to minimize caste inequality and make sure lower castes were still recieving jobs. Now, the quota has been. rised to 50% for many groups but there are still problems with caste inequality, as the Dalits (name for untouchables-mean to be "crushed down") are still in extreme poverty, separated from their community, and being questioned just because of their caste and how they ave a reserved caste

Currently, there is a big debate between those who are against the quota system, and those who want a larger quota. Some people from higher castes are frustrated because it is easier for somebody to get into a top university just because of their caste, as the grade they need to obtain is lower, similar for jobs as well. However, they do not remember that 2/3 of Indias population makes up the people that are helped by these quotas. They want a larger quota because it is still difficult for them to have a good social standing as they have bee set back in literacy, education, health care, and more opportunities. there have been many protests and ihas even gotten violent because of people who are unsatisfied with the quota.

The Jats and the Patels are two groups of fairly well off people communities have violently protested about the caste system. The Jats are a community of farmers and traders in Haryana, and North Indian state, who protested around Februrary this year. They were unsatisfied with the system because it was harder for them to get into universities and get jobs. In this protest, around 16 or more were killed, buildings were lit on fire, water canals were damaged, and highways were blocked. Since then, they have been working on a deal with the government

This image was taken in the middle of the jat protest. (

Along with the protests, there have been many other issues revolving around caste discrimination. For example, Romith Vemula was a very good student at the University of Hyderabad who committed suicide because he was in the "untouchable" caste and was facing discrimination. In his suicide note, he wrote: "The value of a man was reduced to his immediate idendity and nearest possibility. To a vote. To a number. To a thing. Never was a man treated as a mind.


Additionally, a man named Bezawada Wilson, who has been a Dalit manual scavenger has been discriminated by his caste and trying to end it since 1986, when he found out that nly untouchable communities had to become collectors and were labeled with this job. He mentioned that they don't have the privilege to forget their caste and what they were labeled with, probably because they had always been low on the caste system and disregarded. Wilson is having trouble convincing the government that manual scavenging is still an issue that the Dalit's and lower castes have to face. The government is saying that just because no woman are carrying human excreta on their heads, there is no manual scavenging in Ambala. He is trying to convince the Supreme Court by showing women scavengers, but there has been no answer so far.

This is a photo showing a woman manual scavenger carrying huma excreta on her head that might be something Bezewada would show to the Supreme Court. (

Lastly, middle class people who are in the Dalit community have created a twitter community similar to black lives matter where they can watch higher castes discriminating towards them and be vocal about how they feel without a filter. For example, when the Dalit community spoke out against Motilal Oswald. He was businessman who blamed a bridge collapsing on Dalit engineers who received the job, and the movement made him apologize. Not only is this site for speaking out about discrimination, but they use it to show others their culture as well. It has been working, and a newsite even represented Dalit history month with their art and poetry. Although the Dalits have been critisized and people have said that their history does not matter, it shows it is working because others are starting to be scared of how powerful the online movement has become.


Overall, it is important that we recognize how the legacy of ancient India has influenced us today through the role of caste, and caste discrimination was banned but still plays an active role in our lives today. In America, it is important that we are aware of this and can relate some of these movements to what is currently going on in our country, as the Black Lives Matter movement is similar to the Dalit Twitter movement, and help overcome these conflicts.

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