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A new caste hierarchy

india Updated: May 22, 2009 23:23 IST
Samrat
Samrat
Hindustan Times
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In the olden days in India, as we all know, there was that terrible thing called the caste system. Society was divided into castes that pretty much determined a child’s profession at birth. So the son of a priest would become a priest, and the son of a soldier would become a soldier, and the son of a trader would become a trader, etc. Daughters stayed at home and did the cooking.

Sometimes these rules would be broken by a willful individual, and someone of low caste would go on to do something different, like start an empire. For example, both Chandragupta Maurya, who was the first Maurya emperor, and Srigupta, founder of the Gupta empire, are said to have been of low caste. Of course in all such cases it would subsequently emerge that they were actually in some convoluted way sons of kings, or even better, gods, and everyone would be happy that things were as they should be.

Now India has bounded into the 21st Century, and we are a modern, socialist, secular republic. We don’t believe in caste, except when it comes to marriages, education and jobs, and other such insignificant aspects of life. For education and jobs, we must have reservations based on caste, because, well, caste exists! Sorry, we can’t have a policy of affirmative action for all Indians who are disadvantaged irrespective of caste. What a ridiculous idea. For marriage, well, we folks don’t care about caste, but relatives, you know…

So basically caste doesn’t matter in our modern free country and the son of a barber could become a Bollywood star, or vice versa. It’s purely coincidence that this doesn’t happen very often.

Nor is there anything to prevent anyone from becoming a Member of Parliament. Look at our latest Lok Sabha. It’s been a victory of youth, so many young people have been elected. There’s Jagan Mohan Reddy, son of Chief Minister YSR Reddy, from Andhra Pradesh. And B Y Raghavendra, son of Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa, from Karnataka. Kanimozhi and Azhagiri, children of Chief Minister M Karunanidhi, from Tamil Nadu. Supriya Sule, daughter of Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar. And Neelesh Rane, son of state Industries Minister Narayan Rane, and Sameer Bhujbal, nephew of Deputy CM Chaggan Bhujbal, all from Maharashtra.

There’s Mausam Benazir Noor, niece of former Union minister Ghani Khan Chowdhury, from West Bengal. Deepender Singh Hooda, son of Chief Minister BS Hooda, from Haryana. Shruti Choudhary, granddaughter of former Chief Minister Bansi Lal, also from Haryana. Anurag Thakur, son of Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal, from Himachal Pradesh. Agatha Sangma, daughter of former Speaker PA Sangma, from Meghalaya.

Mohammad H Sayeed, son of former Union Minister PM Sayeed, from Lakshadweep. And many more such, from each and every corner of the country. Twenty-one of 30 MPs below 35 are relatives of politicians.

This of course is not counting the children of politicians who are already well established in the family occupation.
So if we were to re-do the caste system to bring it up to date with contemporary realities — after all, 3,000 years has seen a few changes in India and the world — this is what it would look like.

Politicians would be the ruling caste, perched atop the caste and social hierarchy. Filmstars and cricketers would be the Brahmins, because, heck, who cares about teachers? Business honchos would be the Khastriyas. Blood is cheap, there’s always someone else to do the fighting. The seven per cent of India’s population that has regular jobs would be today’s Vaishyas, trading their skills in the market place. And the remaining 93 per cent of India’s 1.2 billion population would be the new Shudras.