Caste cannot be abolished by laws, writes Justice Katju

Amalendu Upadhyaya
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Caste cannot be abolished by laws

Justice Markandey Katju
Justice Markandey Katju

Justice Markandey Katju

I learnt that Governor Gavin Newsom of California has vetoed the caste discrimination bill passed by the California legislature.

I am not going into the question whether the Governor's explanation for vetoing the bill was justified.

What I submit is that caste discrimination cannot be abolished by making laws, and if such laws are made they will remain only on paper, without implementation, and will only make the practice more secretive and subterfuge.

Also, it will open the floodgates of false complaints of discrimination by so called 'lower caste' persons.

Before proceeding further we must understand something about the caste system in India

I have explained in an article the origin and development of the caste system

In this article I have explained how originally caste probably had a racial basis, but later developed into the feudal occupational division of labour in society. It has lasted for centuries in India, and is still deeply rooted. In Indian elections a large number of our people vote on caste basis, without seeing the merit of the candidate.

Indians who migrate to USA or other foreign countries often carry their caste baggage with them. Caste organisations are common in America. So casteism in America and elsewhere abroad can only be destroyed if it is destroyed in the mother country India.

Caste is a feudal institution, and India is still semi-feudal. So caste will only be destroyed if India is transformed into a a highly industrialised and modernised country. How is that possible ?

I have explained in this video interview of me by the eminent Pakistani journalist Moeed Pirzada that the developed countries do not want underdeveloped countries like India to become developed and industrialised.

But our interest is that we must get highly industrialised, for only then can we abolish poverty, unemployment, child malnutrition, lack of proper healthcare and good education for our masses, and the other socio-economic evils which still plague us today. So the interest of the developed countries directly conflicts with our interest.

The parliamentary system of democracy which we adopted in our Constitution runs largely on the basis of caste and communal vote banks ( as everyone in India knows ). Casteism and communalism are feudal forces which have to be destroyed if India is to progress, but parliamentary democracy further entrenches them.

So how do we get over this impasse ?

I submit this can only be done by a mighty historical united people's struggle, led by patriotic, modern minded leaders, which will be arduous, protracted, and in which tremendous sacrifices will have to be made. How this will happen, how will it be conducted, how much time it will take to achieve success, who will be the patriotic modern-minded persons leading it, etc no one can foretell. One cannot be rigid about historical forms. The enlightened sections of our people will have to use their creativity in solving these problems

So laws made in America against caste discrimination will be just gimmicks unless caste is destroyed in India by a mighty people's struggle.

(Justice Katju is a retired judge of the Supreme Court of India. These are his personal views.)

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