By Sadhan Mukherjee*
The contours of castes, religions and tribes in our country are sharpening and it does not seem these can be overcome anytime soon unless measures are taken to thwart the mischief-makers. India’s progress is hamstrung by irrelevant factors which instead of gradually withering away are growing to yet bigger dimensions. Basically, this was a reflection of feudal mindset earlier which should have had lesser sway as industrialisation spread.
There are growing numbers of fanatics who are whipping up the differences and organising clashes to thrive on that. The Hindu fanatics since the ascendency of RSS-BJP have embarked upon a “cultural revolution” of sort to modify our history and culture. There is no doubt that such efforts are bound to snowball and reciprocal fanaticism will increase.
Who’s India are we really talking of? If one goes back in history, only the present day Adivasies can be said to be descendants of the original human inhabitants of this subcontinent. It was their land as they settled here and brought about societal changes. The rest of the population are descendants of immigrants who came in various waves and various times, and occupied this land. What is even more interesting is that there has been much intermixing among these varied immigrant groups. There is no pure race in this country.
The Hindu fanatics stress that the Indian subcontinent is the homeland of the Hindus; they are indigenous to this country, not immigrants or invaders. But their assertion is not borne out by any definitive research or study or archaeological evidence. What however is not in doubt is that the present day population of India is a mixture, comprising many bloods.
More importantly, the caste system prevalent among the Hindus today is not what it used to be earlier. The present social differentiation is of recent origin. It is now scientifically established that populations in this sub-continent began to stop inter-marriages in vogue till about 2000 years ago.
One of India’s well-known genetic researchers Lalji Singh, involved in a large-scale genetic research, says: “The fact that every population in India evolved from randomly mixed populations suggests that social classifications like the caste system are not likely to have existed in the same way before the mixture.” He was the co–senior author of this research. He is currently in Banaras Hindu University, and was formerly in the CSIR Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology.
He asserts: “Thus, the present-day structure of the caste system came into being only relatively recently in Indian history.” (Quoted from an article by David Cameron Genetics Proves Indian Population Mixture published in Harvard Medical School journal (8 August 2013) where the author underlines: “Scientists from Harvard Medical School and the CSIR-Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology in Hyderabad, India, provide evidence that modern-day India is the result of recent population mixture among divergent demographic groups.
“The findings, published on 8 August 2013 in the American Journal of Human Genetics”, and reproduced in many Indian journals, “describe how India transformed from a country where mixture between different populations was rampant to one where endogamy—that is, marrying within the local community and a key attribute of the caste system—became the norm”.
Priya Moorjani, the first author of this research told The Telegraph (9 August 2013) that the new study was consistent with the content of the ancient Indian texts, including the Rig Veda.
“The oldest text in India, the Rig Veda, does not mention a caste system at all, and suggests there was substantial social movement of populations, as reflected in the acceptance of people with non-Indo-European names as chieftains and poets,” she said.
“The class system, of grouping people based on occupational roles, is first mentioned only in the book 10 of Rig Veda that was likely to have been composed later. The caste system of endogamous groups is, however, only mentioned centuries later in the law code of Manu, or Manusmriti, that forbids mixing between caste groups.”
This is precisely what has led to modern day consolidation of caste distinctions. It got accentuated due to popularity of Buddhism. It was the Brahminic resistance to change in social order that brought about rigidity. This caste distinction has hardly anything to do with the four varnas of the Vedic era where the varna of a person was determined by the profession, not by birth. Now caste has become hereditary. But this too is changing with the advent of industrialisation.
Caste distinction is irrelevant today when a Brahmin sells shoes in a shoe store or becomes an army officer? Can he be termed a Brahmin when teaching is not his profession? Why should he not be termed a Vaishya or a Khastriya? Can there be a distinction made in terms of caste or religion of two persons working side by side in a factory on the same machine? Can the molten pig iron show any difference in quality depending on who had put in the ingredients in the blast furnace?
Can the tribal people comprising over 8 per cent of India’s population be made into Hindus as some fanatics demand? Most of India’s mineral rich areas and forests are their habitat but they are being steadily deprived of their livelihood and converted into manual labour force. They have their own religions and their gods are nature, hills, rivers, sky and so on. They also have their own social rules, languages and music. Why should they give up all that?
Therefore to assert now that India is a Hindu country or that there should to be no inter-marriage between people of different religions is meaningless. These are assertions only to whip up communal frenzy. India does not belong to any particular religion or community. It is the Indian conglomerate of people with diverse religions and beliefs that comprise India, not that of a single entity.
Those who talk of Akhand Bharat now are misplaced in time. Modern India is what the political map of India shows today including bits of what are under dispute. That political map cannot be redrawn by force. But nefarious efforts are on. It is a sort of Hindu Talibanisation attempt that is going on.
The public arms training by Bajrang Dal in UP was sought to be justified by Governor Ram Naik instead of condemning it. There have been several attempts earlier too like beef ban, ghar wapsi, Bharat Mata ki Jai, compulsory recitation of ‘Om’ in educational institutes, etc., but these have not given these fanatics the desired results. Now they have opened direct attacks as was seen in Delhi’s Sahadra where Urdu wall writing was forcibly stopped. Modi recited Ghalib in Urdu in Iran but in Delhi Urdu is in “not wanted” list.
An answer is therefore required to the question which titles this article: Can India Remain Secular?
Yes it can be when every religion, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes honestly gets what the Constitution of India has granted to all Indian citizens – Equal Rights. Religions today need reform in keeping with advancement of our country. Fanatics therefore must be held in check. Sooner it is done; the better it is for our future.
*Veteran senior journalist