Hinduism,is known as the world's oldest and third largest religion with a following of approximately a 1.2 billion people. The Indian subcontinent is home to 98% of this populace. Many of Hindus, are not aware of what Hinduism meant for.It is of course not a religion but is a way of life, an Indian tradition that encompasses several religious beliefs, cultural practices and ideologies. The exact date of Hinduism's origin is not known, though estimates vary from 3200 BC to 2500 BC. The term "Hinduism" is derived from of the word Sindhu, which literally means "dweller in the Sindhu (Indus) Valley".
Caste systems in Hinduism
According to ancient Hindus, the four varnas (literally, 'colors' ) or castes had equal standing in the society and were based upon the duties to society and worked together towards the welfare of the society. According to this understanding, discrimination by caste is a perversion of Dharma's true meaning. The original formation of the caste system was to create economic divisions so that ancient India could prosper as well the Hindu spiritual reasons. Each caste considered itself superior to the other. They competed with others in observance of purity rules to show that they were superior to others. Even marriages between different varnas were not rare. Just as it is possible to find upper caste people with black complexion, it is equally possible to find persons with fair complexion among the so-called lower castes and untouchables. This could not have been so without a significant degree of inter-marriages.
Caste plays a significant role in Hindu society; however, in modern day India caste-based discrimination is illegal. There were basically four castes: the Brahmins or priests and teachers, the Kshatriyas or warriors, the Vaisyas or traders and business class, and the Sudras or the menial or labour class who did everything from tilling the soil to scavenging and tanning. We first take up such parts of the canon that are (wrongly) interpreted to be supportive of caste system, and then take up such parts as are directly and definitively against caste system based on birth. Though Bhagvadgita (Gita) is not regarded as a part of shruti, Gita is highly regarded as sacred and is very much a part of classical Hinduism. As we shall just see even the Gita is against caste system based on birth, and not supportive to it.
As Hinduism, the origin of untouchability is also not known.There are many arguments behind it.The important three are as 1)The nature of the work of the Sudras, a lot of it unclean, was also responsible for their isolation and marginalization as untouchables.2) According to B R Ambedkar, there were only three varnas in vedic society, and no fourth varna of shudras. He says, the economy had advanced enough to give rise to a division of labour but there was no hierarchy. Both Rama and Krishna are black gods but highly adored and worshipped. He says that untouchability is a post-Buddhist phenomenon, which emerged as a result of Hindus giving up sacrifice of animals and beef-eating under the influence of Buddhism, but they went to such an extreme that those who continued to eat beef were regarded as untouchables. 3) After the invasion of Aryans, they punished Indians (dravidians)by keeping away from all social activities as untouchables.
The Simon commission, which had no Indian members, was being sent to investigate India's constitutional problems and make recommendations to the government on the future constitution of India. The commission was an insult to Indians. These White men were to shape the future of India.Under Lalaji's leadership, it was resolved to boycott the Simon Commission. By the time Ambedkar was emerged as a leader of the untouchables. He, represented the cause of dalits at the Round Table Conferences (1930-32). Gandhi and other Congress leaders opposed the Simon Commission and asked the sudras not to support an untouchable leader like Ambedkar. Subsequently they sided with Patel, a leader of backward communities. The consequence of this move was that sudras could not get any constitutional safeguards. And brahminism was successful in virtually preventing these communities to speak on a single platform for their struggle for enfranchisement as they were not able to send their independent representatives to the legislatures. As to remove the culture of discrimination by giving equal status to all sections of the population, dalits has been provided reservation both in education and employment to enable them to come up in life and catch up with the traditionally more privileged members of society. This has been added to article 341 and 342 ( 341 for scheduled caste 342 for scheduled tribe) as scheduled article. Hence the name scheduled caste and scheduled tribe. Yet, ironically, the father of the Indian Constitution was a Dalit - Dr Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar (1891 - 1956).
There are more than 130 million scheduled caste (SC) people in the country according to the 1991 census. They constitute over 16 percent of the total population. The States of UP, West Bengal, Bihar, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh account for 50 per cent of the SC population. Most members of the SC earn their livelihood working as labour on land belonging to others or in occupations like scavenging, flaying and tanning of leather and other menial jobs. They work largely in the unorganised sector on very low wages. Most of them live below the poverty line, earning less than Rs. 11,000 a year. Literacy levels of the SC are abysmally low - 37 per cent as against the national average of 52 per cent. The literacy level for the SC women is even lower. Not even 25 per cent of them can read or write.