The Indian caste system is historically one of the main dimensions where people in India are socially differentiated through class, religion, region, tribe, gender, and language. Although this or other forms of differentiation exist in all human societies, it becomes a problem when one or more of these dimensions overlap each other and become the sole basis of systematic ranking and unequal access to valued resources like wealth, income, power and prestige.
The phrase “Without any discrimination, based on race, colour, caste, creed, sex and religious belief” is now commonly used when such part of any Act, Article or Rule that puts emphasis on justice and equality is to be suitably worded. Thus, the phrase has been used in a number of Articles and clauses or sub-clauses in the Indian Constitution and also in other statutory laws. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the U.N. General Assembly in 1948 also has used this phrase with addition of words like property, birth, national origin and distinction of any kind.
However, article-2 of the Declaration, which has this phrase, does not include the word 'caste' because the caste system, as it is prevalent in India, is not prevalent in most other countries. But the aforesaid Article uses the words 'social origin' and also the word 'birth' and these words should jointly imply the distinction made on the ground of caste that is nowadays based on birth and social origin.
There is no doubt, that the use of this or similarly worded phrases is the right thing done to meet the requirements of law and legislation that makes it mandatory for and obligatory on the citizens of a country or the world not to discriminate on the basis of any one of these. The simple reason for this is that the discrimination results in inequality, based on extraneous factors, and also in injustice and disrespectful or inhuman treatment of some people and deprivation of certain classes.
But, an important thing What seems to have been missed all along in this connection is that legal luminaries, social scientists and the public have, perhaps, never applied any serious thought as to why distinctions based on race, colour, nationality, language, gender, etc., are sought to be set aside when these distinctions really exist and qualify or disqualify a person or certain worldly roles. Also, why is discrimination, based on any one of these, considered as an obstacle to justice or road block to equality? (to be continued...)
(The writer is a spiritual educator and popular columnist for publications across India, Nepal and UK. You can write to him at email@example.com)