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The Caste System

The Dark History of India

The Caste System Breakdown

A Spanish philosopher by the name George Santayana once said, "Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it."

Since the beginning of dawn, humans have always fallen into the habit of putting things into boxes. We consume information and store using strategies that make sense to us. We give people, insects, and object names and create divisions to aid in comprehending the world around us. And although this trait may be useful, I believe it to be the root of prejudice, marginalization, and social exclusion. 

Long ago, ancient India gave birth to a system that still leaves its remnants in the modern world. The caste system that originated in India is a prime example of the human desire to create divisions, and how this ability resulted in social exclusion and still does to this day. 

The caste system is a social system that divided society into five divisions with the highest being "Brahmin," the academics and priests, also referred to as God's men; followed by the "Kshatryia," the warriors and kings;  "Vaishya," being the merchants and landowners; and lastly, the "Sudra," also known as the commoners and peasants. Although "Sudra" and "Untouchables" are sometimes referred to as distinct casts, they are often considered as being on the same status.

Often times, the oppressed and lower castes of India are referred to as Dalits. According to statistics, segregation begins at a young age for these suppressed castes. 62 percent of Dalits are illiterate due to high drop-out rates and discrimination. They are often employed in dangerous underpaid jobs that result in infections, yet health workers fail to visit 65 percent of Dalit settlements. This injustice threatens the lives of 167 million people every day, and yet so many around the world are oblivious to this torture. 

One might think that over the years, such a system would have diminished but alas history continues to repeat itself. Over the last decade, the system continues to be prominent in Indian society. An individual's last name is considered a good indicator of their identity caste, and due to this distinction, many have considered it to be the root of discrimination in India. 

India's caste system is one of the oldest and cruellest forms of social stratification that lies at the very heart of society in India. It has infested itself into the politics, education systems, and social norms of a nation that refuses to change. It not only denies individuals of opportunities and upward mobility but also inhumanity at its finest. And despite being very prominent in India, many continue to turn a blind eye against it or are just unaware of a system that has taken away so much from individuals and one that continues to rob a country of progress.

And sadly, this remains one of the many tales of those who have been suppressed. As we move forward, we see all around us the stories of those who have been pushed aside far too long. As a society, we must learn to dig out the stories and hear the cries of those who have been buried.  By fixing the mistake of our ancestors, and acknowledging those who have been victims of such societal distinctions, we move towards constructing a better tomorrow. 

I have now come to understand the trepidation behind George Santayana's words. He was in fear of our ignorance towards our history. The past may never be kept in the dark as it is meant to unfold in front of those who wish to accept it. For it is only the acceptance of such dark events that will allow us as a society to progress and build a future that holds us all to equal regard. We must work hard, for we have a future to construct, but it must start with us acknowledging as a nation the darkness that lies in our history.