Caste can be defined as hereditary endogamous group, having a common name, common traditional occupation, common culture, relatively rigid in matters of mobility, distinctiveness of status and forming a single homogenous community.
The caste system in India is mainly associated with Hinduism and has governed the Hindu society for thousands of years. Some of the features of caste system in India include the following:
- Segmental division of society: It means that social stratification is largely based on Membership to a caste group is acquired by birth, on the basis of which people are ranked in relative to other caste groups.
- Hierarchy: It indicates that various castes are categorized according to their purity and impurity of occupations. Just like a ladder, castes are ranked from higher to lower positions. Pure caste is ranked at the top and impure is ranked at the
- Civil and religious disabilities: These comprise of restrictions based on contact, dress, speech, rituals etc. and are placed on every caste group. It was done in order to maintain purity of specific caste groups. Example, lower caste groups had no access to wells, they were restricted from entering temples
- Endogamy: Members of a particular caste have to marry within their caste only. Inter- caste marriages are prohibited. However, in urban areas, the phenomenon of inter- caste marriage is
- Untouchability: It is the practice of ostracizing a group by segregating them from the mainstream by social Untouchability was a corollary of the caste system, wherein the untouchables (those belonging to the lowest caste groups) were deemed impure and polluted.
- Manual scavenging: Manual scavenging eventually became a caste-based occupation, which involves the removal of untreated human excreta from bucket toilets or pit It has been officially abolished by the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act 2013.
- Caste based violence in India: Increasing trend of caste based violence are related to instances of inter-caste marriage and assertion of basic rights by Dalits including land rights, freedom of expression, access to justice, access to education e.g. A group of
Dalits were attacked in Una, Gujarat when they had participated in the movement for demand of land ownership for the Dalits.
- Policy of caste based reservation: The system of caste-based reservation in India comprises of a series of affirmative action measures, such as reserving access to seats in the various legislatures, to government jobs, and to enrollment in higher educational institutions. E.g. Scheduled Caste groups are given 15% reservation in government services and educational institutions.