Lesson 3: Topic 10 of 14

Social and political stratification refers to the ways in which society is divided into different groups based on factors such as wealth, power, and status. These divisions can take many different forms and can vary greatly from culture to culture. 

The Caste System of India is the most recognized modern system of stratification in the world. Although discrimination based on ancient caste was technically abolished in India in 1950, caste still exists and impacts daily life. A form of affirmative action has been gradually  enacted in India since that time. Almost 60% of higher education and government jobs are reserved for disadvantaged groups such as the Scheduled Castes (SC) and Other Backward Castes (OBC).

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According to Pew Research, 

India’s caste system is an ancient social hierarchy based on occupation and economic status, with roots in historical Hindu writings. People in India are born into a particular caste and tend to keep many aspects of their social life within its boundaries, including whom they marry and whom they choose to count as their close friends.

Caste affects individuals in every social scenario. This impacts neighborhood relationships, schooling, employment opportunities, and the outcomes of court cases. Caste also extends into diaspora populations in other nations outside of India. 

Why? Equality Labs, a research and advocacy group for Untouchables (also called Dalits) explains the structure this way:

There are four main Caste groups. Those at the very top are Brahmins, who have traditionally been priests, scriptural knowledge-keepers, and legislators. Below them in status are the Kshatriyas, who were kings and warriors. They are followed by Vaishyas, or the merchant classes. People in these three Caste groups are often referred to as the “upper” Castes or Savarnas. Those at the bottom of the Caste hierarchy are Shudras or traditional peasants. Many of the lowest ranking Shudras are also termed Caste-oppressed.

Outside the 4-Caste group structure are people considered lower than the lowest of Castes. They go by the term Dalit meaning “broken but resilient”, formerly known as “untouchables” and the Adivasis, or the indigenous peoples of South Asia.