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It also shows that BJP leadership is more nervous about the elections than we would've thought. Chat with us in Facebook Messenger. Find out what's happening in the world as it unfolds. The BJP-backed bill, introduced Tuesday, would amend the country's constitution to add "economically weaker citizens" to the sections of society eligible for job quotas. The bill passed the lower house of Parliament Tuesday but must still be approved by the upper house.

Income inequality in India: Top 10% upper caste households own 60% wealth | Business Standard News

In , Modi campaigned on the promise of millions of new jobs -- a promise critics say that he has failed to fulfil. This move is being seen as an attempt to repackage his image a few months before India's general elections due to be held during April and May. Shekhar Gupta, one of India's most prominent political commentators, called the move a "cynical and desperate ploy" that shows that the "BJP leadership is more nervous about the elections than we would've thought.

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The survey respondents who provided the anecdotes are identified only by their initials. A Dalit-led organization known as Equality Labs conducted the online survey. The survey was anonymous and not based on a random sample.

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Some Indian American leaders have criticized its methods and findings. As the number of Dalit and lower caste people grows in the United States, they are beginning to assert their rights and raise their voices. At the World Hindu Congress in Chicago last September, a group of Dalit activists disrupted a session to protest what they saw as the Brahmin superiority of the event and the presence of extremist Hindu leaders, including Mohan Bhagwat, leader of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, an extremist Hindu group in India. The women protesters were attacked and spat on by attendees.

Dalits interviewed by WGBH News or surveyed by Equality Labs indicated they do not inhabit such a comfortable, accepting space when among others of Indian descent. Kanishka Elupula, an Indian working on his doctorate at Harvard University, expressed a sense of Dalit pride.

But despite how proud he is of his success, Elupula is reluctant to openly talk about his caste on campus. So like I said, I have not been forthright about my caste. This kind of internal conflict is not uncommon among many Dalits living in America. They are proud that despite generational discrimination back in India, they have escaped to this country.

This belief is thought to be one of the primary reasons for the vegetarianism of many Hindus. Within a single lifetime, people in India historically had little social mobility. They had to strive for virtue during their present lives in order to attain a higher station their next time around. In this system, a particular soul's new form depends upon the virtuousness of its previous behavior.

Thus, a truly virtuous person from the Shudra caste could be rewarded with rebirth as a Brahmin in his or her next life. Practices associated with caste varied through time and across India, but all shared some common features. The three key areas of life historically dominated by caste were marriage, meals, and religious worship. Marriage across caste lines was strictly forbidden. Most people even married within their own sub-caste or jati. At mealtimes, anyone could accept food from the hands of a Brahmin , but a Brahmin would be polluted if he or she took certain types of food from a lower caste person.

At the other extreme, if an untouchable dared to draw water from a public well, he or she polluted the water, and nobody else could use it. In religious worship, Brahmins, as the priestly class, presided over rituals and services including preparation for festivals and holidays, as well as marriages and funerals. The Kshatriya and Vaisya castes had full rights to worship, but in some places, Shudras the servant caste were not allowed to offer sacrifices to the gods.

What is India's caste system?

Untouchables were barred entirely from temples, and sometimes they were not even allowed to set foot on temple grounds. If the shadow of an untouchable touched a Brahmin, the Brahmin would be polluted, so untouchables had to lay face-down at a distance when a Brahmin passed.

Although the early Vedic sources name four primary castes, in fact, there were thousands of castes, sub-castes, and communities within Indian society.

Caste and Hinduism Explained

These jati were the basis of both social status and occupation. Castes or sub-castes besides the four mentioned in the Bhagavad Gita include such groups as the Bhumihar or landowners, Kayastha or scribes, and the Rajput, a northern sector of the Kshatriya, or warrior, caste. Some castes arose from very specific occupations, such as the Garudi—snake charmers—or the Sonjhari, who collected gold from river beds.


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People who violated social norms could be punished by being made "untouchables. The person deemed untouchable—and their descendants—were condemned and completely outside of the caste system. Untouchables were considered so impure that any contact with them by a caste member would contaminate the member. The polluted person would have to bathe and wash his or her clothing immediately. The untouchables historically did work that no one else would do, like scavenging animal carcasses, leather-work, or killing rats and other pests. Untouchables could not eat in the same room as caste members and could not be cremated when they died.

Curiously, non-Hindu populations in India sometimes organized themselves into castes as well. After the introduction of Islam in the subcontinent, for example, Muslims were divided into classes such as the Sayed, Sheikh, Mughal, Pathan, and Qureshi. These castes are drawn from several sources: The Mughal and Pathan are ethnic groups, roughly speaking, while the Qureshi name comes from the Prophet Muhammad's clan in Mecca. Small numbers of Indians were Christian from around 50 CE onward.

Christianity expanded in India after the Portuguese arrived in the 16th century. Many Christian Indians continued to observe caste distinctions, however.