The Caste and Religious Conflicts

Few people have foresight to see today's interactions becoming important events of future, or gaining great historical significance in days to come. Many strange events unfold in front of us, but these events are not easily comprehended due to our closeness to their happenings. The world is in a constant state of change, flux, the very name Jagat or Samsara (world) means "constantly changing". Like the stream of a river it continuously flows. Occasional heavy rains make the river rise in flood, causing severe damage; for, now the river no more accepts the limitations of its banks. It overflows into surrounding land of peace and security. The devastation that follows opens eyes of the observers and the affected persons, who exclaim: "Why, what has happened to this serene, silent, and disciplined river to inundate the surrounding area and inflict such heavy causalities and cause such severe damage?"

Philosophical principles or concepts of one group likewise continue to come in conflict with those held by others; we may categorize such groups into races, nations, or sects holding a particular religious belief. In their routine flow, in time when there is no great upheaval, all such principles and ideologies appear to flow like a smoothly flowing river carrying peace and prosperity all around. However, floods of disharmony and fanaticism in case of religions, and waves of revolutionary ideas and beliefs in case of art and literature, science and technology, politics and sociology try to attack and destroy the established norms. The apparently cozy nest gets ruffled and the wind of change threatens to dislodge the pockets of faith, progress, comfort, and tranquility.

In fact, all such revolutionary events, although occupying and starting on a low key to begin with, are sure to take up the disturbing and inscrutable form of huge tidal waves on two counts.

One, if the ideas and ideologies contain progressive elements then they endure for centuries and are welcomed by generation after generation. The progressive means ideas and acts of generosity, altruism, compassion, and concern for others; in short, such thoughts that take the person from selfish attitude to selfless devotion. Secondly, a counter revolutionary wave can also flood the river, wherein an attempt is visible to regroup in a narrow parochial frame of thought. Thus, extreme rightist reactionary forces in politics, religion, and art, not withstanding their claims to contrary, always try to make people selfish as represented by hate, jealousy, and egotism. The result is violence, bigotry, and vengeance.

History records both such tendencies in bold letters, but in course of time only the former (ideology making one selfless) is accepted and eulogized. The fanaticism, hatred, greed, and passions might appear to disturb the process, causing fear in the hearts of the thinking people and making them pessimistic about future of human race, but ultimately only "Truth prevails." A study of many events in the world today, in every field of human endeavor (arts, economics, politics, religion etc.) from this point of view would allow a sensible person to see historical trends in their proper perspective, and in the final analysis to come to the conclusion about the correctness of their siding with Truth.

Coming to specific situation in India today, two main problems appear disturbing:

  1.  Relationship between various classes or castes in Hindu society, and

  2. relationship between various religious communities.

The general impression is that Hindus are ready to accept all religions and live in pluralistic social framework, and this impression is getting more and more recognized. Historically, it can be seen that Hindu religion and philosophy has accepted, and not merely tolerated, other religions in its fold and thus has become broader, deeper, tranquil, and more stable. Such an attitude can, however, be challenged as it is not easily discernible vis-?-vis other religions. The same argument cannot be easily and emphatically applied in case of other religious groups in India. The fanatics and militants try to impose their beliefs by force of fundamentalism. "My religion is alone true; your idol worship is outdated form of worship," they maintain. It is perceived, therefore, that inter-religious conversion is one way to correct this anomaly! And secondly, such religions do not accept other religions as equally true paths to seek and realize God and attain spiritual goals.

Reciprocal liberal gestures of not only toleration but acceptance of all religions as the valid means to God-realization can alone help to maintain religious harmony in India. It is not easy to understand that various sects and religions are but the various ways to reach the same Supreme Being. Failure to accept this fact is the reason why religious conflicts spurt from time to time. This argument is applicable to the believers of every religion.

As far as the caste system is concerned, the Indian Constitution has guaranteed every person living on Indian soil the same status, rights, and dignified life. The question is more of historical relevance, and has in fact lost its significance in present circumstances. Social education, general awareness, justice to all, improved economic condition, and equal job opportunities all should see the end of caste problem in India in coming decades.


More by :  Dr. C.S. Shah

Top | Hinduism

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