Abolition of caste

Given below is an English translation of Savarkar’s assorted views on abolition of caste

 

The basic aim of consolidating Hindu society

The Hindu social jurists had based social organization on the principle of distribution of duties sans competition and mutual co-operation as means to attain earthly prosperity on the path to salvation of the soul. The duties of every individual from the shudra to the Brahmin were defined to facilitate societal development. But fighting spirit (kshaatratej) is necessary to fulfill these duties properly and to protect social life. (Samagra Savarkar vangmaya, Vol. 6, p.522)

 

The practice of caste and consolidation of Hindu society

Firstly, it should not be forgotten that the practice of birth-based caste division must have been responsible for the mighty consolidation and amazing stability of the Hindu society under certain circumstances and conditions. While evaluating its merits and demerits, it will be sheer ingratitude to only point fingers at the latter day ill-effects of the institution of caste.

It must also be admitted that keeping the interests of the Hindu Nation at heart, the Hindus of yesteryears gave birth to or allowed birth- based caste divisions to develop spontaneously with the aim of preserving the purity of blood ties, community life and tradition. (1963, Sahaa soneri pane or Six Glorious Epochs of Indian History; Samagra Savarkar vangmaya, Vol. 4, p. 710)

Birth-based caste system as an experiment in the science of heredity

Considering its sheer magnitude, the amazing diligence and the epochal time-frame over which this inspirational experiment was played out, the human race should be certainly grateful to this great experiment played by birth-based caste system to find out the extent to which natural laws of heredity may possibly benefit the human race. Assuming that the experiment temporarily failed due to its extreme practice or distortion, it is no mean achievement to prove that such an experiment failed in such a form and under such conditions. By thus failing in this great experiment of the caste system, our Hindu race enriched human experience and has thereby succeeded in earning the gratitude of the human race; such was the scientific outlook and thought, sheer guts and amazing diligence at the root of this experiment. (1931, Jatyuchchedak nibandha or essays on abolition of caste, Samagra Savarkar vangmaya, Vol. 3, p. 457)

The role of heredity in the development of merit

Heredity is not the sole determinant of merit; rather it is one of its many determinants.
Even if inbreeding occurs, change in other factors such as light, food, water, climate, mental makeup of ancestors, their upbringing, education, availability of opportunity and means enhance or diminish or change the innate merit of children.
Even where inbreeding occurs, like good qualities, bad qualities too may get enhanced or accentuated; hence occasionally heredity may prove harmful in the extreme and crossbreeding becomes the most effective means of removing defects or disabilities in children.
Even if inbreeding occurs, the good qualities of ancestors may occasionally diminish or get distorted with passage of time. In such circumstances too, cross-breeding proves beneficial to animals.
While it is possible to maintain blood purity by inbreeding in case of natural species, it is virtually impossible to maintain it if the same is ordained by scriptures or belief.
And in those Hindu castes such as the Brahmins etc. too which have strict rules regarding inter-marriages, cross-breeding has been occurring for generations past as ordained by scriptures or secretly due to sexual attraction. This will undoubtedly continue in future too and hence even if inter-marriages are strictly prohibited, the very belief that the son of a Brahmin has the innate qualities of a Brahmin or that the son of a Kshatriya must be naturally imbued with the qualities of a Kshatriya needs to be discarded. This is because of the fact that due to cross-breeding between all our castes from time immemorial, no caste can claim monopoly over a specific merit. (1931, Jatyuchchedak nibandha or essays on abolition of caste, Samagra Savarkar vangmaya, Vol. 3, p. 472)

 

The meaning of ‘chaturvarnya mayaa srishtam’ (‘I have created the chaturvarnya system’)

Chaturvarnya means the four varnas (* the word varna is virtually untranslatable. It denotes the old Hindu idea of a four-tiered society with an intellectual or spiritual class called the Brahmins; the ruling, political or warrior class called the Kshatriyas; the merchant or commercial class called the Vaishyas and the servant or service-oriented class called the Shudras. They represent the four human tendencies of learning, fighting, trading and serving). These four varnas were determined by merit and actions and not by birth… ‘Chaturvarnya mayaa srishtam’ means ‘I have created the chaturvarnya system’. Nowhere in this shloka (by Sri Krishna in the Bhagwad Gita) is any there any suggestion whatsoever, that He gives birth to people on basis of merit and that this perpetuates on basis of birth in a particular family. .. The smritis clearly say, ‘janmanaa jaayate shudraha’ or ‘everyone is a shudra at birth’. It is only after imbibing samskaras that one attains the status of the twice-born (meaning Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya). (1930, Jatyuchchedak nibandha or essays on abolition of caste, Samagra Savarkar vangmaya, Vol. 3, p. 444)

….The present-day caste division has arisen from the debris of the chaturvarnya of yore. (1930, Jatyuchchedak nibandha or essays on abolition of caste, Samagra Savarkar vangmaya, Vol. 3, p. 449)

 

The Sanatana Dharma will not die if the caste system goes away

Both chaturvarnya and caste divisions are but practices. They are not coterminous with Sanatana Dharma (*lit: timeless code, though the word Dharma is virtually untranslatable). The practice of caste division arose from a tectonic change in the practice of chaturvarnya. As the Sanatana Dharma did not die due to this tectonic change, so too it will not die if the present-day distortion that is caste division is destroyed. The true Sanatana Dharma, those true philosophical ideas expounding the character of ishwar-jeev-jagat (God-individual-creation) and the First Principle can never die. (1930, Jatyuchchedak nibandha or essays on abolition of caste, Samagra Savarkar vangmaya, Vol. 3, p. 444)

Notions of ‘high and low’ on basis of qualities, Hindu is the caste by birth

No one should ever think that a certain Hindu caste is high or that another is low. The notion of high and low will be determined by overt merit of individuals.
Every Hindu child has but one caste at birth- Hindu. Other than that, consider no other sub-caste. ‘Janmanaa jaayate Hinduhu’ (‘every one is a Hindu by birth’)! In truth, every man has but one caste at birth- human. But at least so long as other religionists such as Muslims and Christians keep aside that lofty aim and consider themselves Muslims and Christians by birth and endeavour to swallow the Hindu, we too must cling to the identity of our race. On every occasion and especially during census, register yourselves as Hindus only. Consider all castes as occupations. (1930, Jatyuchchedak nibandha or essays on abolition of caste, Samagra Savarkar vangmaya, Vol. 3, p. 479)

Present-day caste divisions are scripture-based

Scripture-based caste division is a mental illness. It gets cured instantly when the mind refuses to accept it. The seven indigenous shackles whose breaking will liberate this Hindu Nation from the illness and demonic possession that is caste division are as follows: vedokta bandi (prohibition of Vedic recital and worshipping according to Vedas), vyavasaya bandi (prohibition of certain occupations), sparsha bandi (untouchability), sindhu bandi (prohibition of sea faring), shuddhi bandi (prohibiton of re-conversion), roti bandi (prohibition of inter-dining), beti bandi (prohibition of inter-marriages). (1935, Samagra Savarkar vangmaya, Vol. 3, p. 497-499)

 

I felt like rebelling against the caste system

Just as I felt I should rebel against the foreign rule over Hindusthan, I also felt that I should rebel against the caste system and untouchability in Hindusthan. (1920, Letters from the Andamans, Samagra Savarkar vangmaya, Vol. 5, p. 490)

 

The social discrimination amongst different castes should end

…The present-day birth-based caste division and social discrimination amongst different castes should go forthwith for this social revolution to succeed. This is imperative for the rise, rejuvenation and prosperity of the Hindu Nation. If the root of this poisonous tree dies, the poisonous creeper of special privileges that thrives on it will automatically die. (1936, Samagra Savarkar vangmaya, Vol. 3, p. 641)

Every one possessed by the craze of caste

This craze of caste is not limited to the Brahmin alone; it pervades the non-Brahmin Chandala, indeed the whole of Hindusthan is imbued with it! The societal body has become wasted with this disease of caste arrogance, caste hatred and caste conflict. (1930, Jatyuchchedak nibandha or essays on abolition of caste, Samagra Savarkar vangmaya, Vol. 3, p. 440)

Caste division is not the conspiracy of a handful of Brahmins…it is not the joint conspiracy of the Brahmins and Kshatriyas. (1930, Jatyuchchedak nibandha or essays on abolition of caste, Samagra Savarkar vangmaya, Vol. 3, p. 450-451)

 

Every one preserved caste division, reform is a collective responsibility

Indeed, the blame for the atrocities perpetrated by the higher castes on lower castes due to scripture-based caste division lies with all castes, from the Brahmin to the Bhangi (Balmiki), not with Brahmins and Kshatriyas alone! This scripture-based caste division enabled the Bhangi to assert his superiority over the Domb, hence every one in his own way preserved and is still preserving it. The blame for unnecessarily allowing it to thrive rests on every one…so the best way is to accept that every one is to be blamed and that the responsibility of reform is collective! Every one destroyed the edifice (* of society) together. Now in the fitness of things, let all of us Hindus together rebuild it on the firm foundation of all-embracing Hindutva. (1935, Ksha kirane or X-rays, Samagra Savarkar vangmaya, Vol. 3, p. 178)

There should be no link between caste and human discrimination/ special privileges

…The aspect of caste division that we have to mainly abolish because it is nationally undesirable is not merely its basis in birth but its link to discrimination and special privileges…If one were to remove its basis in birth and the resulting discrimination and attendant special privileges without regard to merit, then even if the other causes of caste division were to somehow remain for several years, they would not cause much harm. In that case, if each caste were to continue to maintain its specific occupations, names, caste-based organizations, its non-discriminatory and harmless rituals, familial duties and practices as well as gotra traditions, these per se would not cause any significant harm to the Hindu Nation. (1935, Hindutvache panchapran or The Spirit of Hindutva, Samagra Savarkar vangmaya, Vol. 3, p. 55-67)

 

Wrong to label an entire caste as ‘wicked’ or ‘harmless’

…In Brahmins and Bhangis (*Balmikis) alike, just as you would find caste egoist, discriminatory and wicked people, in the same measure you would also find reformers who stand for equality and abolition of caste. If a champion of abolition of caste division were to hold that only Brahmins and Kshatriyas are wicked while others are altruistic, harmless gentlemen who stand for equality, such a person would inadvertently prove the validity of caste division and contribute to caste hatred through his slogan of abolition of caste. For to say that the entire caste of the Brahmin or someone else is wicked and that of some others is unexceptionably good is to say that these castes are not man-made or scripture- based but that they are innately different. (Samagra Savarkar vangmaya, Vol. 3, p. 541)

The use of the term ‘non-Brahmins’ is improper

The use of the term ‘non-Brahmins’ is improper. It means that on one side you have all non-Brahmins including Englishmen and Americans! (1924, Hindu samaj sanrakshak Savarkar or Savarkar as the defender of Hindu society, p. 69)

Primacy of priests

Though the word ‘priest’ instantly conjures the image of the Brahmin, yet the Guravs, Gurus, Jangams, even the Mahar Bhats amongst the Mahars are all priests! Though they are all non-Brahmins, there is nevertheless primacy of the priests (original word used by Savarkar is bhatshaahi). (1935, Hindutvache panchapran or The Spirit of Hindutva, Samagra Savarkar vangmaya, Vol. 3, p. 74)

Priest should be based on merit

…If you must have a priest, every reformer should choose him not on the basis of caste but on merit. (1935, Hindutvache panchapran or The Spirit of Hindutva, Samagra Savarkar vangmaya, Vol. 3, p. 75)

What should be the nature of religious practices?

The priest is redundant on hundreds of occasions. One may read the scripture oneself and worship after expressing sentiments in chaste Marathi. Thanksgiving alms may be given away to institutions doing useful work. (1935, Hindutvache panchapran or The Spirit of Hindutva, Samagra Savarkar vangmaya, Vol. 3, p. 74)

God Himself would be more pleased to see His devotee perform worship on his own without help from others! ((1934, Hindu samaj sanrakshak Savarkar or Savarkar as the defender of Hindu society, p. 304)

Caste organizations and Hindu consolidation

Caste organizations are inevitable though undesirable in a period of change…So long as most castes have their organizations, the remaining ones find it difficult and harmful to shun them…As of now, the institution of caste is deep-rooted and alive with an innate sense of high and low appended to each caste. Hence, they have their specific issues of their interest. When caste-specific disabilities, injustices or needs gradually disappear, when all castes reach the same level or in other words when caste discrimination decreases leading to loosening of caste divisions, such caste organizations will automatically become redundant and tread the path to extinction…To organize the Hindu Nation, it is extremely difficult to bring together individuals. It is relatively easier to begin by bringing together different castes.. Bringing people together can be initially done by caste organizations…if you talk of organizations of sub-castes, some sub-castes will be excluded. If you talk of an umbrella organization of castes, you increasingly tend to amalgamate sub-castes. If umbrella organizations of different castes make keen efforts in the right direction then it will not be difficult to tread the path leading to the national temple of Hindu consolidation…
Though caste organizations are obstacles in the path to abolition of caste, yet in the absence of other means, if these organizations are skillfully made use of, these obstacles may be paradoxically used to weaken the foundation of caste division to a great extent; it is imperative that they are put to such use. (1937, Samagra Savarkar vangmaya, Vol. 3, p. 620-624)

The policy of caste abolitionists towards caste organizations

The first essential thing is to start a caste abolitionist group in each town and village that would have no link whatsoever to any caste organization…We should not start any caste organization. We should not claim any caste as our own present day-caste. However, just as it is unexceptionable to say that I was born in such and such family, it is also unexceptionable to say that I was born in such and such caste. To deny it would be laughable…It is foolish and even harmful for caste abolitionists to totally boycott all caste organizations for they need to use the desirable element in caste organizations to abolish caste itself…Amongst existing caste organizations, there are those that have been established with the sole aim of asserting their caste superiority. Abolitionists who belong to that caste would have to give up their own freedom to reject caste divisions and participate in inter-dining if they wish to participate in such organizations. If that is the case, abolitionists should have no truck with such caste organizations…Our Hindu caste abolitionist brethren should most certainly participate in progressive caste organizations to make them more receptive to abolitionist principles, ensure that they abolish sub-castes, cause elimination of the practices of untouchability, prohibition of inter-dining etc. and encourage them to do useful things such as education and the like. In fact they should go in such organizations in numbers large enough to create their majority and make their brothers in caste receptive to its abolition. ((1935, Samagra Savarkar vangmaya, Vol. 3, p. 624-628)