Competitive Exams: Main Features of Caste System: Caste system among non-Hindus

Caste system among non-Hindus

In some parts of India, the Christians are stratified by sect, location, and the castes of their predecessors, usually in reference to upper class Syrian Malabar Nasranis who were bestowed caste-like status. Presently in India, more than 70% of Christians are Dalits, but the higher caste Christians (30% by estimates) control 90% of the Catholic Church's administrative jobs.

Units of social stratification, termed as “castes” by many, have developed among Muslims in some parts of South Asia. Sources indicate that the castes among Muslims developed as the result of close contact with Hindu culture and Hindu converts to Islam. The Sachar Committee's report commissioned by the government of India and released in 2006, documents the continued stratification in Muslim society.

Among Muslims, those who are referred to as Ashrafs are presumed to have a superior status derived from their foreign Arab ancestry, while the Ajlafs are assumed to be converts from Hinduism, and have a lower status. In addition, there is also the Arzal caste among Muslims, who were regarded by anti-caste activists like Ambedkar as the equivalent of untouchables. In the Bengal region of India, some Muslims also stratify their society according to ‘Quoms’ While many scholars have asserted that the Muslim Castes are not as acute in their discrimination as that among Hindus, some like Ambedkar argued otherwise, writing that the social evils in Muslim society were “worse than those seen in Hindu society”

The nastik Buddhists too have a caste system. In Sri Lanka, the Rodis have always been despised and they might have been out-casted by the Lankan Buddhists due to the absence of “ahimsa” (non-violence), which Buddhism heavily depends on. The writer Raghavan notes: “That a form of worship in which human offerings formed the essential ritual would have been anathema to the Buddhist way of life goes without saying; and it needs no stretch of imagination that any class of people in whom the cult prevailed or survived even in an attenuated form would have been pronounced by the sangha (i.e.. The Buddhist clergy) as exiles from the social order.” Savarkar too believed that the status of the backward castes (e. g. Chamar) that performed non-violence only worsened. When Ywan Chwang traveled to South India after the period of the Chalukyan Empire, he noticed that the caste system had existed among the Buddhists and Jains.

The Jains too have castes in places such as Bihar. For example, in the village of Bundela, there are several “jaats” (groups) amongst the Jains. A person of one “jaat” cannot intermingle with a Jain or another “jaat” They also cannot eat with the members of other “jaats”

The Sikh Gurus criticized the hierarchy in the caste system. Where some castes were perceived by people as being better or higher than others (e. g. Brahmins being higher than others) they preached all sections of society were valuable and merit and hard-work were essential aspects of life. In Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee, out of 140 seats, twenty are reserved for low caste Sikhs. However, the quota system has attracted much criticism due to the lack of meritocracy, where merit is considered the single most important component of winning a seat.