Being a unique stratification system in the Hindu social organisation, the caste system is a stumbling block in the nation’s progress. It has unwarrantedly divided the Hindu society into mutually hostile and conflicting groups and sub-groups from which the practice of untouchability has emerged. The restrictions put by the so-called higher castes on the so-called untouchables (or Harijans as Gandhiji called them) has created dissensions and disunity in the Hindu society.
It not only hinders progress but also the growth of national unity as even the slightest deviation from the caste system is severely dealt the in a majority of cases. Caste, in the words of sociologists, is “its own under”. Innovation has no place in the caste system. The system makes no compromises because, within its ambit, “the most ignorant Hindu is also able to compel the obedience of the most intelligent.”
Since caste is based on tradition and custom, the worker is denied his freedom to choose an occupation of his choice. Talent and merit is sacrificed at the altar of casteism, leading to immobility and inefficiency of labour which results in economic backwardness. As Sir Henry Maine maintains, a transition from status to contract is essential for the political as well as economic progress of society.
Excessive caste loyalty has brought about political disunity in the country, wrecking the successful working of the multi-party system. While democracy implies equality of all categories of people in public life, the caste system inevitably tends to give them special treatment and members of a particular caste are discriminated against. Organisations flaunting casteist leanings, which are in the hands of the so-called upper castes invariably win at the dustings to hold on to their privileged position in society with the result that they behave in a despotic fashion creating permanent feelings of inferiority and insecurity in the minds of the ‘lower’ castes.
The caste system has also harmed the social fabric of the Hindu society by encouraging and perpetuating such evils as untouchability, child marriage, prohibition of widow remarriage and denigration of womenfolk. In the past, it has also led to mass conversions to Christianity and Islam on account of the tyranny of the upper castes. The caste system thus leads to stagnation; it makes the society static rather than dynamic. Thus, it is imperative that for the growth and progress of society, consciousness must be created against the evils of the age-old caste system that has sapped the roots of the Hindu society.