I was in a very interesting meeting a few days ago and we had a discussion including on the above issue. Christians and Muslims present in the meeting agreed that Caste is indeed seen in these two communities in India. It is even seen in some other south Asian countries like Pakistan. I feel that there is need for clarity on the terms used.
While Jati and caste are used interchangeably in Indian languages, the reality is that Caste as Jati is different from the casteism that is manifested as descent-based discrimnation based on the Chaturvarna system which is advocated by Vedic Brahminism.
Jati is a generic term for a people group and is basically an identity marker without necessarily any value-loaded implication.
But Caste-based discrimination is a reality in Indian society, and that is why it is visible, although in modified form, in the Christian and Muslim communities in India. But it is not seen in Christian and Muslim countries outside Asia in general. This only goes to prove the all-pervasive nature of Casteism and discrimination in the society. That caste discrimination continues even if the parties - of whatever religion - migrate to other countries only goes to prove, ironically, how truly "Indian" we are!
Cynthia Stephen Independent Researcher and writer Bangalore, India
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