Caste cannot be changed with the change of religion: Thapar

Farooq Anwar

Photograph by Vimal Chauhan

Eminent historian Romila Thapar said that inequality is based on economic and technological differences and is a very complex issue which has to be critically analysed. She was speaking as the chair of ‘forms of inequality in Indian history’ session of Indian History Congress.

Prof Thapar stressed that caste status cannot be changed with the change of religion. She also raised a serious point putting a question on the reality by which caste functions and she also echoed strong voice for ideal society.

“Understanding of inequality also changes over time” said Prof. Thapar citing the example that the dominant caste in the Punjab is completely different from the dominant caste of Tamil Nadu.

The Second Day of the Indian History Congress has started with great enthusiasm among scholars, historians and young students coming from different parts of India and other countries.

Aligarh Historians Society on Monday, organised a panel discussion titled “Forms of Inequality In Indian History”.

Noted Historian and President of Aligarh Historian Society, Irfan Habib was the coordinator for the session.

The panel discussions started with panellists comprising of Kumkum Roy, Rajan Gurukkal, Annapurana Chattopadhyaya, Bhairabhi Prasad Sahu and others.

Starting the session with introductory address, Irfan Habib said that Caste is the fundamental and unique social institution in India. He clearly indicated that caste has an overwhelming significance as a source of inequality in our history and society. It is the caste that divides the society into a number of groups and leads to untouchability.

Kumkum Roy speaking on ‘Negotiating inequalities reflecting on the early Buddhist Samgha’ said that texts pertaining to the early Buddhist Samgha or monastic order provide some of the earliest documentation on how social hierarchies and relationships of power were conceptualized, redrawn, and occasionally reinforced in the course of everyday existence.

One of the exciting papers today was presented by Annapurana Chattopadhyaya on ‘Studying in inequality as evidenced in Caste System: Women in comparison with men on the basis of the Dharmasastras in Ancient India’.

In this paper, she talks about caste system in India and focuses on the victimisation of women in the caste system. She said that outside the four Varnas there are existing india among Tribals and Dalits. She stressed that it is the caste system that creates hierarchies and rigidity. She brilliantly portrayed the position of women in the society of the past by saying that women enjoyed no property rights and social status where daughter was the source of sorrow and son the source of happiness. She further added that ‘women’s chastity, sex were the demands of the society’.

Prof. Romila Thapar concluded the session by giving a clarion call that much more research has to be done by the historians and scholars on social inequality.