The Untouchables: Inequalities in The Indian Caste System
- Written by Frederick Gimino
The purpose of this article is to explore the inner workings of the Indian caste system and to observe any inequalities taking place between the classes. Also, readers will be able to see how any semblance of the caste system is being practiced today.
Since 1450 A.D. there have been many instances of social inequality, in geographic locations other than the United States. An example of such an inequality can be found in India because of the caste system.
The Indian caste system is a method of social categorization used to divide people based on their lineage or ancestral background. There are instances today where practices of this social class categorization system can be observed as well as their modern day adaptations.
The caste system in India can be considered one of the earliest social categorization practices. The Indian Caste system contained social classes made up of people sharing a common lineage or ancestral background. People were born into their castes and they could not move from one caste to another.
In the traditional Indian caste system the group known as the warriors reside at the top of the caste system followed closely by the priest caste. Next, the common people or the merchant (varnas) class falls in line. In these castes, people were ranked according to their profession. These subgroups were known as the jatis. The bottom feeders of the caste system were the “untouchables” (peasants) who were revered as the derelicts of society. This group contained people who did the most loathsome work in society. People whom were mainly herbivores and whom had jobs that did not involve physical labor were revered as being among the “purest” of society.’
The caste group could move up the social ladder as a whole, but an individual could not move out of the confines of their own caste. If a person attempted to rebel then they could become an outcast from their current caste. Since a rebel’s family could offer no money, food, or shelter, the rebel most often died as a result of attempting abandonment of the caste system.
Unfortunately, this not entirely the case for the class on the low rung of the social ladder. The caste system containing the “untouchables” remains to this day a type of death sentence for people plagued by this label.
Surprisingly, in India today, a marriage between members of different castes can take place. Despite this, the caste of each member of a couple can remain a basis of criteria to judge the person’s worth.
The people born into the “untouchable” caste are not given a chance to better themselves in life, even if they possess the ability to make more of themselves. To be denied this chance because of a social class in unfathomable. The poverty level for this class is so extreme they face extreme food shortages.
In fact the poverty is so extreme in the "untouchable" caste some must eat rats to survive. The rat catchers of this caste are so poor they are left with no other choice, but to consume the possibly disease infested rodents they catch to survive. In addition, to this unhealthy diet the smoke they use to catch the rats is highly toxic and causes their lungs to blacken from frequent smoke inhalation.
“Rats are eaten in Bihar by a community named Mushars or Bhuyans who are considered the lowest on the social ladder. Now the government of Bihar has announced on August 9th that they have a panacea for everything – people will be encouraged to eat rats , the meat will be introduced formally into all eateries from roadside dhabas right up to five star hotels and will occupy a place on the menu”. (Gandhi).
I hope that this article opened your mind to the inequality found in the Indian caste system. It is unfortunate that the Indian caste system is still used as a method of social categorization today. Because, it is a form of segregation used to subjugate and divide people based solely on their lineage or ancestral background. It is hard to believe such an enlightened culture still utilizes these types of prejudicial ideologies to govern their people.
"Prabhupada Hare Krishna News Network”. Retrieved from:
Callaham, Terrence, Pavich, Roxanna. "Indian Caste Sytem" Retrieved from:
Gandhi, Maneka. “Is it Healthy Decision to Promote Rat Eating in Bihar?” The Bihar Times. 2008. Retrieved from: