Social differences based on gender, religion and caste.

Gender division

A form of hierarchical social division seen everywhere, but is rarely recognised in the study of politics. The gender division tends to be understood as natural and unchangeable. However, it is not based on biology but on social expectations and stereotypes.

More radical women’s movements aimed at equality in personal and family life as well. These movements are called FEMINIST movements.

Feminist: A woman or a man who believes in equal rights and opportunities for women and men.

The literacy rate among women is only 54 per cent compared with 76 per cent among men.

On an average an Indian woman works one hour more than an average man every day. Yet much of her work is not paid and therefore often not valued.

The Equal Remuneration Act, 1976 provides that equal wages should be paid to equal work.

The percentage of elected women members in Lok Sabha has touched 14.36 per cent of its total strength for the first time in 2019. Their share in the state assemblies is less than 5 per cent.

Religion, communalism and politics

Gandhiji believed that politics must be guided by ethics drawn from religion.

People should be able to express in politics their needs, interests and demands as a member of a religious community. Those who hold political power should sometimes be able to regulate the practice of religion so as to prevent discrimination and oppression. These political acts are not wrong as long as they treat every religion equally.

The problem begins when religion is seen as the basis of the nation, expressed in politics in exclusive and partisan terms and one religion and its followers are pitted against another. This manner of using religion in politics is communal politics.

Communalism can take various forms in politics:

The most common expression of communalism is in everyday beliefs. These routinely involve religious prejudices, stereotypes of religious communities and belief in the superiority of one’s religion over other religions. This is so common that we often fail to notice it, even when we believe in it.

A communal mind often leads to a quest for political dominance of one’s own religious community. For those belonging to majority community, this takes the form of majoritarian dominance. For those belonging to the minority community, it can take the form of a desire to form a separate political unit.

Political mobilisation on religious lines is another frequent form of communalism. This involves the use of sacred symbols, religious leaders, emotional appeal and plain fear in order to bring the followers of one religion together in the political arena.

Sometimes communalism takes its most ugly form of communal violence, riots and massacre. India and Pakistan suffered some of the worst communal riots at the time of the Partition. The post-Independence period has also seen large scale communal violence.

Secular state

There is no official religion for the Indian state. Unlike the status of Buddhism in Sri Lanka, that of Islam in Pakistan and that of Christianity in England, our Constitution does not give a special status to any religion.

The Constitution provides to all individuals and communities freedom to profess, practice and propagate any religion, or not to follow any.

The Constitution prohibits discrimination on grounds of religion.

At the same time, the Constitution allows the state to intervene in the matters of religion in order to ensure equality within religious communities. For example, it bans untouchability.

Caste and politics

In most societies, occupations are passed on from one generation to another. Caste system is an extreme form of this. What makes it different from other societies is that in this system,  hereditary occupational division was sanctioned by rituals.

political leaders and social reformers like Jotiba Phule, Gandhiji, B.R.Ambedkar and Periyar Ramaswami Naicker advocated and worked to establish a society in which caste inequalities are absent.

With economic development, large scale URBANISATION, growth of literacy and education, OCCUPATIONAL MOBILITY and the weakening of the position of landlords in the villages, the old notions of CASTE HIERARCHY are breaking down.

The caste groups that had access to education under the old system have done very well in acquiring modern education as well. Those groups that did not have access to education or were prohibited from acquiring it have naturally lagged behind.

Caste continues to be closely linked to economic status.

Caste can take various forms in politics:

When parties choose candidates in elections, they keep in mind the caste composition of the electorate and nominate candidates from different castes so as to muster necessary support to win elections. When governments are formed, political parties usually take care that representatives of different castes and tribes find a place in it.

Political parties and candidates in elections make appeals to caste sentiment to muster support. Some political parties are known to favour some castes and are seen as their representatives.

Universal adult franchise and the principle of one-person-one-vote compelled political leaders to gear up to the task of mobilising and securing political support.

The ruling party and the sitting MP or MLA frequently lose elections in our country. That could not have happened if all castes and communities were frozen in their political preferences.

Politics in caste

It is not politics that gets caste ridden, it is the caste that gets politicised:

Each caste group tries to become big by incorporating within it neighbouring castes or sub-castes which were earlier excluded from it.

Various caste groups are required to enter into a coalition with other castes or communities and thus enter into a dialogue and negotiation.

New kinds of caste groups have come up in the political arena like ‘backward’ and ‘forward’ caste groups.

Categories: General


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