Ending discrimination around us: The Caste System in India

We have been taught in schools that all human beings are born equal. Students are taught about human rights, their duties towards their society as well as being respectful towards everybody. However, how many of us actually align our actions with these values? How many of us believe that we are born equal? How many of us treat others around in this manner?

While studying about the ancient Vedic Civilization in India, our ninth standard students learnt about how the caste system began. All the students knew that Untouchability has been abolished in India, but they did not know how this was still affecting a significant number of people in our country. After learning about the Vedic Civilization, we decided to dig deeper into how the caste system is still affecting our country.

caste system
Source: The India Human Development Survey (IHDS-2) Indian Express, Delhi, November 29, 2014

The students analysed some newspaper articles and matrimonial ads to find out how caste system is being followed in India today and how untouchability still affects people around them. The students also watched a video about the plight of manual scavengers in different cities. After going through these sources, we engaged in a conversation about how we, in certain ways, are following the caste system and holding our biases against certain people around us, without even realizing it.

Photo credits: Dibyaroop Samajpati

At the end of the lesson, the students were asked to write an opinion essay on caste and what they can do to end the discrimination around them. Here are some excerpts from their essays:

Anjali’s views on the caste system. This is the introduction of her essay.
This is what Kavitha wrote about what she will do to end the discrimination based on caste system around her.
Sakina’s views on the caste system
Sakina’s views on how we can end discrimination based on one’s caste
Farheen’s opinion on the caste system
Fahima’s thoughts on how she can end discrimination based on the caste system around her

These writings speak a lot for themselves about how much the students learnt about their society and themselves. We are hoping to see them taking stands for a more equitable and fair society in future.

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