Libmonster ID: U.S.-1430
Author(s) of the publication: E. YURLOVA

More than 80% of the population of India is made up of Hindus, each of whom was born in the corresponding Hindu caste, which is part of the traditional Varna system. It consists of four varnas( social groups), the first three - brahmans, kshatriyas and vaisyas - are "twice-born". Boys from these varnas were allowed to learn sacred knowledge in Sanskrit, which gives a second birth. The fourth varna is that of the sudras, who are bound to serve the " twice-born." There were untouchables outside the Varna system.

The representatives of all four varnas were considered "pure", the representatives of the untouchables were considered "unclean", ritually "defiling" all other Hindus, especially Brahmins and kshatriyas. This four-member organization of Indian society, which existed almost from the first millennium BC until the IV-V centuries AD, was purely hierarchical, which was expressed in the inequality of first Varnas, and later castes, most of which trace their origin to one of the Varnas. The emergence of castes dates back to the end of the ancient period. The formation of the modern caste system was completed in the VII-X centuries. Each of the castes could have dozens of podcasts that have maintained their identity for centuries. This social system has undergone significant changes over time, but not only has it not disappeared, but it still continues to live and play an important role in the socio-economic and political life of modern India.

The 20th century was held in India under the banner of the struggle for socio-economic equality of the Hindu middle and lower castes.

One of the results of the functioning of the caste hierarchy over the centuries was the creation of a pervasive social system that allowed the upper castes, especially the Brahmins, to exploit the middle and lower castes. The caste controlled all aspects of human life. At the same time, the brahmans occupied the most prestigious positions in society.

Adopted in 1833 by the colonial Administration of the East India Company, the regulation provided for equal employment opportunities, regardless of religion, place of birth, origin, or skin color. However, after the proclamation of the Governor-General of India in 1844 that preference would be given to those educated in English for admission to the civil service, the Brahmins who attended public schools in that language were the first to take advantage. Although access to secular education and modern employment was formally open to representatives of all castes and religions, these opportunities were mainly enjoyed by members of the upper castes until the beginning of the 20th century.

The most active changes in Hindu castes and relations between them occurred during the reform movements in the 19th century and almost simultaneously during the national liberation struggle. Among the reformers and leaders of the Indian National Congress (INC), Brahmins predominated. Objectively, the British colonialists were interested in weakening the power of the Brahmins and increasing inter-caste rivalry, which was in line with their traditional policy of "divide and rule".


As other castes developed, including the lower castes, they began to demand social and then economic equality. The growth of the struggle for social justice occurred in different ways, depending on the conditions in specific regions. Since the end of the 19th century, the discontent of lower castes in the social hierarchy in Southern India has taken the form of non-Brahmin and sometimes anti-Brahmin movements. The British thesis about the Aryan origin of the Brahmins also contributed to the strengthening of anti-Brahmin sentiment. This" Aryan theory " was readily adopted by the Brahmins in these areas, where their influence was exceptional. They used it to justify their high position and as proof of their proximity to Europeans.

The ideologue of the non-Brahmin movement from the Shudraya caste of gardeners-Mali in the Bombay presidency, Jotiba Phule (1827 - 1890), challenged many Brahmin privileges, opposed Brahmin culture, putting forward the slogan of creating a "national culture", a universal religion for all Indians and an equal peasant community of "non-Aryans". For the first time in the history of relations between castes, he spoke about the equality of people not only before God, but also in life, about free communication between representatives of all castes and religious communities, and equality for all, including women.

If Jotiba Phule considered all castes non-Aryan, except for the Brahmins, who were declared aliens, then in the Madras presidency, the leader of non-Brahmin castes E. V. Ramasami Naiker (1879-1973), better known as Periyar (the Great), went even further - he generally excluded the Brahmins from the Dravidian ethnic group, harshly criticized the "Aryan Brahmins" as aliens

The Dravidians are a group of peoples belonging to the South Indian race.

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from the North, as enemies, and represented dissatisfaction with the dominance of Brahmin ideology as a conflict between the Aryan North and the Dravidian South.

The "Self-Respect Movement" he led (1920s-1940s) set itself the task of carrying out social reforms in the interests of the broad masses. As a staunch opponent of the Hindu caste system and Brahmin ideology, Periyar gained notoriety by campaigning in 1924 for the admission of untouchables to Hindu temples in Travancore (now Kerala). He collaborated with M. K. Gandhi on this issue.

Periyar claimed that Hinduism, which justifies ignorance, illiteracy and exploitation of the untouchables, was an invention of a small group of people who pursued self-serving, selfish interests. He called on the people to abandon orthodox Hinduism, which, he said, serves as a tool for spiritual enslavement of those who work hard to create material goods. Meetings with his participation sometimes ended with the public burning of Hindu sacred books, which justified the belittling of the untouchables.

The entry of a leader like Periyar into the political arena has sparked similar movements in other southern parts of the country - Andhra, Kerala and Karnataka. The main focus of their activities was to improve the socio-cultural situation of the middle and lower castes. Under their influence, the movements of the Hindu lower castes became more active. M. K. Gandhi and B. R. Ambedkar played a huge role in their political awakening, each in their own way.

The non-Brahmin movements reflected the aspirations and aspirations of the vast masses of the population, who were eager to free themselves from caste oppression. Over time, this peculiar revolt against the rule of the Brahmins led to a weakening of their socio-economic and political positions and played a significant role in the democratic development of the country.

These movements also contributed to the perception that the struggle for independence cannot be separated from reform in Hindu society. Their main outcome was the consolidation of non-Brahmin castes and the elimination of some traditional restrictions that prevented communication between them. These castes sought from the colonial authorities community representation at the political level, places for them in schools and colleges, as well as in the civil service.

Forced to respond to the demands of non-Brahmin movements, the British administration introduced a system of reserving (or quoting) seats in the Indian Civil Service for non-Brahmins and untouchables in what is now the states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamilnadu and Maharashtra. This reservation marked the beginning of the process of limiting the influence of the caste system in education and public service.

Thus, in the Madras Presidency, under the Communities Ordinance of 1921, representatives of six categories of candidates were admitted to the Indian Civil Service: non-Brahmin Hindus (48%), Brahmins (22%), Muslims (15%), Indian Christians (10%), Europeans and Anglo-Indians (2%), and others (3%). And in 1927, under pressure from lower-caste organizations, these quotas were revised and another one was added: 8% for the " oppressed classes "(untouchables).

In the future, this had an impact on the balance of political forces. Whereas after the 1937 Madras Legislative Assembly elections there were 17.2% Brahmins, in 1947 this number decreased to 5%, which corresponded to the proportion of Brahmins in the population of this province.1

At the pan-Indian level, events related to the preparation of the next law on the governance of India were of great importance in the alignment of political forces. The British Prime Minister's "Community Decision" (August 1932), according to which the untouchables were allocated to a separate electoral curia (which threatened their separation from the Hindu community), and the subsequent protest hunger strike of Gandhi intensified the political movements of the untouchables. They have secured the signing of a pact between them and organizations of" pure " castes, recognition of their demands for the elimination of untouchability, access to education and quotas for a precisely defined number of seats in elected authorities. This pact formed the basis of the Indian Government Act (1935), which recognized the untouchables as part of the Hindu community and at the same time introduced a new nomenclature - scheduled castes (registered castes) - into the political life of the country. This nomenclature was given to the Hindu untouchable castes, which were assigned a certain number of seats in the central legislature and provincial legislative assemblies. And in 1943, registered castes were granted the right to reserve 8.3% of civil service seats, then three years later their quota was increased to 12.5% of seats, which corresponded to their share in the population of British India. This was a significant blow to the foundations and traditions of the caste system established by classical Hinduism.

After India's independence in 1947, the struggle for equality between castes and for justice in their development continued and took on a pan-Indian tone.

The Constitution of the country (1950) did not reflect the division of Hindu society into castes. Therefore, it cannot be said that the Constitution "abolished" castes. However, there is such a category of citizens as "backward classes". It consists of three groups of citizens: registered castes, registered tribes, and "other backward classes." The first two groups, whose composition was determined in 1936, were entitled to preferential reservation of seats in parliament and state legislatures, in government institutions, enterprises, schools and higher educational institutions.

The third group - "other backward classes", to which the colonial administration once referred the protesting non-Brahmins, remained without reservation.

The Constitution declared the abolition of untouchability and its practice in any form. The application of any legal restrictions on the grounds of untouchability is a crime punishable under Law 2. The Constitution also emphasized the equality before the law of all people, regardless of religious or racial background.-

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howl and caste affiliation. But this did not mean the abolition of caste and did not lead to the automatic elimination of untouchability. On the contrary, the struggle of the upper castes for the preservation of their privileges, on the one hand, and for equality, on the part of the other castes, has acquired a new breath.

Following the enactment of the Indian Constitution, a broad protest movement among young people from these castes began in a number of southern states where non-Brahmana castes had enjoyed the right of reservation for more than a quarter of a century and were now being stripped of it. Under pressure from them, in May 1951 the Parliament adopted the first amendment to the Constitution, which gave the State the right to take steps aimed at "protective or positive discrimination" against the backward segments of society, their education, employment or improvement of employment conditions in State institutions and enterprises.

Based on this amendment, the governments of all southern states gradually introduced quotas for the entire category of "backward classes". At the same time, the Brahmin castes could not put up any significant resistance. Moreover, in the struggle for votes, political parties and groups constantly demanded an increase in the share of reserved seats for one or another backward caste or group of castes. Over time, in the southern states, the share of these places began to gradually grow, and in some states it exceeded 60%. This caused discontent among the upper castes across the country. They secured a decision by the Supreme Court of India that allowed only 50% of the seats to be reserved, with the other half remaining open for the competition.


In India, the struggle of the Hindu middle castes for social justice was uneven. If in the South of the country non-Brahmin and anti-Brahmin movements began in the second third of the 19th century and continued in the form of a struggle for reservation until the mid-1970s, then in the North this struggle began with the consolidation of agricultural (or backward middle) castes in the 20s of the last century and only by the mid-1970s. it resulted in the movement of "other backward classes" for redundancy, which continues to this day.

In the Hindu-speaking area (except Haryana), where the complex system of mediation in land relations (Zamindari) introduced by the British operated, the higher castes, which included not only Brahmins, but also Rajputs, Kayastha, and Bhumihars, were much more numerous than in the South.

Professional agricultural castes, in accordance with tradition, acted as peasant farmers who cultivated the land of zamindars-landlords from higher castes. The wealthier ones were usually tenants and occasionally even landowners. Historically, most of the backward middle castes, as well as the untouchables, have traditionally been economically subordinate to the upper castes. The long struggle of the agricultural castes against the merciless exploitation of the Zamindars contributed to their unity and led to the overcoming of many previous prohibitions that prevented communication between them.

There was a consolidation of the former pastoral castes in the North of India, which took the common name "Yadavas". In 1924, they founded their own organization and began publishing a magazine that carried out educational work.

In 1934, the Kurmi, Yadavas and Koeri (by then completely agricultural castes) merged to form the Triveni Sangh (Union of the Three). At first, this organization was characterized by the activities of Sanskritization, that is, the assimilation of customs and rituals of higher castes, which the Arya Samaj (Society of the Enlightened) organization carried out long and persistently in the North of the country.

After several decades, the middle castes abandoned their previous attempts to raise their ritual rank by Sanskritization. The process of Sanskritization, which took centuries, did not ensure the equality of castes; it could only improve their ritual status within the "unchanging" Varna system. Gradually, the entire elite of the agricultural peasantry in Northern India began to rally in the struggle for their economic interests. This process was especially intensified during the agrarian reform, which led to further political consolidation of the agricultural castes. Since the early 1960s, these castes have been actively asserting themselves in social and political life.

Over time, the trend towards integration of these castes has extended beyond individual states. An example of this is the certain consolidation of Jats, Ahirs and Yadavas in Northern India. These castes are not economically backward, but they were the ones who led the movement of the middle castes, among which there were many economically backward ones, against

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the dominance of upper castes in the socio-political life of their states.

The fact is that the upper castes, while maintaining control over the land, essentially controlled the votes of those who worked on this land. This gave her the opportunity, taking up key positions in the administration, to boycott laws aimed at improving the social and economic situation of middle-caste tenants, and to slow down the implementation of agrarian reforms. The long struggle of peasant organizations against large-scale land ownership helped strengthen the positions of the middle castes. In the course of the agrarian reform, which eliminated the zamindari system and legally reformed rental relations, many of the agricultural castes became land owners. This led to a gradual loosening of upper-caste control over rural society.

In the mid-1960s, the rising power of the upper middle castes challenged the dominance of the upper castes in many local organizations of the central ruling INC Party.


And in the following decade, after the 1977 parliamentary elections, numerous peasant castes entered the political arena in the states of the Hindu - speaking belt and Gujarat, supporting the Janata Party coalition bloc that opposed the Congress. Now these castes have become more confident about their economic and political demands. They raised the question of their more adequate representation in those areas of public life that were still almost exclusively reserved for the upper castes: education, public service, and finally political power. Their demands were based on constitutional guarantees against "other backward classes." Under their pressure, the chief ministers of the Janata Party governments in Uttar Pradesh (1977) and Bihar (1978), who themselves came from middle castes, introduced reservations for "other backward classes". This caused a sharp outcry from the upper castes, which eventually led to the resignation of the chief ministers in both states and ended with a split in this coalition bloc in the center.

However, shortly before the Janata Party government resigned in 1978, the President appointed a Commission on" backward Classes " under the chairmanship of MP B. P. Mandal. The task of the Commission was to study the socio-cultural situation of all three groups that were included in the category of "backward classes" - registered castes, tribes and "other backward classes", and to make recommendations to Parliament on their representation in State institutions and higher educational institutions. In its report (1980), the Mandala Commission confirmed the main conclusion of the first commission on "backward classes" (1953-55), whose report was rejected by the INC Government, that the caste factor continues to have a significant impact on the development of Indian society.

The Commission found that more than 68.8% of government jobs were held by representatives of advanced Hindu castes and communities (most of them upper castes), who made up 17.8% of the country's population. At the same time, the "other backward classes" (most of them are backward castes), making up 52% of the population, occupied 12.5% of the seats.

The Commission took into account the requirement of the Supreme Court of India that the total reservation quota should not exceed 50% and that 22.5% of seats are already reserved by the Constitution for registered castes and tribes. Therefore, she recommended that" other backward classes " should reserve 27% of seats in the administration, civil service, public sector enterprises, as well as in technical and professional institutes and educational institutions - both in the center and in the states.

At parliamentary hearings in the 1980s, the recommendations of the Mandala Commission were rejected. The issue of reservation for socially backward castes became one of the key issues in the socio-political life of India in the 1980s and 1990s. There were sharp debates on it, with opinions diametrically diverging. Ten years after the Mandala Commission presented its report, job reservations for the "other backward classes" have become a national problem. Both the INC and the Bharatiya Janata Party actively resisted the commission's recommendations.

It was only in August 1990 that the Prime Minister of the National Front Government, V. P. Singh, announced in Parliament the adoption of a 27% reserve, according to the report of the Mandala Commission. "We have challenged the main power structure in the country - its social structure," Singh said. "And we must be prepared to go up in flames in order to ensure social justice... Political mood-

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growth dictates the need to address issues of social justice before they start to blow up society." As the Prime Minister said, "there is a transfer of power to other social groups, a new ruling elite is being created." 3

The decision to reserve seats for "other backward classes" caused a violent wave of protest from the upper castes. Mass demonstrations against the decision were held in Delhi and other cities, with 63 students self-immolating themselves. The response was immediate - representatives of the middle castes in the north of the country held a series of demonstrations in support of the reservation. In the administrative center of the state of Bihar - Patna, thousands of people held a rally under the slogan " Brahmins, get out of the country!"

The Supreme Court temporarily suspended the Government's decision on the reservation. Under the pressure of circumstances, Prime Minister V. P. Singh was forced to abandon the reservation of 27% of places for "other backward classes" in universities, and the government headed by him resigned.

However, this only dampened the political passions surrounding the reservation issue. The problems of caste relations spilled out and involved not only political circles, but also a significant part of society. The media again and again raised issues of equality of castes, caste relations.

The kongressist government led by Narasimha Rao, which came to power after the 1991 elections, tried to remove the sharpness of the contradictions between the upper castes and the" backward classes "by introducing quotas for" economically backward " citizens, regardless of caste. But he didn't succeed.

In October 1992, the Supreme Court of India issued a new decision, now obliging the Government to implement the recommendations of the Mandala Commission on reserving 27% of jobs for "other backward classes". It was pointed out that caste can be the main criterion for identifying "other backward classes": "Caste can be and very often is a social class in India; if a caste is socially backward, it should be considered a "backward class" under article 16 (4) of the Constitution."4

The Supreme Court also favoured a flexible application of the 50% limit on reserved seats, given the wide diversity of the country and its population, as in some areas the" other backward classes " are overwhelmingly majority (in Tamil Nadu, for example, 69% of seats are reserved).

After these decisions of the Supreme Court, caste was recognized as a legitimate criterion for determining backwardness. This led to the formation of a political identity of the "backward classes" category, which included "backward Hindu castes and communities" - in the vast majority of former peasant agricultural castes, as well as registered castes and tribes. All of them, taken together, in many ways opposed themselves to the higher castes. "Caste has become a building block of a broader social coalition," notes French scholar Christophe Jaffrelo5. This is exactly what happened in the 1993 elections to the legislative assembly of the largest Indian state of Uttar Pradesh (160 million people), where a bloc of backward class parties won-the Bahujan Samaj Party (the majority party of the people, represented mainly by lower castes) and the Samajwadi Party (a socialist party whose social base was the middle Yadav castes and Muslims). INC suffered a crushing defeat, despite the fact that before the election, its central government decided to support the recommendations of the Mandal commission.

The process of social activation of middle castes in those states where representatives of these social strata began to enter the political arena led to an increased struggle for the implementation of the recommendations of the Mandala commission and contributed to the involvement in political life of completely new leaders from social groups that had not previously claimed to participate in the government of the country. They were leaders of caste, community and other traditional groups.

All this scared the Indian establishment. In 1997, India's Home Minister told Parliament that Uttar Pradesh , the epicenter of the "backward class" movement, was moving towards "anarchy, chaos and destruction"along with neighboring Bihar.

События последующих лет показали, что вопрос резервирования как часть более широкой проблемы, связанной с борьбой с отсталостью, бедностью и косностью, продолжал оставаться важной частью политической борьбы.

Before the next census was held in 2001, many scientists and some politicians put forward a demand to enter the "caste" column in it in order to get reliable information about the state of Indian society at the beginning of the third millennium before deciding which castes should be given the right to reserve. However, this proposal was not accepted.

In April 2006, on the eve of the five state legislative elections, India's Minister of Human Resources Development, Arjun Singh, announced his intention to introduce a 27% quota for central higher education institutions based on the recommendations of the Backward Classes Commission. He promised that the "Mandala formula"will come into force after the elections. The Minister's proposal was aimed at implementing the 93rd Amendment to Article 15 (5) of the Indian Constitution, which was passed by Parliament on 20 January 2006. This amendment provides legal support for reservation policies in educational institutions, including private ones. The minister's statement caused unrest among students from higher castes, who would have to limit themselves to 50% of places in these educational institutions if the proposal was adopted. It was mainly about the most prestigious Indian institutes of technology and management institutes.

As before, public opinion was divided between supporters and opponents of this measure.

Protests against the reservation, which is supposedly able to reduce the level of qualification of specialists, began to sound in the North of India, while in the South, where the history of reservation dates back more than 85 years, a positive attitude prevailed.-

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In addition, the public there viewed reservations as a way to achieve social justice. It is in the South that many prominent political and public figures from among the "other backward classes"have been promoted by reservation.6


Unlike the middle castes, which, as a result of the struggle for social and economic equality, were largely consolidated into large caste communities, the highest castes-Brahmins and the lowest-Dalits-continued to be divided into many castes and podcasts all these years.

The former untouchables, now known as Dalits, are not a majority in any of the states, but make up the poorest and least organized part of the population. Well-known public and political figure B. R. Ambedkar has repeatedly taken steps to bring together different castes of untouchables. Thus, in 1920, at the end of the first All-India low-caste conference, he invited the untouchable leaders from the Central Provinces to share a meal with him. This would be the first important step towards unification. But he failed miserably. Because of the practice of untouchability that the lower castes (as well as the higher castes) observed among themselves, their leaders refused to sit at the same table. And only the caste leaders of 16 podcasts of one untouchable Mahar community, to which Ambedkar himself belonged, agreed to have dinner together.

Ambedkar founded the Independent Workers ' Party of India in 1936, and the Federation of Scheduled Castes in 1942, which he encouraged leaders of all scheduled castes to join. For the political mobilization of Dalits and their cooperation with other backward castes, he compiled the program of the Republican Party of India, which was founded shortly after his death in 1956. In order to create a unified Dalit community, he developed a new form of Buddhism, which he called navayana. To the existing three branches of Buddhism - Hinayana, Mahayana and Vajrayana - he added a fourth, the contents of which were described in the book "The Buddha and his Dhamma". In 1956, Ambedkar and his large Mahar community converted to Buddhism.

His teaching, which became known as Ambedkarism, was adopted by many Dalit political groups, but it never led to their unification. In Maharashtra, for example, the Republican Party of India is divided into many rival factions, while the Dalit Buddhist movement is almost entirely confined to the non-Buddhist Mahar caste. Their behavior does not always meet the basic tenets of Ambedkar's teaching. Virtually all of them marry within their own caste; and even podcast endogamy is widely observed by them, including by highly educated people who are well versed in this teaching. Endogamy is still a strict requirement of ritual status, an integral part of modern Buddhist identification, despite the fact that non-Buddhists themselves are inclined to verbally condemn this practice. In addition, they discriminate against other untouchables who are lower in the traditional hierarchy. All this does not correspond in any way to the teachings of Ambedkar and does not contribute to the rapprochement between the different Dalit castes. 7

In Northern India, the Dalits are more organized, the most advanced and active among them - the Chamars and Jatavas, who adopted Ambedkarism, form the main core of the Bahujan Samaj party, which came to power several times in Uttar Pradesh. But these castes, despite their large number, are not dominant there. They do not have the economic power that is needed to independently conduct a political struggle for power. Therefore, political associations of Dalits are forced to enter into pre-election alliances with other parties, including those whose programs are far from the needs of the Dalits. However, in India's multiparty democracy, the participation of Dalits in elections contributes to their faster involvement in public life and self-organization, which is an important element of changing the traditional social system.

In this respect, the position of the Brahmins in today's India is of particular interest.

As a result of the strengthening of the middle castes and the positive changes that have taken place in the situation of former untouchables, the traditional position of Brahmins has been undermined. Even during the non-Brahmin movement in the 20s and 40s of the last century, many Brahmins moved to the north of the country, to other states, and after the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi in 1948 by Brahmin Godze, a significant number of Brahmins, especially from Maharashtra, left the villages or even emigrated abroad. The few remaining Brahmans in rural areas were in many ways on par with the "other backward classes" in terms of their economic status. In the city, the Brahmins also lost their influence. They can be found in low-paying jobs as clerks, cooks, tailors, mechanics, bus drivers, and even mail and tea carriers.

Although many Brahmans still hold prestigious high-level positions, representatives of middle and registered castes, thanks to the reservation system, are increasing their presence both in government institutions and in government bodies. Thus, the proportion of deputies from the "backward classes"in northern India increased from 11% in 1984 to 25% in 1996, while the same figure for the upper castes decreased from 47% to 35% .8 During this period, governments led by representatives of the "backward classes" - Lalu Yadav in Bihar, Kalyan Singh, Mayawati and Mulayam Singh Yadav in Uttar Pradesh-came to power in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.

Recently, brahmins have been actively trying to organize themselves and strengthen their positions. With the growth of education among other castes, ideas about ritual purity and desecration have changed. Now a place in power structures and commercial organizations is more valued than belonging to a certain caste. For example, the Tamil Nadu Brahmin Association gave its consent to marriages between Brahmins and Dalits, with the stipulation that:: these Dalit youths should have a university degree and a good job.

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The Brahmans themselves were forced to adopt methods of struggle to consolidate their influence from the middle castes. They, too, have begun to build bridges between Brahmin podcasts and sub-podcasts that used to compete with each other for a higher place in the caste hierarchy. How relevant this is can be judged by the fact that there are 81 Brahmin podcasts in Gujarat alone. To promote the integration of podcasts and sub-podcasts, Brahmins encourage marriages between endogamous groups. All Brahmin podcasts everywhere join the All-Brahmin Association. They hold so-called marriage fairs, where young people can freely communicate, marry for love, and not by agreement between their parents. This association provides scholarships, loans, and other assistance to Brahmin students, and conducts cultural events to bring different Brahmin podcasts closer together. By forming a single block of Brahmin castes, they challenge the middle, formerly agricultural castes.

The Brahmans also decided to change their traditional image of priests, teachers, pundit scholars, or rishis - sages, seers, and miracle workers. They now prefer to preach the so-called new Brahmanism. His ideal was Parashurama (lit. "Rama with the axe") - the sixth incarnation of Vishnu, in which he" descended " to earth to restore social order, disturbed by arrogant kshatriyas, who set out to subjugate both the spiritual and social leadership belonging to the brahmanas. According to legend, Parashurama cleansed the land of Kshatriyas three times seven times, completely exterminating their newly born generations, whose blood he filled five lakes on Kurukshetra-the sacred land of Hinduism, located in the northern part of the present state of Haryana. Then he handed over the land to the brahmanas.

Over the past few years, in at least two states - Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh - Brahmins have been pressing for Parashuram's birthday to be declared an official holiday. They founded the All India Association and the Parashurama Foundation to promote their economic, political and social interests through them. In June and July 2005, the association organized a 40-day procession, during which the sacred bowl - Parashurama kailash-was solemnly carried through the main cities of Gujarat.9

Another interesting feature of modern inter-caste relations. Because of their small numbers, the brahmans need allies. And often such an ally for them are parties in which the leaders are Dalits. There is an explanation for this. As mentioned above, the Brahmans lost their former economic influence, giving way to the middle castes, many of whom became landlords and the main exploiters of the Dalits-mainly agricultural workers. Thus, the Dalits and Brahmins in some districts have a common enemy. In politics, this has even led to the creation of coalitions between higher and lower castes. So far, this process has not been widely developed. But it does symbolize a certain erosion of traditional inter-caste relationships.

* * *

As a result of the socio-economic development of Indian society, especially after independence, caste restrictions have significantly weakened. At the same time, despite certain changes, the caste system continues to be the most solid foundation of the social organization of society. Moreover, in the Indian political system based on parliamentary democracy and universal suffrage, the role of caste has not only not decreased, but also significantly increased.

During the formation of new political institutions, the caste, on the one hand, served as a buffer absorbing the blows of modernist forces and preserving the integrity of the social fabric, and on the other, it was a ready - made mechanism that had at its disposal the structural and ideological basis for political mobilization. The struggle of non-Brahmin castes at the initial stage, and then "other backward classes", aimed at overcoming traditional socio-economic constraints, inevitably took the form of caste movements for reservations. For its successful operation, a certain consolidation of interested participants was required. As a result, ancient categories such as" caste", increasing their power, turn into a kind of lobby. According to Jaffrelo, "the transformation of caste into an interest group is a very positive phenomenon for Indian democracy."10.

Although all this caused certain changes in the balance of power between the highest and other castes, accompanied by an increase in social tension, the Indian state, sensitively responding to the changing situation in society, adhered to the line of compromise solutions to explosive social problems. It has consistently pursued a policy of concessions and appeasement of the caste majority. It was in this direction that agrarian reforms were carried out, providing "backward classes" with certain quotas for places in higher educational institutions, in the civil service, and in local self-government bodies. Thus, two goals were achieved. The first is to prevent a social explosion, the second is to make the process of introducing the lower castes to education and public administration as smooth as possible, stretched out in time and at the same time relatively painless for the upper castes.

Jaffrelot Christophe. 1 India's Silent Revolution. The Rise of the Low Castes in North Indian Politics. Permanent Black, New Delhi, 2003, p. 177, 179.

2 Constitution of India, Moscow, 1956, p. 63.

Singh V.P. 3 Affirmative Action in India // Mainstream. 18.05.1996.

Jaffrelot Christophe. 4 Op. cit, p. 348.

Ibid., 5 p. 349.

Krishnan P.S. 6 Logical Step // Frontline. Volume 23 - Issue 08. April 22 - May 05, 2006.

Yurlova E. S. 7 India: from untouchables to Dalits. Moscow: IV RAS Publ., 2003, p. 268.

8 HAS Newsletter N 32, November 2003.

Shah A.M. 9 Parashuram: Icon of New Brahmanism // Economic and Political Weekly. February 4, 2005.

Palsikar Suhas. 10 Caste Politics through the Prism of Region - Eds. Rajendra Vora and Anne Feldhaus. Region, Culture and Politics in India. Manohar, New Delhi, 2006, p. 294; Ghose Sagarika. Saffron Exegetist // Outlook. November 24, 1997, p. 109.


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