Patriarchy and Caste System

Found this excellent piece at Virodhi’s blog on caste, casteism and love authored by Taimur Rahman

As I have elaborated before, the Asiatic Mode of Production (AMP) in India is based on the caste system. The caste system in turn is based on the confinement of a particular people to a particular occupation. This requires the intense control of women’s sexuality because if castes are allowed to intermarry, it will destroy the entire caste division of labour of that society. Thus, the fundamental basis for the maintenance of the caste system is through ensuring endogamy, that is, marrying within your own caste/biraderi.

Hence, the very logic of the entire caste system is opposed to love. And those who dare to love are automatically and inevitably propelled against the very grain of the system.

However, the fact that the caste system prevailed for 3000 years can only indicate that love did not conquer. It was the caste system that conquered the lovers. The Asiatic system saw a series of revolts none of which were successful. It was/is the most terrible vise in which the people of Asia were gripped in an unending cycle of subjugation and slavery to the village community. The fact that life outside the community (owing to climatic conditions) was simply not possible meant that the greatest punishment was ostracism from the caste and community. Wasn’t that also the punishment to Muhammed and his followers as well as to the lovers of every period?

No greater violence can be done to the psychology of a people than to disallow the most natural desire of love. Is it not inevitable then that the caste system will be met with a continuous revolt in the name of the freedom to love. Is not inevitable that love poetry would touch the deepest and most sensitive core of the people in a society that violently opposed love?

The caste system relegated love to the lowest and most contemptible position. Was it then not inevitable that rebellions against the case system would raise it to the level of divinity. This explains why Sufi poetry (and later progressive poetry) unites rebellion/love with divinity.

In the opening line of Heer, Waris Shah says:

Awal hamad khuda da vird karye

Ishq kita su jag da mool mian
Pehlan aap hi rabb ne ishq kita
Te mashooq he nabi rasool mian

Translation: “First of all let us acknowledge God (who is self-evident), who has made love the worth of the world Sir, It was God Himself that first loved, and the prophet (Muhammad (SW)) is His beloved Sir”

To put it crudely, if God is the first lover, if God is nothing but love, mortal man commits a sin the greatest sin against God by denying love.

This is the essence of Sufi poetry. And progressive poetry borrows from this tradition.

There is always a material basis for the power of certain cultural ideas. The fact that our culture is dominated by themes of the love story, especially in the rebellious sufi tradition, is indicative of the fact that the caste system so violently denied this very natural and inextinguishable human impulse.

And in contemporary society? What is the basis for arranged marriages? Nothing other than the caste system. It is to ensure that marriages occur within the biraderi or at the worst close to one’s biraderi. It is not for private property (as was the case in the West) but for the patriarchal patronage provided by the beradari. That patronage and fear of ostracism from that patronage is the central binding force for the patriarchal practice of arranged marriages. Thus, arranged marriages directly link back to the caste system (no matter how much of a gloss modern society has put on this practice). At the most, bourgeois families have allowed the liberty to the boy (and in rare cases the girl) the right of choosing a partner from within a related biraderi (it does not even extend to the whole of the bourgeois class).

Thus, the caste system is the most disgusting pile of putrid shit. Rebellion against this system is truly the beginning of a humane existence for the people of South Asia.

The author of the note is a member of the Communist Mazdoor Kissan Party (CMKP) and pursuing his doctral degree at SOAS.

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