Jason Overdorf reports that for the first time in 80 years India may get a true tally of an ancient system, in Globalpost:
NEW DELHI, India — The 2,000-year-old Hindu caste system remains the most powerful force in Indian society.
Friendships, business ties and marriages live and die according to its dictates. Political parties carefully script their election tickets according to its mathematics. And an increasing number of government policies — including spiraling quotas for government jobs and university education — follow its logic.
But it’s not polite to talk about it, and might even be dangerous to quantify it.
Yet in an unexpected turn, earlier this month the coalition-leading Congress Party led by Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh caved to pressure from opposition leaders and agreed to add a survey of India’s myriad castes to the 2011 census, which began April 1. Weeks after the decision, jostling and debate rages on as India’s politicians reflect over the potential upheavals that may result.
Many here fear that a new understanding of the various groups’ numbers could disrupt the current political structure, while the upper crust fears another wave of escalating quotas will make it even more difficult for a young upper caste person to get a university education. But the momentum of caste politics makes a reversal seem impossible.
Broadly speaking, the caste system has Brahmins and Kshatriya at the top of the social order, followed by the trading castes known as Baniyas and scores of laboring castes such as the Yadavs, and beneath them all the erstwhile untouchables…
[continues in Globalpost]
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