Hinduism is a conglomerate of beliefs and practices, some of which go back to the ancient Aryans/Indo-Germanics who trekked from the Caucasus to both Iran and to the South-Asian sub-continent.
Amongst modern Hindus I have found people who do not believe in caste, who do not do rituals, who believe in One God, and who think that you have to look after all fellow human beings. There are even more Hindus who believe in ‘Manuvád’, are very keen on rituals, believe in 33 crore Gods and only work on personal liberation. Just like ‘The Indian’ does not exist, so does ‘The Hindu’ not exist.
Caste is described as the four traditional groups. These groups might have existed before the arrival of the Aryans in India, and be adjusted to the circumstances found in the subcontinent, or might be a product of the South Asian soil. Interestingly Iranian Aryans do not have such a system.
When ‘Hinduism’ was making progress amongst so-called tribal people and the people of South India, the approach of the Brahmins was as follows : They shared their knowledge with the ruling class of the ‘tribals’ and South Indians and said : If you join us we will make you Kshatriya and the rest of your people will be Shudras, and they can no longer challenge your authority.
The Brahmins were supplied by the Aryans. The Brahmins had not just knowledge of (useless) rituals and of how to divide and rule, they also knew about irrigation, veterinary medicine etc.
In essence the caste system was, and still is, a racist system, a form of apartheid invented long before this word was used in Suid Afrika. There have always been groups that left ‘Hinduism’ or were on the fringes of ‘Hinduism’ who either did not practise caste or actively opposed to it.
Within Sikhism there is widespread discrimination, not so much in the name of the 4 castes but more based on gotra or jaat. Just as is the case with caste, those looked down on tend to have darker skins than those that are looked up to.
But there is no Jat caste, Ramgharia caste or for instance Mazhbi caste. I do not know if these divisions pre-date caste or not.
I am against caste or gotra discrimination just like I am against racial or gender discrimination. As a Sikh I feel upset when I hear my fellow Sikhs talk in a derogatory way about people of other nationalities, social groups or caste. Honour killings are of course totally abhorrent, but they also happen in our community.
I am a Sikh, I have been taught as a first principle that Humanity is One, but people who also claim to be Sikhs kill their daughters because they are disobedient and want to marry outside caste or gotra. We have to join with organisations like Castewatch UK, and fight the Guru’s fight for One Humanity, for the sister and brotherhood of man. Blaming the Hindus is just not good enough.