Page last updated at 20:34 GMT, Tuesday, 9 June 2009 21:34 UK

Caste prejudice: Your views

Neasden temple in London

Groups who say they face discrimination within their religions because of their ranking in society are gathering for a conference in London on the theme of "untouchability".

But is the caste system still used as means of excluding people within some religious groups in Britain?

BBC News website readers have been sending their comments about the caste system.

YOUR COMMENTS

In the Bhagavad Gita, one of Hinduism's ancient scriptures, it states that 'a person's caste is determined by their abilities'. So, someone who is teacher, or a priest, is considered a Brahmin. If their offspring didn't have the same abilities, they wouldn't be considered a Brahmin. The caste system was not meant to be hereditary.

Also, all the castes are equally valued. In the Rig Veda (another of Hinduism's ancient scriptures) it states that 'just as different parts of the body fulfil different functions for the benefit of one body, people with diverse skills should use them for the benefit of society as a whole'.
Murali, London, UK

I have been raised in India. Although I'm not from the Dalit community I've had a chance to observe how caste plays a role in Indian society. From one extreme of Dalits having no rights at all, to the other extreme of urban Dalits threatening to sue you, using the Dalit trump card if you cross their way, India has the complete spectrum of attitudes to caste.

I believe that rural Dalits in India still need empowerment and a sense of pride despite all the laws being in place. This will come from education and prosperity. Religion needs to be re-written, or undone to be inclusive. However, I feel the Dalits' political voice does empower them by providing that sense of pride and achievement that the Dalits have lacked for millennia.
Manish Madan, Croydon, UK

The caste system when envisioned was not a vertical system but a horizontal system. The Brahmins and rest of Hindu society at large has interpreted it to serve their selfish purposes. In Vedic scriptures the caste system is compared to a body, all parts need to function for society to move ahead. The Dalits were public servants (one whose heart pours out for others) ie engineers, doctors, architects, etc.
JPP, Edison, NJ, USA

In my experience caste is still sadly an issue in this country, especially where many Hindus are present, be it a university or a workplace. I recall hearing about one person who was shunned by his colleagues due to his caste.

Interestingly on trips to India I've noticed that in small cities caste is still an issue. However in big cities caste has been replaced by a financial hegemony so a rich person of a low caste will be looked up to by others, whereas a poor person from a high caste will be looked down on. In terms of marriage Hindus here are quite easy going about caste if the man is wealthy through business or has a high earning job. In India if he has the right US visa status caste is often overlooked, sometimes with the qualifier it doesn't matter about the boy, once you get to America you can leave him.
Varun, London, UK

I am from an untouchable caste (not a Dalit) and discrimination does exist in the Hindu community in the UK. I grew up in an area with limited number of Hindu families and they know what caste we are and it is not a problem to them. When mixing with their families that lived in more prominent areas it became an issue. As with most Hindus the first thing they ask is what caste you are? Though this is not what is on my mind when I meet people. I see being an untouchable as a label that doesn't represent my true self. Those that feel being upper caste is superior are just the same as a BNP member believing that the white race is superior. The caste system was developed so that people could be kept in their places. The Hindu forum claims that discrimination doesn't exist, maybe should ask how many of their members are from low or untouchable castes and then do their surveys. Or do surveys with low caste/untouchable families that don't hide their caste and see what response they get. On an ending note I would say that in my extended family we have doctors, surgeons nurses, pilots, teachers, politicians, scientists, business millionaires, bank managers, a mayor, software professionals, lawyers, barristers and other highly professions. Being an untouchable did not make them inferior that they couldn't achieve these goals but it did mean that obstacles were in place by those of higher castes for them not being able achieve their goals just because they are untouchables.

If I dwell on the past then I come from a people that were subjugated upon. If I dwell on the present then I am in caste of people that are striving to develop and better themselves and the community. Which is better than being in a caste that subjugates.
K, London, UK

There is a tremendous disconnect in the Hindu mind set; we have adopted technology related higher education and have flourished in science and engineering, at the same time we have failed to attain a higher level of understanding and respect for fellow human beings. Until and unless we start changing our mind set, we are going to have extremely serious problems in our community.
Rajon Mukherjee, Philadelphia, USA

Your article has a part which reads 'Some Hindus and Sikhs believe the caste system is divinely-inspired'. For the record, Sikhism completely rejects the caste system or discrimination of any kind whatsoever. The Sikh gurus all fought to eradicate the division of society along caste lines. It is true however that there are some generations of Sikhs, living inside and outside Punjab that still hold on to their ancestral caste lineage and use it as a means of elevating their status. A person who refers to himself as a Sikh whilst at the same time maintaining his caste 'status' is not a Sikh at all.
Tej Sohal, Hounslow, UK



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